Today we are continuing in our discussion of suffering and are concluding our brief and barely more than shallow answer of the question: Why do bad things happen to comparatively good people. We will be reading Job 4, and enduring the dumb and wrong-headed advice of one of Job's well-meaning (but misguided!) friends. We will also read Mark 8, where Jesus miraculously feeds the 4,000 AND teaches His disciples to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees (which is hypocrisy!) And conclude with Romans 8, which will begin to shine light on one of the most important (and controversial) theological concepts of the Bible, predestination and will give us one of the most powerful and comforting single passages in all of Scripture - a passage which is incredibly fitting for our discussion today:
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
As we read the tragic story of Judah and Tamar, we need to be reminded that not all of what Old Testament saints do is correct and God-pleasing. Judah is an extreme hypocrite in this passage, and wonderfully illustrates Jesus' warning in Mark 8 to avoid hypocrisy. Tamar's way of holding her father in law to his promise is also less than ideal. The subject of Onan and his death probably deserves its own separate episode, but my kids listen to this podcast, including my 8 year old, and I am not keen to explain this situation to her in depth just yet. I am, however, planning on compiling these episodes into a series of Bible questions books which will be released on Amazon over the year of this podcast. I'll very likely cover the Onan situation in there, and will let you know when that book is available. (Hopefully early Spring.) I am quite sure you will be waiting with bated breath. ;) So - let's go read our Genesis and Job passages, then discuss suffering, and finally conclude with Mark 8 and Romans 8.Why Does Suffering Happen?
I don’t understand suffering. I don’t understand the periods in my life where the suffering level is high...but it is illogical and ignorant to lose faith because of suffering. Think of it this way. If I promise to give you $20 every Sunday for a year...and I DO, wouldn’t that make me reliable?? The Bible promises suffering and a lot of it. The Bible promises that good people will suffer. The Bible promises that people - lovely people...even children... will die unexpectedly. The Bible is honest. God is honest. We LIVE IN A FALLEN WORLD ruled by death and the Devil. The Bible promises resurrection and redemption and eternal life. It does not promise an EASY life characterized by no suffering. Philosophers call Epicurus’ question that we called yesterday 'THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.' I see no problem whatsoever. What we see in the world - all the tragedy and heartache - is what we should expect given what the Bible tells us. If, 200 years from now we’ve solved all of the world's sickness and inequalities and are living in a utopia, then we will have a problem - THE PROBLEM OF COMFORT. Because that will actually contradict the nature of life that the Bible promises. The existing and impact of evil and suffering do not contradict the Bible but actually REINFORCE it. If you have wondered about suffering. Join the club. EVERYtime I suffer, I shake my head and wonder WHY? (even though the Bible says...don’t be surprised, I always am.) I am not saying that suffering is not a problem - it is a problem, absolutely. I am saying that nobody should use suffering and evil in the World in a way that somehow invalidates the Bible as a reliable book - the amount of evil and suffering in the world is exactly what we would expect given the teaching of the Bible.
For the last two episodes, we've laid some biblical groundwork to develop a pretty good overview of suffering according to the Bible. Therefore with a basic Biblical theology of suffering under our belts...let’s move on to the specific major question. Why do bad things happen to seemingly good people?? Here are some answers:
We won’t always know WHY…..BUT the Bible gives a resounding ANSWER for suffering - The Resurrection.
Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:
Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them.They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,because the previous things have passed away.5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. 7 The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. 8 But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
In closing, you CANNOT read the Bible and not expect suffering. ALL HUMANS SUFFER. JESUS - the most righteous Suffered MOST of all. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, in Christ - our sufferings will literally pale in comparison to the glories to come. That is the blessed hope. Yes, Jesus came for us to have abundant life, but that life WILL include suffering. Suffering is necessary, says Paul, literally a few days after he was nearly stoned to death. It is unavoidable. The real question is - are you in Christ? Because if you are, then you have the HOPE that one day your sufferings will be tiny compared to the glory that will come to you as one who has been saved and redeemed by Jesus.
One final word, since this is our last episode (for now) on the problem of evil and the question of why good people suffer. These past few episodes have met the problem of evil on a philosophical level - seeking to address skeptics and those who might doubt God or the truth of the Bible because of their suffering, or the suffering in the World. The philosophical level is not where you should meet people when they are suffering. They don't FIRST need an explanation, or an apologetic, they first need care, compassion, and your own tears weeping with them. This is what Job's friends got right, at least for a little while, during the first week where they just sat quietly with Job. You don't have to explain suffering or spout off philosophical reasons to believe while somebody is going through catastrophe. Just be there. Hold their hand. Pray for them. Weep with them. Be near. Serve them. Let your words be few and your presence be obvious.
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