Suffering: Who is the one who started the suffering that God allows? Part 1

This is Part 1 of 5 parts answering the question, “Who is the one who started the suffering that God allows?” in the large question “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 2 through 5 will be posted in the next four days.

Whenever you deal with a situation, it’s often best to go back to the beginning to understand it. For example, if you want to understand why there are so many references to God carved into public buildings at our Nation’s Capitol, you don’t interview people on the street to find the answer. You go back to documents and paintings that were made at the time of the beginning of the United States of America. Any objective historian will see document after document written by our founding fathers who had the deepest respect for God and the Bible. That is why there are so many pictures in the United States Capital building of patriots who are holding a Bible, involved in prayer and even conducting a baptism. That is why our nation was richly blessed as a beacon of hope to the world in the first two hundred years, because God was at the center of this nation’s history.

So, can the same reasoning be used to understand where suffering came from? Can you go back in time to understand why it exists?

Go Back to the Beginning to Determine How Suffering Started

When we think of the one who started the suffering, the easiest solution would be to go back to Adam and blame him. That makes sense from the human perspective.  After all, he enjoyed a perfect environment in the Garden of Eden. He had the perfect mate, perfect animals, the perfect climate and easy work to provide for himself and Eve. Yet, when he sinned, God disciplined him and cast him out of the Garden and life became very difficult. Yet, did it start with Adam and does his sin explain why there is so much suffering today? There is one creature who existed before Adam who started the suffering that God allows.

The Beginning Began Before Man

God created angelic beings some time before He created man. We know this, because there is a clear expression in Job 38:7, in which God said that the angels observed His handiwork as He created the earth as we have it today.  Let’s note the context,

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

2 “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

3 Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.

5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone,

7 When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?  (Job 38:1-7 NKJ)

The expression “out of the whirlwind” means the Lord was “perturbed,” to put it mildly! Elihu had attempted to help Job and his older friends understand how God was just and sovereign even in the midst of suffering. Even though Job questioned this, the three friends accused him of personal sin as the cause of his suffering and emphasized God’s right to impose this suffering on him.1 Elihu responded very well, but the Lord then picked up the microphone and asked Job and his friends several questions.

1Waters, Larry, Elihu’s View of Suffering Relative to the Theology of God BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 156 (April-June 1999): 143.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

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