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Suffering and Spiritual
The following email is in response to the two-part article Suffering and Spiritual Struggles.
… Very thought-provoking article as usual.
Sometimes I wonder why we actually *attempt* to "rationalize" things like suffering. I don't know that attempting to rationalize these things or figure them out really helps, but this is a person who has OCD [Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder] talking. Obsessing on finding the reasons for things is just as damaging as obsessing on anything else to a person like me, so I tend to avoid it!
It is true that sometimes, there is a great relief finding that God really did have a purpose in your suffering; but sometimes, the cause of our suffering is amidst that large classification of things that we simply cannot know, and trying to find the reason is a frustrating and pointless exercise.
The book of Job is a book that I've become almost scared to read. It seems like each time I read it I get sick sometime before I finish it! But I'm interested by how the book ends. The LORD comes to Job and gives Job a number of examples of things Job can't know, and then, at the end of the book, Job repents for his various speeches of the book and is restored. But in all that, God never tells him "why" what happened to him happened.
Why didn't God tell him why?
I would have to guess that the cause of Job's troubles was never made known to Job himself but to the author of the book of Job probably sometime after Job himself was dead. The problem was of such a personal nature and significance that I think Job's mind would have been destroyed if he had known. The God of the universe and the evil prince of the power of the air are having an argument using Job as a pawn; whose mind wouldn't be destroyed if they were to learn such a thing about themselves?
I think in our present age, an age in which people are more affected by the theories of Sigmund Freud than they are by the reality of Jesus Christ, we are conditioned to believe that, if we could just find out the reason why things have happened to us, we'd be okay. But I fear that the reality is, if we knew the reasons, we would lose faith, or go insane, or die from the sheer heartbreak of the significance or insignificance of the reason.
The closest thing God gives us to a reason for suffering is in response to the question, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered that neither of them sinned, but that he had been born blind so that God might be glorified. I think perhaps much of this glorification will actually take place in the next world, not in this one, as we emerge from death with the perfection God always wanted us to have.
It's not much of an answer for this side of heaven, I don't suppose, but it might be as close as we will ever come to knowing. I think it serves us well to recognize the sovereignty of God in these things we can't understand. On John Calvin's deathbed, he uttered these words: "Lord, Thou bruisest me, but it is enough that it is Thou." Calvin's was not an unreasoning faith, obviously; but it was a faith that recognized that the reasons for "everything" could not be known.
Anyway, those are the few thoughts of a hopefully helpful nature that came to my mind as I read it all. You have done much to derive value for others from your own sufferings, which is a good thing; but I think a person could go nuts trying to fathom the reasons for his or her suffering, and would certainly go nuts if they actually knew! And therein, I believe, lies a mercy of God in allowing us not to know.
Thanks Reese. Very insightful as always. You're right about Job. It always has struck me how God didn't tell him what we the readers know from reading the first two chapters. But still, it is so hard not to ask "why?" when yet one more thing seems to go wrong. But you are correct that we can comfort ourselves that God has His reasons, and we probably will find them out someday, but very possibly not here and now like we want.
The above email exchange was posted on this Web site January 6, 2005.
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