Suffering: How great is the suffering that God allows? Part 1

This is Part 1 of 3 parts for the question, “How great is the suffering that God allows?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 2 and 3 will be posted over the next two days.

How great is the suffering in the world? It is off the charts! The reality that there is so much suffering seems absolutely ridiculous. You or many people close to you know of great, great, great suffering!

And then to think that God allows it mind-boggling! Let’s recap where we’ve been and where we are going. We’ve gone over the reality of many different kinds of suffering in Part One. Then we looked at how man deals with suffering man’s way in Part Two. We’ll examine Divine reasons for suffering in Part Three, and in Part Four learn how a person can have victory while suffering.

Job’s Friends Came to Sit with Job

How great is the suffering that God allows? Job is a good example in answering that question, because we know that God was directly involved in allowing it in his life (Job 1-2). Sometimes we know suffering by our own immersion in it, and sometimes we can get a glimpse by looking at other’s lives. Job’s friends saw Job in agony as it was recorded,

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place– Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. 12 And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. 13 So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:11-13 NKJ)

Job Lost His Children and Livelihood

How great was Job’s suffering that God allowed? First we know that he lost all ten of his children on a single day,

13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; 14 and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 “when the Sabeans1 raided them and took them away– indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 “and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” (Job 1:13-19 NKJ)

On one day, Job lost his servants, (except for the four messengers, of course), all his oxen and donkeys, sheep and shepherds and camel and camel drivers, AS WELL as his ten children! He went from tremendous wealth AND family to nothing. He was left with his wife, a few servants and his health (I guess that’s why we are always thankful for our health!) In that tremendous suffering, “Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:22 NKJ)

Job Lost His Health

But Job soon lost his health also. Up until this point, God allowed Satan to touch his body, but not his life,

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. (Job 2:7-8 NKJ)

How bad were the “painful boils”? Job’s wife saw his agony and did not understand what God was doing. She was in her own agony from losing her ten children as well as the family businesses. She did not see any reasonable explanation. So, she resorted to a human solution and told her husband to curse God, so He would take his life.

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10 NKJ)

Job tolerated the distress his wife was in and the turmoil that she caused him. She was certainly in despair, having lost her children! She was exasperated and could not understand how God could allow such suffering. She lost perspective in her emotional duress and suggested he curse God, because that would cause Him to end her husband’s life of suffering (or so she thought). But notice that Job did not listen nor take heed to her voice. I so much appreciate the inspired narrator’s words (likely Job), who said, “… he did not sin with what he said.” How great was the suffering Job endured that God allowed? Unimaginable!

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

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