The Necessity of Pain

This whole week has been an extremely tiring one, and as much as tried to run away from my stress yesterday, it seemed to catch up with me and made me arrive home past 10 pm. Oh well.

This post was triggered by a co-worker’s question about the Bible’s book of Job: Why do bad things happen to good people?

People try to answer this question in many ways. Some of them flat out blame the person and say that the person is actually not a good person at all. I lean toward this direction in a manner of speaking–nobody’s perfect, anyway. Still, there are some people who have been faithful servants of the Lord and still get into serious problems, or maybe even tragedies.

Others say that God is evil, uncaring, aloof, powerless or even nonexistent. They say that if he doesn’t care at all, maybe He’s just too weak and unaware of what goes on in the lives of His people. Others say that while God may be sovereign, this can never be reconciled with Him being good and loving. Why would he let bad things happen if He is good and loving?

Why did my lolo, good a man as he is, develop a serious heart ailment? Why did my mother meet a nearly fatal accident in the prime of her life?

I do not claim to know all the answers. I have a certain understanding of the topic, but to be honest, this is my answer to the question.

I don’t know. It depends.

Sometimes, God may really be punishing us for something we did, and we’re not really as good as we think we are. Maybe we’re doing something that will be much more harmful for us in the long run than if He dealt with it now. I use “punish” in a loose sense here–like any good parent, God would discipline for corrective reasons rather than merely punitive.

 

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” –Hebrews 12:5-6

I tend to believe that in my case, this is often true. I don’t really consider myself as an outstanding righteous person, and so perhaps most of my suffering is corrective. This, of course, does not take into account the suffering of genuinely righteous people. Case in point: Job.

Job was a righteous man, and God recognized this. God even tells Satan that “he will never turn against me.” Satan dares God to strike Job with trial after trial and see if he would still be righteous. And God does so. Job’s entire family is blown away except for his wife, his riches are all stolen, and all his livestock is dispatched violently. Job holds on and utters his famous words: “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. May the name of the Lord be praised.” Satan continues to torment Job (with God’s permission) and strikes him with a vile skin disease that covers his entire body. Job (probably partly because the accusations of evil that his friends were making were grating on his nerves) cries out in anguish and questions God, asking God why His hand is so heavy and why he deserves punishment. Job maintains he has done nothing wrong and so complains. Before God speaks, Job’s fourth friend, Elihu— a young man who deferred to the others at first out of respect for their age—questions Job and asks him why he considered himself so righteous and why he maintained his own righteousness instead of acknowledging God’s. Elihu goes on to say that we think too highly of ourselves when we say that our deeds can control the way God deals with us. He says many other things that justify God, and in the end the Lord Himself speaks and questions Job, who was imposing his own idea of good and blessing on God. God eventually rebukes the friends and restores Job’s blessings.

Taken from Job 34:
6 “Behold, I belong to God like you;
I too have been formed out of the clay.
7 “Behold, no fear of me should terrify you,
Nor should my pressure weigh heavily on you.
8 “Surely you have spoken in my hearing,
And I have heard the sound of your words:
9 ‘I am pure, without transgression;
I am innocent and there is no guilt in me.
10 ‘Behold, He invents pretexts against me;
He counts me as His enemy.
11 ‘He puts my feet in the stocks;
He watches all my paths.’
12 “Behold, let me tell you, you are not right in this,
For God is greater than man.
13 “Why do you complain against Him
That He does not give an account of all His doings?
14 “Indeed God speaks once,
Or twice, yet no one notices it.

Job is one of the most difficult books to deal with in the Bible, and I don’t even know all the answers to it myself. In the same way, times of pain and suffering in our lives are the most difficult to process. It’s easy to say “God has a good purpose,” but we definitely don’t want to hear that. We don’t want to hear “You have sinned and God is punishing you!” either, nor do we want to hear “I’m so glad that didn’t happen to me!” I really cannot give a definitive answer, except that God has unique reasons for allowing the suffering to enter our lives. They may be tests. Why does God test us if He knows how we will respond? I believe that it’s partly an opportunity for us to prove to ourselves our response, and that it’s also a chance for God to make us depend more on Him.

Why doesn’t He just tell us nicely? Simply put, I don’t think we learn that way. We don’t learn how to swim in a classroom but in the water. The process of learning is an unpleasant one and involves getting water into our nose and swallowing the foul-tasting water, but we learn. While we’re in the thick of suffering, of course, we tend to think of God as the mean swimming instructor who is standing by the pool and yelling at how pathetic we are and not as the instructor who is holding us firmly as we thrash about and make things difficult for ourselves. Of course, this is not something you want to tell a person who is in the middle of suffering, and I will get to that. Whatever the case may be, the end result can potentially bring us closer to Him.

Taken from Psalm 119
65 You have dealt well with Your servant,
O LORD, according to Your word.
66 Teach me good discernment and knowledge,
For I believe in Your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
68 You are good and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.

71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.

Yeah, easy to say that suffering is meant to teach us how to follow God, but while we’re going through the suffering it’s difficult to see how it helps us. I don’t mean to make light of suffering, but if I think it’s more expedient to seek the positive effects instead. My mom’s story (look for it in my post “Resurrection and Revival”) is one example. A more recent example is what happened to my Lolo just last week–I think that his illness gives us a chance to bring our family closer.

God has different ways of dealing with people–and different ways of healing people. I think that in the end I think He means for our trials to end in good. Of course, our own definitions of what is good for us may be very different from God’s. Regardless, I do not think it’s fair to judge God by our own short-sighted, narrow-minded standards of what is beneficial. Furthermore, God might just heal us and remove our hurt, but in ways we don’t really see at first.

I would never use all of the above to comfort a person who is experiencing pain. I keep it in mind when I’m going through pain, or when someone who isn’t really suffering questions God on behalf of the suffering of others. Now, an example of how and how not to comfort people.[link]

Rolling With It,
Your Black Lion

~ by J. R. R. Flores on June 24, 2007.

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