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Archive for April, 2013

Aside

Does Job Say Suffering Is Unexplainable?

Some may misunderstand or stop seeking God if He is declared to be unintelligible. Job 2:10 hints of things to come in the story: “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Not even God can create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will necessary for genuine relationships and intimacy to exist. God surely can’t be blamed for suffering when Satan or humans inflict harm on others, but who doesn’t wish God would wave a magic wand over all this mess. What could possibly be God’s reason for not doing so? Freedom has caused a complicated world both for us and God.

God rejected Job’s friends’ assumption that suffering is evidence of sin and God’s displeasure. Is cancer because of sin in one’s life? Please! God also rejected Job’s assumption that the wicked are judged or the righteous rewarded immediately: “…Why should I not be impatient…Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days” (21:4, 24:1)? God didn’t question Job’s righteousness. One understands Job’s distraught with so much suffering, but Job had to wonder if God had lost control by allowing him to suffer so much undeservingly. Job heard God voice and was satisfied he wasn’t forgotten (42:1-6).

God defended Himself to Job: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself” (40:8)? God’s justice doesn’t means the righteous never suffer here on earth, though one day the righteous will be rewarded and the unjust will be judged. God doesn’t loss control by not being a Controller. God may know a thing or two about how to run a free world that has chosen to rebel again their Creator. God doesn’t give Job a tongue lashing for trying to understand Him, but suffering in the world doesn’t make God unjust or uncaring.

Avoid following in Job’s friends footsteps by telling someone since they aren’t perfect in God’s eyes, they deserve to suffer. Where is that in the Bible? Don’t say: “God has hand-picked you to give Him glory.” God is not the originator of our suffering and responsible for the evil choices of others. Much of suffering, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others, comes through personal evil choices. Evil originates out of the hearts of men and women. God also doesn’t cause natural disasters, diseases, or accidents that lead to so much suffering. But, how satisfied are we if God intervenes with one natural disaster than all disasters? It is a complicated world.

Can God be just and caring despite allowing suffering? God obviously doesn’t react to suffering, inevitable in a free world, in the same way that we humans would. I try to spare my children of suffering no matter what. One alternative to God never allowing any suffering is for God to annihilate people at the first sign of evil. Don’t we give our wayward children chances to change no matter the harmed caused to themselves or others? God also does not simply impose His will on us. Demanding respect from our partner doesn’t bring about desired reconciliation. God obviously is merciful and patient in trying to change lives, even at His expense. Miracles turn heads but Jesus’ suffering turned the hearts of billions of followers.

What possible good can come from our undeserved suffering? God hurts as much as human parents when their children suffer. A parent isn’t sadistic just because they don’t squash freedom to avoid suffering. Suffering can enable us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. Also, suffering enables us to reach others in ways our prosperous times don’t. It is best God not answer most of my prayers.  If God stopped all suffering, whether from personal or natural evil, the world wouldn’t necessarily be better off. God will work to bring good from what was intended for evil. It is true the wicked or the righteous will not always get what they deserve in this life, but suffering was only avoidable if God had not created. Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God know best how to run the universe and change as many lives as possible through their own volition.

Is God A Mystery According To The Bible?

Many accept the explanation that God’s ways are mysterious when teachings are incompatible with peoples’ idea of a loving God. Others may desire answers to understand God better. I am positively obsessed with the idea that some people may be more open or intimate with God if they could better understand certain aspects of God that initially cause confusion. The Bible at least doesn’t seem to claim that God’s character or His ways are a mystery and incomprehensible to the human mind.

The Old Testament doesn’t make specific mention of “mysterious” as it relates to God. Deuteronomy 29:29 says: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us…”  The secrets things were unrevealed things, not mysteries. How was God going to bless all nations through Israel despite their rebelliousness? We now know that God raised a Savior from Israel to bless all. Isaiah 55:8-9 says about God: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” God isn’t suggesting we cannot understand Him. God exhorts us to forsake our wicked ways and thoughts and turn to God’s higher, righteous ways and thoughts so God can have mercy on us and forgive us (v.7).

The word mystery or mysteries is referenced about 27 times in the New Testament. There are two themes involved. Jesus’ teachings were not purposely hidden but rejected and not pursued.  Jesus did not prefer to speak in parables, but sometimes it is better to not speak the truth in a straightforward manner. When King David didn’t listen to God, God sent Nathan to confront in a form of a parable. Mark 4: 11-12 doesn’t suggest Jesus keep secrets: “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, they may be every seeing but never perceiving…” Jesus isn’t playing favorites who can hear or not hear: “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (verse 9). God’s direct message is only perplexing often to one’s heart not the mind. Truths of the faith are obtainable (I Tim 3:9). 

The mystery of Christ is a second theme in the NT. God’s plan to bless all through Israel by way of Christ wasn’t fully revealed until NT times. Paul says: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that  they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2: 3-4). The mystery isn’t how God elects only some individuals before Creation to believe in Him and exclude others. Ephesians 1:4 says God “chose us in Him before the creation of the world to holy and blameless in His sight.” God’s predestination act is choosing Christ as the Savior for all who desire God’s gift (v.5). Ephesians 1:11 repeats again we are chosen through Christ. How is one chosen through Christ?  “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (v. 13). God’s promise to Israel and all is now fully revealed.

The ultimate mystery for some is how God and suffering can co-exist. Much of suffering is either self-inflicted or inflicted by others such as wars, crimes, and injustices resulting from evil choices make by cruel and lawless people. Job doesn’t teach God is a mystery and cannot be understood by mere mortals. Did Job begin to assume God didn’t care by allowing his suffering?  God didn’t answer Jesus’ request either to intervene with His undeserved suffering. God will go to great lengths to win others over while preserving freedom. God desires to turn as many people from evil as possible. Jesus’ suffering and our suffering may be the only way to lead us and others to our Creator’s unconditional and unbelievable love. It is not necessarily true that if God instantly stopped all suffering, whether from personal or natural evil, I or the world would be better off in the long-run. (For further elaboration see article at my blog under Tab – Is God A Mystery?)

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