This is Part 3 of 6 parts answering the question, “Will God remove the suffering He allows?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Part 4-6 will be posted beginning on August 28, 2014.
God Has a Purpose Behind The Suffering
God has promised to restore the world to the way it once was, removing sin and its effects. John recorded these words of the Lord, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:5 NKJ) Unfortunately, until then there will be afflictions, but God has a purpose behind them.
We looked at this extensively in Part Three. Let me summarize a few of those thoughts. When Job suffered the loss of his ten children, his business and then his health, he responded to the desperate comment of his wife to curse God, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10 NKJ) Job recognized that he could not expect a life free from pain, because God is good and both gives and takes away according to His will (Job 1:21).
Yet there are times when the intensity or length of suffering becomes almost unbearable. And many have questioned the purpose for life itself, asking, “Is what I have done the reason for this suffering?” and “Is life really worth living?” By Job’s own admission, life is often light-years beyond our understanding (Job 42:1-6). Our finiteness cannot totally comprehend the infinite purposes of God, except to accept what He has revealed in Scripture and the truth that He has the sovereign right to determine all things as they are and will be.
One of Job’s friends was the younger man Elihu. He allowed the older friends to speak first, but realizing they had missed the real reasons for Job’s suffering and were inaccurate in understanding God, he offered a lengthy explanation to bring understanding and calm. He commented that God reveals Himself to man,
14 For God may speak in one way, or in another, Yet man does not perceive it. 15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, When deep sleep falls upon men, While slumbering on their beds, 16 Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction. 17 In order to turn man from his deed, And conceal pride from man, 18 He keeps back his soul from the Pit, And his life from perishing by the sword. (Job 33:14-18 NKJ)
Elihu commented that while the Lord may reveal as He chooses, man may not understand all of the revelation. In fact, God may not expose a man’s pride in his spiritual growth process, so that man may not even be aware of his own sin. Yet God is able to keep his life from the pit or perishing from the sword.
Elihu also addressed that God communicates to man through Divine discipline. Man may or may not recognize or understand these actions, but he does feel the suffering!
19 “Man is also chastened with pain on his bed, And with strong pain in many of his bones, 20 So that his life abhors bread, And his soul succulent food. 21 His flesh wastes away from sight, And his bones stick out which once were not seen. 22 Yes, his soul draws near the Pit, And his life to the executioners. (Job 33:19-22 NKJ)
Elihu helps us understand how God’s goodness is seeking to restore man to His fellowship, while allowing him to choose his own way. If man, by his sinful nature, tries to live independently of God, is indifferent to His plan or acts rebellious to His goodness, God will impose discipline on that man because He loves him and is seeking to reach his heart, not just compel him to “do the right thing.”
As God reaches the heart through Divine teaching and through Divine discipline, His purpose is to bring man to the point of humble dependence on His purpose, power and presence. Elihu recorded these words,
26 He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, He shall see His face with joy, For He restores to man His righteousness. 27 Then he looks at men and says, `I have sinned, and perverted what was right, And it did not profit me.’ (Job 33:26-27 NKJ)
None of us is free from sin, including the sin of pride, which was the first sin that initiated the suffering of the world (Is. 14:12-14; Ezek. 29:15-19). Pride manifests itself as the desire to live independently from the Lord. It is displayed as indifference toward and rebellion against Him. God will reveal His glory even through our sin and nothing is beyond His control! He is sovereign in allowing the afflictions of life.
Part 4 will be posted on August 28.