Those who use suffering and pain as an argument against a belief in a good and gracious God hold to a rather prideful premise: “We ought to have an explanation for why God allows such suffering and pain!”
There is an underlying flaw in this premise: Are we not expecting to understand the ways of an infinite God that are simply way beyond our finite range of understandability? William Lane Craig reminds us that “as finite persons, we’re limited in space and time, in intelligence and insight. But God sees the end of history from its beginning and providentially orders history to His ends through people’s free decisions and actions” (On Guard, p. 158).
Let’s turn to Job 40:1, where God begins to answer Job who has been questioning/judging God. God answers Job with questions: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let him who argues with God give an answer.”
Job attempts to backpedal and deflect God’s questions by replying in vs. 4: “I am so insignificant. How can I answer You? I place my hand over my mouth.” God doesn’t let him or us off the hook. In 40:8God asks Job (and us): “Would you really challenge My justice? Would you declare Me guilty to justify yourself?”
This is a hard-hitting question for many people today with an arrogant mindset cultivated by a self-centered and self-indulgent “educational and entertainment culture.”
The Book of Job reminds us how we cannot begin to fathom, much less explain, the ways of God (Isaiah 55:8) so evident in His Amazing Grace, His choice to live among us, suffer with us, die for us on a cross, and even live within us through the presence of His Holy Spirit! Timothy Keller quotes Elizabeth Elliot, who humbly wrote: “God is God. I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that He act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice.” Keller adds:
“The theme that runs through all of Elliot’s work is that to trust God when we do not understand him is to treat him as God and not as another human being. It is to treat him as glorious – infinitely beyond us in his goodness and wisdom. But, as Jesus says, the hour at which God’s glory was most brilliantly revealed was on the cross (John 12:23, 32). There we see that God is so infinitely, uncompromisingly just that Jesus had to die for us, but also that God is so absolutely loving that Jesus was willing and glad to die.”
I embrace what Keller writes later:
“Because of God’s infinite majesty and wisdom, we expect to not understand all his ways. It wouldn’t make sense that everything he does would make sense. How could an infinite, beginningless being always manage our lives in a way that makes sense to us? We don’t even understand other human beings, fully, so how could we expect to understand everything God does” (Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, p. 198)?
Many in my generation are humbled by today’s technological wizardry in which smart phones tend to make them and me feel stupid. If I am stretched to the limit to keep up with the mega changes in a world where computers are way beyond what I can imagine, why would I be tempted to second guess the one who created a universe way beyond anything the brightest and best among us can adequately measure or imagine?
Once upon a time it may have been arrogant, ignorant, and intolerant of Church leaders to declare that our solar system revolved around the earth, and to have no room for Galileo and his correct teachings that the earth revolved around the sun. Today, is it not arrogant, ignorant, and intolerant for leaders of our increasingly secular culture to declare that everything revolves around ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, without any reference to God?
Even though hard core naturalists cannot explain how we came to be on this little dot in the universe, having the ability to think logically and scientifically, they rule God out of bounds! Does this human hubris influence how we approach the problem of suffering and evil – with a willingness if not eagerness to judge God?
What is particularly humbling is to think about how “Un-Human” it was when God in Christ “emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men … He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on the cross” (Phil. 3:7-8). If God is like this, then we will never begin to understand him as long as we are all caught up in our own self-centeredness!
Here is the essence of human sin, and a most poignant and pertinent reminder that we are not just finite but sinful people who so often deserve far more suffering and pain than we ever experience. A wise friend of mine in preparing a message to preach carefully examined Psalm 51:4where a humble and penitent David speaks to God: “Against You – You alone – I have sinned and done this evil in your sight! So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.”
His own inexcusable sinfulness brought him and his family much suffering and pain! I begin my daily prayer by saying: “Almighty God, Creator, Sustainer and Savior, Please forgive my sins which I confess to You and commit myself to correcting.” It is so important and inviolable to begin each day with an acute awareness of my sinfulness, being curved in on myself. Confessing our sins is perhaps the healthiest way to begin each day!