Making Sense Out of Suffering (Part 3)

Yesterday I received a comment from someone named Emily concerning my recent post Making Sense Out of Suffering” (You can read that post by clicking here).

Emily said…

“I appreciate your perspective as well as your mind, but (I’m not sure that your argument) is biblical. Read Job 1 & 2. Satan is indeed the author of Job’s suffering, yet God is sovereign and Satan can’t do anything without God’s permission. God also sets limits on what Satan can do. Yes, Satan’s goal is to cause Job disbelief.  But Spiritual warfare ceases to make sense if it is “God against God”, clearly it is “God against Satan” and man must make a choice. I am not attempting to start an argument, but simply hope to receive more understanding.”

Here is my response:


Emily,

When I say that Satan is not the author of suffering, I reference Genesis 3:14-20. It is here that God ordains suffering as a response to man’s sin. God says, “Because you have done this, cursed are you…cursed is the ground because of you…I will put enmity…I will greatly increase your pains…I will produce thorns and thistles.”  Notice here that it is God who increases pain.  It is God who curses sinful man.  And it was God who drove man out of the Garden.  So then, it is God who ordained suffering from the very beginning.  As I said in my post, man authored sin.   And, as a result, God authored suffering.

In regard to the book of Job, if you read carefully you will notice that it is indeed God who authorizes Job’s suffering. God is the one who begins the conversation with Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” In response to God’s proclamation, Satan asks permission to persecute Job. He says, “(if you allow me to strike him) Job will curse you to your face.”  But, Satan is God’s pawn. God is planning to use Satan to test and mature Job with the tool of suffering as a way of ultimately blessing Job (Job 42).

Again, Satan says, “Job will curse you to your face”.  Yet, Job does not “curse God and die” as his wife so “lovingly” suggests (Job 2:9).  All throughout the narrative Job honors God by acknowledging that God is sovereign over all things and he believes that there must be some purpose in the suffering that God is bringing into his life. Notice the dual position that Job takes. He holds God directly responsible – “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away” – but he does not curse God – “May the name of the LORD be praised”. The scripture continues, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:21-22).” Job’s response is stunningly mature – God causes the suffering, but God is not wrong.

This leads me to my previous comments about spiritual warfare.  As followers of Christ, our battle is without a doubt a spiritual struggle (Ephesians 6). But, it is not, “God against God”, nor is it, as you say, “God against Satan.” Spiritual warfare is a battle that Christians wage against Satan and against the sinful flesh.  The essence of the spiritual battle is not a struggle to “avoid” suffering, it is a fight to faithfully “overcome” suffering. Remember, Satan’s aim is a two-fold attack against God’s character: God is not Sovereign and God is not Good. So, with our suffering, Satan’s desire in spiritual warfare is to have us “curse God to his face”; to say, “If God is Sovereign, then he might be strong, but he is a jerk.  If God is Loving but not Sovereign, then he might be good, but he is a useless wimp.”

As as result, Satan wants us to accuse God of wrongdoing; to say, “I hate you God. You are unjust.  Because you ordain this suffering in my life, you are a heartless jerk or an impotent wimp or both. So you can go straight to Hell!” Yet, this is precisely what we must avoid doing.  Indeed, we can and should lament. We can complain and do so with great anguish and emotion. We can argue and unveil our hearts before God. Job does all of things and God says they are good. But Job does not curse God.  So then, in our battle against the powers of hell, our overall desire should be to honor and worship God, even though we greatly lament, by saying along with Job, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. May the name of the LORD be praised.”

Thanks for commenting Emily. I hope this helps!

Tim

3 thoughts on “Making Sense Out of Suffering (Part 3)

  1. I enjoyed reading this response. However, I was wondering why you stated, “God is the one who begins the conversation with Satan…” God is recorded as the one who started the conversation but it was Satan who came to God. I just felt like that was a strange method of explanation because it seems to point to God as the One that wants to stir trouble for Job. I don’t think you meant it that way; I just wanted to say it came across a little bit strange to me. However, I do understand that you were stating God is the sovereign and all things are sustained by His hand; and that nothing is able to be done outside of His allowing it to be.

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    • Satan was the one who came to God; however, it was God who incited satan. God boasted about Job: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Job 2:8. There is no indication that satan would have brought up Job if God had not first pointed Job out. God threw satan a bone and satan chased it.

      God sets up Job and the implications as to why are staggering. A careful read of Job brings to light God’s ultimate reason for placing Job in satan’s crosshairs to suffer. Tim pointed out, “…our overall desire should be to honor and worship God, even though we greatly lament…” God’s goal was to have Job exalt, honor, and worship His name despite losing everything. And it is in the loss of everything that God’s value in Job and our lives burns most relentlessly.

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