Does God Incite Human Suffering?
The Think Twice Series
In the previous issue published on this series, I wrote that the Isaiah 26:20 has no direct reference to quarantine. We were able to trace the origin of the term and its relation to noli me tangere. (Read more: Is ‘Quarantine’ Really in the Bible? Are We Experiencing God’s Wrath?) This issue will tackle the question of whether God incites human suffering based on the experience of Job and the teachings of Jesus.
Job: God is Fair to Everyone!
The book of Job depicts a structured dialogue between Job and his well-meaning but desperately wrong “comforters” – Bildad, Zophar, Eliphaz, and Elihu. The story takes place in the period of the patriarchs. It is one of the greatest literary treasures in the world. The author’s goal in writing the narrative is to show that what happens in life does not always happen either because God desires it or because it is fair.
The basic contention is that God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked. Therefore, since Job suffers, he has sinned against God. Thus, Job’s suffering is God’s means of punishing him for his sins. Until today many assume that if God is in control of the world, everything that happens must be according to his will. However, the Bible does not teach such a concept. What it teaches is that the world is fallen and in the state of sinfulness (John 12:31), and that many experiences in life are not what God so desires. Even suffering is not necessarily the result of sin.
God’s ways are are far above man’s ways, if he allows suffering it does not mean that God does not know what he is doing. His choices are always fair and better than our choices. The book of Job teaches us to trust God totally even in the most trying times such as this. It also points us to Christ who was innocent yet suffered and bear the sins of the whole world.
Jesus: Father “perceives” what you need. I will be with you to the end.
“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8, 32 NKJV, italics mine)
The word “knows” in Greek means to know of anything or to perceive/see. Judaism recognized that God knew everything, it also recognized that God knew all a person’s thoughts. He sees all things even the deepest thoughts of every person. He knows everything yet He wants to establish an intimate relationship. One of the ways to accomplish it is through prayer. Things does not happen automatically between God and us. He delights in us as his children, he knows what we are going through but we need to come to him in humility and tell him everything we need.
Lastly, Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” and in Matthew 28:20, “…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John 16:33 was uttered before his passion and death and his assurance in Matthew 28:20 was stated after his resurrection. Jesus did not promise his disciples a life in a bed of roses. In fact, he predicted a life filled with sufferings. What he promised is that he will be with them until the end.
Therefore, if we experience hardships and sufferings, like this pandemic that hit us and the entire world, we are not in the position to question God. To the contrary, God may be asking us if we will still trust him when times get rough. Jesus promised to be with us in good as well as in bad times.
Fee, Gordon D. & Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible Book by Book. A Guided Tour. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, Inc., 2002.
Fee, Gordon D. & Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, 2003.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary. New Testament. Quezon City, Philippines: Christian Growth Ministry, Inc., 2010.
MySword for Android. Riversoft Ministry, 2011-2019.