Life and death, pain and joy, evil and good, are all the work of God.
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form the light, and create darkness,
I bring prosperity, and create disaster,
I, the LORD, do all these things.” Isaiah 45:6 and 7
The Message to the World.
God wants people to realise their own inadequacy and the ultimate futility of human effort. To that end He wants us to feel what Jeremiah the prophet felt:
“I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own;
it is not for a man to direct his steps” Jeremiah 10:23
God wants men and women to be saved. We have already noted that
“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
However, to force us to obey, would frustrate His original purpose in creating us with free will.
We are so used to sin-stricken human nature, that we see it as the norm. Even if life is easy for us personally, the suffering and injustice around us every day, remind us how urgently changes are needed; of the choice each of us must make for ourselves.
The Reason the Righteous Suffer.
There is no doubt that some good people suffer far more than many people who are evil and cruel. This is acknowledged in the Bible.
“There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth:
righteous men who get what the wicked deserve,
and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.” Ecclesiastes 8:14
Job (refer Job 3:11) and Jeremiah (refer Jeremiah 20:14,17,18), two of the most worthy men who ever lived, each became so distressed that they wished they had never been born. Moses (Numbers 11:15), who did so much to improve the lot of his people, and the great prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), both reached the point where they just wanted to die.
The book of Job is a long discussion of the sufferings of an innocent person. It is significant that the events it records, took place around four thousand years ago. This is a very old problem.
Job was prosperous and highly respected. In rapid succession he lost his family, his property and his health. Three of his friends came to be with him and they were overwhelmed by the magnitude of his afflictions. Initially, they offered comfort by reminding him of all the good he had done and encouraging him to trust in God. Then gradually they talked themselves into believing that he must have been guilty of some terrible crime to be thus punished. Through great suffering, Job’s character was perfected and he was eventually blessed. A glorious future yet awaits him. This book remains very relevant today.
When we are distressed and everything seems to be going wrong, it is easy to blame God if not for the actual problem, at least for not protecting us, or our loved one, from it. This is a test to see if we really do believe that God is greater and wiser than we are, as Job did. Throughout the Bible we are exhorted to trust God.
No human has ever endured more than Jesus. The reason for Christ’s sufferings is a whole subject in itself, but we note that it was all part of the great purpose of God. Without his sacrifice the world would be without hope.
In universal suffering, we see God’s appeal to the world.