Monday, November 9, 2009

A Mystery Of Suffering

Everyone loves a good murder mystery. Trying to gather clues to solve the crime. I used to love to play the board game "Clue" when I was younger. The game centered around solving a murder mystery. You had to come up with WHO did it, WHERE they did it and with WHAT weapon. So an accusation would sound something like..."I think it was Professor Plum in the conservatory with the candlestick." The answer was hidden in a little mini manila envelope that wasn't opened till the end of the game. So exciting to see if you were the one that figured the whole thing out.

Now what does this have to do with our friend Job? Well I think the book of Job is written like a murder mystery. We "the audience" know from the beginning who the guilty party is for causing Job's suffering. But the characters(Job, his family and friends) in the play don't. So the whole "play" is these characters trying to figure out who has caused the suffering. All the while we "the audience" know the answer to the mystery. We go through the whole book of Job with God being falsely accused for Job's suffering. This is much to the delight of the guilty party, the Devil, whose name actually means accuser or slanderer. But God states His case towards the end of the "play" and redeems His name. Job and his friends retract all the false accusations against God, and repent for their slander. The Devil is found out, justice is served and Job and his family are restored. Easy huh? Well let's take a closer look at how this all plays out.

Job is an awesome book in the way that it gives us a peak behind the scenes and into the spirit realm. It starts out with Job who is a righteous man that loves the Lord. So the Devil comes along one day to challenge God. Big surprise! God says "where have you come from?" "Oh roaming the earth to and fro" the Devil responds. See when you are out of relationship with God there is no rest and you wander through life. Remember Cain after he kills his brother. Cain says to God "Do not cast me from Your presence...I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer of the earth..." Interesting huh? OK back to Job. So the Devil is in the presence of God via his own freewill and proposes a test for Job and for God. The Devil says that the only reason Job is righteous is because God has put "a hedge of protection around him" Which this is good to know...that when we are in the will of God there is a super natural protection around us...to a certain extent. We are protected more than we would be if we were not in relationship with God, but even with the hedge of protection the freewill of others(in this case Satan) can override that protection. Meaning that even if you are in close relationship with God; you can't walk out in front of a bus and not expect to get hit. Get it?

So back to this little chit chat between God and the Devil. God gives the Devil permission to attack Job. Now keep in mind...the Devil is doing the attacking NOT God. What is also interesting is how the Devil carries out part of his plan. He uses the freewill of man to attack Job. It says in 1:17 that the Chaldean's formed raiding parties and that the Subeans attacked Job. It also looks as though the Devil has some control over nature to cause natural disasters against Job. Remember now that we(man) were given dominion over the earth and we choose to sin. So creation is fallen as well.

Now when it gets to 1:16 it says "The fire of God fell from heaven" Ah Ha...see told you God did it! No not so fast. Remember the players don't know WHO is doing it, they are falsely assuming it is God. The players are unaware of the little chit chat in heaven at this point. Just as in verse 1:21 Job says "the Lord has given and the Lord has taken away." First of all this is present tense meaning Job is saying this in regards to his present situation. He is NOT saying "well this is the way God has always been...He gives and takes away." Job was only talking about his current situation. It goes on to say that Job did NOT sin in making this False accusation. Why? Because Job doesn't know about the chit chat. Also Job is still trusting God in His goodness and not slandering Him therefore he has not sinned. So in the book of Job when anyone of the "players" are accusing God it is a false judgement. We know that because we were in on the chit chat at the beginning of the book! As the book goes on Job begins to doubt God. He begins to doubt His compassion and goodness. At the same time He can not believe that God would be doing this to him. Job is right God isn't doing this to him, the Devil is. But Job continues down the slippery slope and begins to talk himself into thinking that it must be God doing these things to him.

You see God is all-powerful, but the Devil has freewill. So the only way that God can counteract our bad freewill choices is to renew and restore us beyond what the choice took away. He CAN prevent freewill but WON"T because then we wouldn't be free. See the book of Job is the Devil trying to see how much dominion he had in the earth via our freewill and his. The Devil also takes any opportunity to defame God. This is Job's struggle throughout the book. Why is God ALLOWING this to happen to me? or Why is God DOING this to his righteous servant? Job's friends are certainly not helping matters, but Job presses on to solve the mystery.

Then finally at the end of the book God can no longer take the slander. God can see that Job is beginning to question his relationship with God. Job is also questioning the goodness of God. The last 4 chapters of Job is a beautifully written speech of the power of God and his sovereignty. It is God saying to Job that He is all-powerful and He is just. Now God is asking Job the same question "Why would I bring on injustice to a righteous man ?" Job then finally sees the big picture, or more like God says "you've got the wrong guy!" Job responds by repenting for the false accusations he has made against God. God words to the friends are "you have not spoken of me what is right" 42:7 and the friends are made to give a offering of repentance for their part in the slander. God restores to Job what the Devil has stolen and then some. The Devil looses because in the end Job did not allow his suffering to be attached to God and in turn defame Him.

See in the end it is only God who can bring life out of death. That IS the power of God. That IS how He does have power over the enemy. Restoration and reconciliation. But He will not compromise freewill. I believe that whoever wrote the book of Job was trying to show people that there is another power at work in the earth...The Devil. That is why we get to read the little chit chat at the beginning. So people would no longer assume that the "bad" stuff was from God. You see the battle is on and has been since Eden. In the end God will have the victory. But until that time we have to fight for our lives and struggle through the attacks of the enemy.

In our own trials of suffering if we believe that it is from our loving God we play right into the Devil's hand! You begin to resent God for your suffering which in turns breaks intimacy with Him. Our God is a good, loving, restoring God. He seeks wholeness and security for you. He would never do anything to take that away. The Devil is the one that seeks destruction for you. And freewill is his vehicle to do so. That is how the Devil was testing God in the book of Job. The Devil wanted to see if God would compromise freewill and take control over the situation. Now if Job right from the beginning would have recognized that the attack was from the enemy and NOT from God he would have saved himself from all the suffering. Not the suffering from the enemy but the suffering in thinking that God was the cause. He could have counter attacked with help from the almighty God by aligning his will with the will of God. He would have immediately had victory over the scheme of the Devil. Not to say the attack would have ended, but he would have been better equipped to deal with his loss.  But we have to make the choice to align with God. Because even when we are making the wrong choice God can not compromise our choice. That is how the Devil gets away with so much in this world! He is doing all the dirty work and we are busy blaming God!

So when you find yourself asking "Why is God allowing this to happen?" The answer is going to always be "God is allowing EVERYTHING to happen." Not because everything is His will but because of our freewill and freedom to choose. If God only allowed all the GOOD things to happen that would be control. Likewise if He only allowed the BAD things to happen that would also be control. In order for there to be true freedom He must allow both. That is not a lack of power on God's part, but we get confused in thinking that because God is all powerful. But that doesn't mean that all good and all bad is from Him. That is Greek philosophical fatalism. Fatalism being the doctrine that all life's events are fixed in advance by God and man is powerless to change them. "What will be, will be" NO, NO, NO! This doctrine is practiced by several eastern religions and has also unfortunately leaked into Christianity. I say "NO, that is not my good, loving God!" Freewill was set into motion by US...WE decided with our dominion that WE wanted to be in control and God let us make that choice.

But God is so awesome in all of this that He has found a loophole. A trump card over the Devil if you will. God can not control that we make the right choices. But when we do make the wrong choices or someone does wrong against us...He can work it for GOOD. He loves to restore and renew because He is a good God who loves you and would NEVER do anything to hurt you.



14 comments:

  1. Cherie - thanks for the posts on Job. They've been a refreshing read. It is so hopeful to know that God is in the business of redemption and restoration, even in the midst of our pain. (Your bro showed me your blog so I'll keep checking it out. :) )
    ~ Monika

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  2. Cherie, I just came upon this article you wrote and I must respond to it. I take great issue with your interpretation of Job's story. You don't realize you much condemnation you are putting on anyone who has suffered when you say "Now if Job right from the beginning would have recognized that the attack was from the enemy and NOT from God he would have saved himself from all the suffering." When exactly was Job supposed to have stopped, made an evaluation of the situation, assign the blame to Satan, and somehow prevent these events from happening? Job 1:13-19 says that the disastrous news was coming to Job so fast that one speaker couldn't even finish before the next one arrived! In other words, all of these horrible things had already happened. There was no saving himself from this suffering.
    You also brush over the fact that God removed the hedge of protection from Job. He could have told the devil 'No', that He was going to continue to protect and bless Job. You twist the story around by putting God at the mercy of Satan's will, rather than the opposite.
    You don't realize that you are siding with Job's "friends" who made accusations that Job must have brought this suffering on himself. God said in Job 42:8 that they "have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has". God holds Job up to all of us in James 5:10-11 as an example of "patience in the face of suffering". Job is a hero to me and should be an inspiration to everyone of how to continue to praise and trust in God, even when we don't understand why the sovereign God allows suffering to come into our lives.
    The reason I'm writing you is that I have spent the last 4 years studying about suffering since the death of my son. I may have agreed with some of your views before this happened, but when tragedy hits your own door, the simple explanations are not sufficient. I would recommend to you that you read John Piper's writings on suffering (his website is DesiringGod.org). He has written a book on Job, and frequently writes about suffering. His insights were more helpful and comforting to my wife and I than anyone else's in healing from our grief.
    Thanks for listening to me. I hope I didn't come on too strong, but it really is a very sensitive subject that has to be handled with much care.
    Ken

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  3. For the record I have suffered huge personal loss in my life.

    What I was trying to point out in this post is that our suffering is NOT from God. And if Job had realized that fact at the beginning he would not have saved himself from the suffering.{I'll make that more clear in the post} But what he would have been able to do is focus on the battle with the enemy{the guilty} and not God{not guilty}.

    What God is saying in Job 42:8 is that Job is now in a correct thinking about the whole thing. He had apoligized to God for thinking he was the one causing the suffering. God was saying to the friends was that they hadn't. They were still blaming God or Job instead of the devil!

    In the new testament Job was a wonderful exaple of suffering! But the suffering in the new testament again was not from God it was from the devil. It was the persecution of the church. Persecution from people and the devil.

    I hope that gives a bit more insight as to where I'm coming from. Thank you so much for your comment.

    Blessings...Cherie

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  4. Cherie,

    I'm trying to understand your reasoning. Are you saying that Job received these attacks because he had somehow not "aligned his will with the will of God"? I'm trying to see how we go from God commending Job as "my servant", "there is no one on earth like him", "blameless and upright", "a man who fears God and shuns evil"....to God deciding to remove this hedge of protection from Job. Why would God do that? I think you're saying God decided this because Job was somehow at fault, aren't you?

    Ken

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  5. No, I'm not. Job was righteous and upright. Job did not deserve to be suffering. None of us deserve to suffer. But we all do suffer because we live in a fallen world. Death is a result of that. We suffer at the hands of the enemy and at the hands of the unrighteous. We do not suffer at the hand of God.

    In the case of Job there was nothing that he could do to stop the suffering. It was not Jobs fault that he was suffering. But if he would have been in agreement that it wasn't God causing the suffering, he would have been better equipped in dealing with the suffering that the devil was causing.

    Job was apologising for blaming God for the suffering. Because it wasn't God causing the suffering it was the devil! The devil is the cause for all death, destruction and suffering. Righteous or unrighteous. The devil will attack either one. It has nothing to do with how close you are to God. Job was a perfect example of that!

    So knowing that, when tragedy does strike we take comfort in knowing it is not from God and battle the enemy with God if need be.

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  6. Cherie,

    Thanks for your response and thanks for hanging in there with me. I hope you know that I am sincerely trying to get to an understanding of your position....and not just being annoying. Let me take this one step further if I could, because I still don't understand. I agree with you that Job was not to blame. I agree with you that the devil was directly attacking Job. However, your position seems to take God completely out of the narrative in chapters 1 and 2. You say that God is not causing Job's suffering, yet how do you explain that God removed the hedge of protection He had given Job, and permitted or allowed Satan the freedom to attack Job. Wouldn't that make God the ultimate cause of Job's suffering? Thanks.

    Ken

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  7. That's the million dollar question isn't it? :D Why does God allow suffering? My personal take is that God allows everything. Yes there are certain times that he steps in with a super-natural protection. But otherwise we are at the mercy of a fallen world sujected to God allowing people and the devil to make their own choices. Good or bad. So in that sense I guess we could say that God is the cause for all our suffering because he allows our suffering to take place. He allows people to make their own choices.

    But I see a God who is deeply grieved at the suffering of the world. That is part of the reason he sent Jesus; to conquer death. So no in that sense I do not believe that God causes our suffering. What loving Father would do that?

    That is my personal thoughts in a nutshell. There are quite a few more posts of mine that touch on this subject. Especially origial sin and how that affected things.

    And for the record...I'm not annoyed. I appreciate your comments. :D
    Cherie

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  8. Hi, Cherie. I hope you don't mind if I return for one more question about this conversation we were having about Job. My reason for being persistent on this is that I'm writing a paper on suffering and I'm weighing various viewpoints while deciding where it is that I land on all this. Reviewing our conversation, it looks like we agree that Satan does the evil work, and that Job was not the cause of his suffering. I was trying to determine what role God played in all this. I had said that in chapters 1 and 2, it says that God gave Satan permission to do what he did. Your reply talked about God, in a sort of generic sense, allows suffering because we live in a fallen world. But....here's the point I'm trying to get to....this story isn't talking about a generic allowance of suffering, it's a specific permission (given by God) directed toward a specific person, with specific limitations. So, I think this shows that God is not just some passive bystander when suffering comes our way, but is actively involved in "managing" or "allowing" our suffering so that it is used for His glory and for our best good. Would you agree with this at all? (A couple New Testament examples would be Luke 22:31 where Satan has asked to sift Simon Peter, but Jesus is directing this suffering with His prayers for God's purposes.....and 2Cor 12:7-10 where Paul's thorn in the flesh was brought by a messenger of Satan, but God was allowing it for His purposes). Thanks for any consideration in addressing this question. I know to some, my viewpoint might be seen as "blaming God", but to me, a God who is actively involved in my suffering in order to bring me the most ultimate good and in order to fulfill His ultimate glory, is more comforting than a more passive God who only sits and watches while Satan does his work. Again, any feedback would be appreciated. I benefit from exchanging ideas with people that may not necessarily agree with me. Thanks, Cherie. Sincerely, Ken.

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  9. Let me suggest a book...
    http://www.gregboyd.org/books/is-god-to-blame/
    It really answered a lot of questions for me. I personally can not believe in a God that has anything to do with suffering other that working it for His good after the fact. To believe in a God that induces suffering just so he can be glorified seems very dualist and I not the God I serve.
    It really comes down to how you see freewill and the sovereignty of God. This book answers those questions. But I will warn you it will be in direct opposition from the doctrine on the "Desiring God" website.
    Blessings in your search.

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  10. Cherie, thanks for the reply. With your book recommendation, I now have a better perspective on your positions. I had only a brief knowledge of the Open Theism that Boyd promotes. I am in the process of doing more research on it to understand more of the details. So far, I can't say that I put much stock in it.....but it is very helpful to me to know what others are thinking. I have read a lot of John Piper lately (Desiring God).....but I'm pretty sure I'll never be a Calvinist either. My background is more Arminian than anything else.....and so far I'm guessing that I'm going to remain there. I think the Bible makes the case for a sovereign God that knows everything about the future (as opposed to Open Theism), but also allows free will that isn't directly controlled by God (as opposed to Calvinism). I will keep reading your blog to keep up on your latest thoughts.....you do have some interesting ones. I will also keep reading articles by Greg Boyd and others. Thanks for taking the time to respond. You have helped me in my search.

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  11. Thanks Ken. I hope you understand why I closed comments on the other post. I can tolerate someone disagreeing with me, but I have a hard time with being out right attacked. That one guy has been on my tail for some time...lol.

    Many blessings on you as you search.
    Cherie

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  12. Cherie, I do understand. It sounded like you had reached your limit with him. I'm glad you communicated with me at this thread. I was hoping that my latest question hadn't pushed you to your limit (it probably didn't help)! Just to give you a little more inside information on me.....I truly am seeking to wrestle this question of "Why do we suffer?" to the ground (knowing that I'll never have it all figured out). Since the death of our son, this has been my quest for the last 4 years. I'm preparing a seminar to help people find God in the tough times of life. So, I'm wanting to understand the main viewpoints on the subject the best I can for two reasons: 1) to be confident that I'm presenting the biblical truth, and 2) to be sensitive to those that see it differently than I do. So, I'm actually trying to find some "common ground" among Christians without abandoning truth just to be accommodating. I think we agree that God created a perfect world without suffering/evil.....but with free will. I think we agree that the rebellion of Satan followed by Adam & Eve's disobedience plunged the world into corruption & suffering.....which continues to this day. I think we may have some disagreement on how we describe God's working in people's lives in this fallen world. I see God doing a mighty and gracious work of restraining evil (or else Satan would destroy us all in short order).....yet purposefully "allowing?", "managing?", "controlling?" (not sure what the right word would be) the free will of Satan, others, and ourselves to bring only the suffering into our lives that will ultimately fulfill His purpose for us (i.e....God sometimes allows what He hates to accomplish good). I'm thinking that in that last statement (which was rather long!) we may have some disagreement, but yet some agreement. Bottom line is....I think we both love Christ and want to serve Him the best we can. Hope this message has been a blessing to you.....I appreciate your willingness to tolerate my "poking and prodding"! Ken

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  13. Thanks Ken. I never mind poking and prodding when it is done in a spirit of humility and love...which you have shown. I am praying that God gives you His wisdom and understanding on the questions you are asking. Many blessings on you as you continue to seek Him. :D

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