This is part two answering the question, “Is it unjust that God allows some people to suffer more than others?” which is part of the larger series answering the question, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” Part one was posted on March 1, 2014.
Didn’t Biblical Characters Have the Right to Question God?
When you read Job chapters one and two, you see a word picture about a Divine courtroom in which a man appeared to be simply a pawn in a trial. Satan entered God’s throne room and God displayed His blameless and noble servant Job. Satan accused God, claiming that Job was that virtuous only because God had blessed him so much. So God allowed Satan to take his children and his business! Then to make matters worse, in the next Divine courtroom scene, God also allowed Satan to touch Job’s body, but not allow him to take his life. In the agony of losing ten children, his livelihood and his health, Job responded,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:21-22 NKJ)
Was God unjust to allow Satan, the enemy, to wreak such suffering on Job without telling him?
Could We Not Take Issue with Some of the Biblical Characters?
In fact, we might take issue with some of the Biblical writers. What do I mean? Israel rose to great nation status under King David, and then opulence under King Solomon from B.C. 1010 to B.C. 931. David conquered the nations around Israel and Solomon’s treasury overflowed with gold and silver, as well as apes and peacocks! (1 Kings 10:22) Israel was the city on the hill!
Yet in the next 200 years, Israel rejected God’s calling and the Assyrians took the Northern Kingdom into exile. One hundred and forty years later, the Babylonian armies under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Southern Kingdom and Jerusalem. As the prophet Jeremiah sat on an ash heap over-looking the ravaged city Jerusalem, He penned the book of Lamentations. He recalled the former greatness of Jerusalem among the nations, but at that moment had become a slave (Lam. 1:1). As he continued to recall the agony and anguish, he turned his attention to the Lord and wrote,
21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:21-23 NKJ)
Jeremiah did not ask the question, “Is God unjust?” He did not accuse God or make any claim. Stephen Bramer succinctly wrote, “How could the writer be stating what he does in the book and not be upset with God? How can God be good in view of human suffering? The answer is that in the middle of all that suffering, God is faithful, merciful, and the one to whom people can turn and know that he is a good and merciful God.”4
King David Cried Out for Mercy and God’s Justice
King David found himself on the short side of the stick many times. During one of his times of struggle, he wrote,
1Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. 2 Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me. (Ps. 31:1-2 NKJ)
You can sense his pain and appreciate his questions, but also see an attempt to trust God. He continued,
9 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! 10 For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away. (Ps. 31:9-10 NKJ)
How many who have suffered have felt like David did? In the next two verses he became even more vulnerable and opened his heart to the Lord,
11 I am a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and am repulsive to my acquaintances; those who see me outside flee from me. 12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. 13 For I hear the slander of many; fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, They scheme to take away my life. (Ps. 31:11-13 NKJ)
I am not sure David felt like he could win for losing! Not only did his enemies despise him, but also his friends and neighbors! When you feel like a forgotten dead man, discouragement and depression begin to strangle your neck with a death grip. Yet, David did not blame God. He did not make any claim against God. Maybe knowing the Lord and trusting His character was enough for David?
1) What kinds of suffering make you ask the question, “Is there injustice with God?”
2) When people ask that question, do you think it comes from rebellion, hurt, or lack of understanding? Why?
3) What are the most weighty reasons people will question the justice of God regarding suffering?
4) When you hear someone asking about the justice of God, what goes through your thinking?
5) Can you think of passages of Scripture that either support the questions regarding the justice of God or confirm that God is just?
This concludes the article on this question.
1This is related to Lee Strobel’s national survey when he prepared to write his book, The Case for Faith. The survey asked, “If you could ask God anything what would you ask?” You can imagine the number of questions people thought to ask. However, the top response was, “Why is there suffering and evil in the world?” accessed from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/05/26/why-does-god-allow-tornadoes-tragedy-and-suffering/ on December 28, 2013.
2Allen, Ronald (“Suffering in the Psalms and Wisdom Books,” in Why, O God? p. 129.
4Bramer, Stephen, “Suffering in the Writing Prophets (Isaiah to Malachi)” in Why, O God? p. 156.