Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Suffer Well

“It is all one; therefore I say,
        He destroys both the blameless and the wicked
When disaster brings sudden death,
        he mocks the calamity of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
        he covers the faces of its judges -
        if it not he, who then is it?“

Job 9:22-24


        Job’s friend Bildad offers his attempt at consolotion in the midst of his suffering by calling him a wretched sinner who needs to repent of some hidden sin against God. And while I think that this is practically always a good place to start, it does not offer the explanation for the suffering that Job is seeking.

        Job’s reply to this plea for repentance is that he understands the logic behind what his friend is saying but in reality he does not see that play out. He sees the wretched prospering and the upright suffering. He understands that no man can stand before God and offer a case that will compel God to reprieve his judgement. He says in verse 3, ”If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.“ The word ”contend“ offers insight into the legal process that Job and Bildad are speaking about. On one hand he understands the truth of God’s justice and the truth that He upholds the upright. But he also knows the utter depravity of man’s heart. And that in the face of God there is no arbiter able to go between them and plead his case. He is stuck in between one of those doctrinal tensions where both are true but from our perspective it makes no sense.

        And so he defaults to what he knows is true; to what he can perceive and that is that the happenings of the world whether it be the calamity of the innocent or the prosperity of the wicked are governed ultimately by the Lord. He is confused and does not understand what is going on but although He doesn’t understand fully he defaults to what he knows to be true. God is a good God and that that good God is in full control. In the next chapter we see his heart poured out as he pleads with God for reprieve but still in utter confusion.

        But we know the the full story of Job in that he defaults to the truth that his life is in the hands of the Lord that he trusts, loves and submits to.


        When bad times come it is natural for man to assume that our actions had something to do with bringing that calamity. In fact it is probably a good thing to first look at our hearts and repent of our actions adn thoughts. But we shouldn’t assume that our actions are the cause of our suffering. With the eastern philiosophy of Karma our actions determine whether we experience suffering or prosperity. And too often this has been carried over into Christianity. But through mere observation we can see, like Job saw, the wicked prosper and the upright suffer.

        So how then are we to suffer well. How are we as Christians to understand the world when a 2 month old baby is mauled by a pitbull or when a loving husband and a father of 4 is killed in a train wreck leaving the family with a mortgage and no way of making ends meet? How are we to understand when our own families suffer the loss of a loved one or when godless men make millions and are apparently living the life?

        We default back to what we know to be true. That God is good, able, perfectly wise and in full control.
        And so we have two choices. Faith or fear? Do we put faith in what we know to be true or do we fear what we do not know? CIrcumstances, future, reasons for suffering. There is so much that we do not know that can bring unhealthy fear into our lives. But there is one thing or rather one person that we do know and that is God. Not that we know about God but that we know Him as our loving father.