Suffering: Is it fair that a loving God allows people to suffer at all? Part 2

This is part two in answering the question, “Is it fair that a loving God allows people to
suffer at all?” in the larger series answering the question, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” Part three will be posted tomorrow.

What Should Our Response be to Horrific Types of Suffering?

Many families silently deal with these pressures. For example, what about those who were caught in the Nazi Holocaust? How should families deal with loved ones under a Hitler type of brutality? Elie Wiesel suffered gruesomely at Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II) and recalled children consumed by the flames. He found it repulsive to worship a God who allowed such suffering, in fact a God who offended him,

Why, but why would I bless him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because He kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How can I say to him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all the nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?3

I can feel a sense of his pain and understand a portion of his agony!

Did Bible Characters Struggle with Suffering?

How can we comprehend the Divine? How can the finite understand the infinite? How can the clay understand the Potter? How can the finite one limited by space and time understand the One who exists outside of space and time? Are we in a position to understand how God governs the world?

Certainly King David cried out from his confused and questioning soul. He wrote,

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; 4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. (Ps. 13:1-4 NKJ)

Job’s friend Elihu waited patiently while Job’s other three friends sought to enlighten Job. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar basically blamed Job for his own problems, because surely he suffered because of his own sins. Yet Elihu brought up the truth that there is undeserved suffering,

Elihu was saying that when suffering comes undeservedly, one should not react as Job did with accusation and self-defense. Instead the sufferer should “face it with trust [for] if he could know the cause, he too might find that he was serving God and was honored in his very agony.”4

So, are we just supposed to accept the pain and suffering, along with the evil? That doesn’t make sense to our human minds! Ronald Allen attempts to help us understand,

Any reading of Scripture affirms the twin experiences of mercy and sadness, of expectations and disappointments, of triumph and disaster. But the troubling experiences are not attributable to the limitations of a loving God or to dual natures attributed to God in a dialogical [two-way conversation] encounter. The simple facts are that God is good and that life may be tough.5

Part three will be posted tomorrow.

1Thomson, Daniel, “A Biblical Disability-Ministry Perspective” in Why, O God? p. 28.

2Baldrige, Jessica, “Church-based Disability Ministries” in Why, O God? p. 40.

3Blount, Douglas, “Receiving Evil from God” in Why, O God? p. 226.

4Waters, Larry, “Elihu’s Theology And His View of Suffering” Bibliotheca Sacra 156 (April-June 1999), 148.

5Allen, Ronald, “Suffering in the Psalms and Wisdom Books,” in Why, O God? p. 131.

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