God responded a second time, declaring that he would bring all evil to account and settle every score. Seeing God enabled him to find joy, even amidst his suffering. When we experience suffering or observe it in the lives of those around us, one of the most natural questions to ask is, Why? Why did that natural disaster happen? Why did my loved one get cancer? Why did God allow the Holocaust? It is encouraging to know we are not alone in asking such questions, and that crying out to God in our grief is not forbidden.
The Bible offers a vision of a God who is big enough to handle such questions, and big enough to trust even when life seems to be falling apart. One of the deepest and most poignant treatments of suffering in the Bible is the story of Job. Job was an innocent man who suffered terribly; he lost everything he had and, on top of that, was covered in boils.
880 Words Essay on Value of Pain and Suffering
Their reasoning was this: Surely Job must have provoked God in some way! That is the only possible explanation for the suffering that has overcome him. What did you do to deserve this? Job even prays for his friends because God is angry with them for how they treated Job. One use of the book of Job is to distinguish a biblical view of suffering from the concept of karma, which is the notion that there is a kind of unbreakable cause-and-effect law in the moral realm.
In a universe governed by karma, people who do good will experience good, and people who do bad will experience bad. That means that if we see someone suffering, we can conclude that they did something wrong to bring it on themselves. Many people assume—perhaps sometimes subconsciously—that this is exclusively how suffering works. The biblical view of suffering is more nuanced than the karmic view. In the biblical view, we cannot always understand why suffering happens in this life.
Job never learned the true cause of his suffering, even after he had been restored by God. But Job encountered God. Some critics look at this response as a non-answer to the problem. When Job sees God, he no longer needs an answer. God himself is the answer. Job responds with joy and repentance. Like the character Orual in C.
We see here a hint of the hope that the Bible offers to sufferers. Why is this?
He gave us himself. He came. He entered space and time and suffering. At the center of the biblical story is a God who actually enters into suffering for us.
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He was born, lived, died, and rose again from the dead to defeat evil and reconcile to God those who trust in him. When Jesus hung on the cross, he suffered one of the worst deaths imaginable, because he took on all the sins of humanity. Despite his innocence, he died for our transgressions.
This is the main message of the Bible, and it is a message of incredibly good news. At its heart, the Bible is not a book of advice or moral principles to help us deal with suffering and have a better life.
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Fundamentally, it is the story of what God has accomplished for us, how he is repairing a broken world; it is a message of hope in light of his suffering for us. If Jesus was God among us, as the Bible claims, then we can no longer view suffering in the same way. As Dorothy Sayers wrote:.
Of course, the suffering of Christ does not immediately take away our own pain. In fact, Jesus assured his followers they would indeed have trouble in this life. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself. Though the Bible makes no promise to take away our suffering in this life, it does give us hope that suffering will one day be ended forever.
At the end of the Bible, we are given a glorious vision of a coming world in which all pain and suffering is gone forever. The image of God wiping away tears from the eyes of his people communicates not merely the cessation of earthly suffering, but consolation for earthly suffering. According to the Bible, God already gave us the first installment of this beautiful ending when he resurrected Jesus from the dead. One day, what happened to Jesus—the reversal of death and liberation from decay—will happen throughout creation; the world will be redeemed and made new.
This vision of joy as the ultimate destination of redeemed creation explains our longing for permanent happiness, and the feeling of being out of place that we sometimes have in this world. Theologian G. Chesterton said:. Whether or not you believe in this vision of the triumph of joy and the undoing of suffering, you have to admit it is a beautiful thought.
But what do we do with all this? The same painful experience can make one person bitter, narrow, and ungenerous, and another person sweeter, humbler, and more patient. What makes the difference? Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychologist who spent years in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust. Upon his release, he wrote about his experiences and observations. The voices of sufferers throughout the centuries have cried out concerning the difference God makes amidst suffering. William Cowper was a Christian poet who suffered terribly.
He went insane four times, attempted suicide on several occasions, and was debilitated by depression for long periods of time, including the final ten years of his life. In the midst of one of his darker struggles, he wrote to a friend:.
In his letters, as well as in his poetry and hymns, there is another strand of thought—one of hope, patience, and faith in God. In one of his most famous hymns, he wrote,. As real as suffering is, God is more real. As deep as suffering goes, God goes deeper.
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This biblical story has amazing power for helping us sort out the suffering in our lives. Augustine taught that evil is simply the privation of good; it exists as a necessary possibility in a world of free, morally conscious creatures. According to this way of thinking, if God wanted a world without any possibility of pain, he would have had to create a world without any possibility of free choice or true love—a world of robots, not people. Most people can identify with this at least to an extent; the majority of us can think of a time when something we thought was bad ultimately turned out to be good.
Because of such possibilities—and the finitude of human knowledge about what a perfect God would do in a given set of circumstances—even many contemporary atheists and agnostics admit that the Problem of Evil is, at best, a probabilistic argument. It raises questions for the theist, but does not make theism impossible.
Theodicies can be helpful. But suppose one finds the traditional Christian answers to the question of evil inadequate and feels compelled to deny the existence of God? At this point, the problem of suffering becomes an even greater problem. After all, at that point, how can one say that there is such a thing as evil?
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