Why do we suffer?

  • If God is so loving…
  • Book of Job
  • Innocent yet punished?
  • God reaching you where you are…
  • What we know vs. what God knows
  • Comfort in God’s reply

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Why do we suffer?

Gary Aris: If God is so good. God is so loving, Why does he let people suffering and then they get more? You can get more in detail with that. Why does He allow tsunamis to happen? Why do earthquakes happen? If God is so good, if God is so loving, right? So that’s why we’re going to go to the book of Job. I think that it’s an interesting book because it’s all about suffering and it has one main message, and it’s such a smack in the face. I think it’s worth it. Here’s Job, innocent guy, did nothing wrong and he gets all these punishments. His kids die. His wife dies. He loses everything, everything he has. You think of, “What the heck is that? What kind of God does that?” Right, so valid question we’ll go with it. Can you blame this guy for getting upset? Well, probably not, probably not.

So, we’re going to Job 13, all go to verse 1. It says, “Behold my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. Well, you know, I also know I am not inferior to you but I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with Him.” Pretty valid so the guy wants to argue with the Almighty, right? Okay.  Job 23:1-4 says, “Then Job replied, ‘Even today my complaint is rebellion, His hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat. I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments.'” Sounds like the rest of us, sounds like pretty much everyone who feels like they were treated unfairly, right? That make sense? I mean why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you argue? Okay, God you’re supposed to be so good, and you’re supposed to take care of me. Why would you do this unjust thing to me, especially Job of all people to complain; Job is probably the perfect guy to make this kind of complaint? So what if he wants to argue, right he wants to argue this one out. Job 31 just following along here; verses 33. “Have I covered my transgressions like Adam by hiding my iniquity in my bosom, because I fear the great multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me, and kept silent and did not go out of the doors? Oh, I had one to hear me. Behold here is my signature. Let the Almighty answer me and the indictment which my adversary has written. Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it to myself like a crown; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince, I would approach Him.” So, at least he’s kind of being legit. Hey look, I really want to understand what’s going on here, God, I don’t get it. And if you can tell me I did something wrong I’ll take it, or take the burden of it. I’ll wear it. But I’m not seeing what I’m doing wrong here. Go to Job chapter 9, and then this last piece here in verse 16, “If I called and He answered me I cannot believe that He was listening to my voice. For He bruises me with the tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause. He will not allow me to get my breath but saturates me with bitterness.” Wow. I mean talk about depression like glory, right? How much worse does it get than that, the bitterness?

But does your Bible say tempest in verse 17 for Hebrews does it mean with the tempest? So it’s tempest. Okay. Another word for tempest is wind or whirlwind. Okay. So just heads up, keep that in the back your mind as we go to the point of– why I would even mention that. Go to Job 28 really quick. I think this is interesting too and it all tied together. So Job 28; again Job is upset with all kinds of things, right? So, we’ll go to verse 1 (1-6). “Surely there’s a mine for silver. And a place where they refine gold. Iron is taken from the dust and copper is smelted from rock. Man puts an end to darkness, and to the farthest limit, he searches out of the rock in gloom and deep shadow. He sinks the shaft far from the habitation, forgotten by the foot. They hang and swing to and fro far from men. The earth, from it, comes food. And underneath it is turned up as fire. Its rocks are the sources of sapphires. And its dust contains gold.” I’m going to explain why I read that in a minute but let’s just keep going here. It’s just an interesting thing how the earth is working and what’s going on, on earth. Really, he is talking about how the process of mining works from their perspective. We read that for the purpose of–really verse 12 here. “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the Living.” On and on he goes. That’s the main question there in that chapter is, “Where can wisdom be found?” He says all that stuff about the whole mining process that they would use. And then he talks about, okay, where can we find wisdom? All right. So keep them at the back of your minds. Now let’s go to Chapter 38, we are going to get a little technical here so bear with me. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind. We read Job 9. He was talking about I’m bruised, and I’m going through all this and bitterness. It’s like a whirlwind. It’s kind of interesting that God would use a similar idea; “Oh let me show you something, kid. Here’s a whirlwind. I’ll show you a whirlwind.” And He shows up through a whirlwind. What’s the idea here? So I’ll give you the answer up front and tell you this.

I’m beginning to believe that God wasn’t trying to give him a verbal beating. But He was definite trying to show him something. And it wasn’t the verbal beating that’s the point. I think the point of it is; I do care. So first clue I think is the whirlwind and I think it’s interesting that God would even use this connection of a– He talks about a whirlwind, and now you’ve got a whirlwind going here. What’s, what’s up with that? So, again, the connection here, okay, so just keep going with that and I thought it was interesting that it would start off with, “Then the Lord answered.” When you look up the word Lord, Yahweh, in Hebrew you’ll see a different aspect of God. It’s the aspect of God that’s going to show up and change something. It’s going to show up and maybe even fix something. This is the Covenant aspect of God. This is the same Lord that shows up with Abraham. It’s the same Lord that shows up and creates the world. You just have to do a work study there, and you’ll see that the word, Yahweh, comes up. I think it will be more interesting because later on, it says, “Elohim, it says God.” But it’s funny that it starts off with Yahweh. Again, why is that such a big deal? You know, you can use Elohim, you can use Yahweh, they are all interchangeable. I think it tells you something. We have to look at why they use these words. We have to see it from their perspective. Someone said, “What if you read the Bible like a novel and not because it’s– not because it’s a novel.” But what do you do with a novel? You read a novel, and you know that whatever they say, they’re saying it for a reason. You see the empty cup at the beginning of the movie, where they show you the empty cup. There’s a reason, right? What if we looked at it that way? So that’s kind of the aspect –that’s kind of the way I want to look at this here. So then the Lord answers. The Lord, Yahweh. So if Yahweh is going to show up, all we see is He’s coming to fix and really to connect to His people. Clue one there, Yahweh. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind. I looked up the word answer because it’s right after Yahweh and I am noticing that there is, other words that you could use instead of the word answer. I know this is getting a little weird and technical, but the main word that is going to be used is answer. But what comes in second place is the reply.

What if He’s replying and what would that imply? Because this is Yahweh showing up with a reply out of a whirlwind because “Job you talked about a whirlwind. You want to talk about a whirlwind, here is your whirlwind.” God’s going to connect with His guy Job. And again why even look at it from this perspective? Well, what does God called Job repeatedly; in fact, 6 times to be exact. He says, “You’re my servant.” What about my servant Job? He says it 6 times. So I think it’s an interesting connection. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”  Obviously Job is missing something here; isn’t he? Verse 3, “Now gird up your loins like a man.” Okay, that doesn’t sound too nice. The word, “now”, is sometimes replaced with the word, “I pray” or “please” and I don’t think God is saying, “Oh, please sweet heart.” I don’t think He is doing that. I think He is trying to connect with His servant and saying, “Alright, look. Listen to me. Gird up your loins. You need to answer some questions.” Not like, “Oh gird up your loins, oh.” I don’t think He is doing that. I think He’s trying to connect–Yahweh is trying to connect with His guy because His guy obviously doesn’t understand what just happened. Can’t blame him, okay. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” A love of God, Yahweh, starts off with that. Where was Job? Nowhere, nowhere to be found. “Tell me if you have an understanding.” And that’s how He starts it off, just to put everything into perspective. Right off the bat, this is for us too here, is that “Where were we?” Nowhere to be found. “Tell me if you have understanding.” Why do bad things happen all the time? I can’t believe it. Why did God have to take away my grandma? It is sad, I get it. It is. But, tell me if you have an understanding. Who are we to be the judges? First thing He says, “Tell me if you know. Tell me if you have understanding.” What did He just do? He just put God’s knowledge billions of miles apart from Job’s knowledge. Job’s knowledge is menial, and that’s why we read Job 28 for you to see. That’s where he’s at, he’s thinking about mining everything earthly. Did you guys notice that everything was very earthly?

So verse five, “Who set its measurements since you know. Or who stretched the line of it. On what words basis sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone. When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who enclosed the sea with the doors when bursting forth they went out from the womb; when I made the cloud its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band. And I place boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors; and I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther. And here shall your proud wave stop.'” What’s God establishing? That’s cute, you know some mining stuff. That’s cool, because you remember right after that what is said mining this is how this works. But then, wisdom, wisdom He brings up wisdom. “You want to talk wisdom, let me show you some wisdom. You know how this works? You know how the waves work? You know how the waves know to stop right there and then go back? You know how that works?” He is schooling Job. Does God even owe Job and answer? No. Not at all. He’s God; He doesn’t have to answer anybody. But why does He do it? And again my thought is– I think He’s replying to Job and not as if God is beneath Job. But that’s what He does for us, right. He kneels for us for our sake not to us, but for us. So He’s trying to connect to His servant, right. He calls him servant six times. And say, “Look, kiddie, there’s some things you don’t understand. I’m going to break each one of these down. Waves, how does that work, you know? ‘No’. How about the earth, you know how that works? ‘No’. All right.” As I keep going up once you noticed the things He brings up. Again comparing it to Chapter 28. “Have the gates of death been revealed to you or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you understood the expense of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.” Again, schooling him, isn’t He?

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light; and darkness, where is its place that you may take it to its territory. And that you may discern the path to its home.” There were no scientists back then. He’s asking him things that are beyond him. Remember this is an ancient guy, Job. This is so ancient– you know Job is the oldest book that’s in the Bible? The oldest written book, it’s actually written in Ugaritic. Even older than the first five books of the Bible.

What do you think Job is thinking? Because his question is, “This isn’t fair, or a statement, right. This isn’t fair. I shouldn’t be treated like this.” Quite honestly when you look at it, man, I don’t understand why this guy was treated like that. It doesn’t say anything he did bad, and then God calls him a servant, so I’m thinking, “why– what you doing here, God?” But there’s a point to all this. I bet Job at this point– you got to realize, God is at this point– Yahweh talking to Job. And Job hearing this from the Almighty Himself. How tiny do you think he feels? A speck, perhaps? He goes on to talk about nature here. I want to skip down to verse 13. And look at what God says here. Speaking of wisdom; remember, Job was like, “I don’t need wisdom, I am going to go on argue.” And what is Job trying to do? Just like the rest of us. We’re trying to make sense of all this. It has to make sense to me right, that’s the whole point. God this doesn’t make sense to me. I love what He does here, so Job 39:13. “The ostrich’s wings flap joyously with a pinion and plumage of love. For she abandons her eggs to the earth and warms them in the dust, and she forgets that a foot may crush them, or that a wild beast may trample them.” Was the ostrich irresponsible, right? Totally irresponsible. “She treats her young cruelly as if they were not hers. Though her labor be in vain, she’s unconcerned.”

Why, God, why do you bring up the ostrich? Seriously, God, what does this have to do with why am I suffering? Verse 17, “Because God has made her forget wisdom.” Speaking of wisdom, “God has made her forget wisdom and has not given her a share of understanding.” God did that. God allowed the ostrich not to have wisdom. What that is saying is, “You want to talk about wisdom. You want everything that makes sense to you. What if I made the ostrich for my sake? What, if I like the ostrich; it doesn’t care for its young, it’s irresponsible, it’s foolish.” How does that make any sense, right? And God is saying, “I like it. What’s it to you? I’m God; I run the show.” That’s the whole point of the Book of Job. “I do what I want to do” is what God is saying. Yahweh is saying, “Job, look kid, I love you, but I run the show.” And I don’t quite know what the answer for I’m sure there’s a purpose for it. I don’t know. But we all killed Him. And I’m sure– I mean if we dig far enough we can find other insights to say, “Why does this even exist. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not food for anything.” I don’t get it. What if God made it? Because He wanted to. Yes, because He can. He’s God. He does what He wants. That’s the whole point. That’s the whole point of the Book of Job. So what’s the answer to the suffering? Hey, I get it. I understand. I understand you don’t like it, but like the ostrich, there is going to be some stuff that you’re not going to understand in life. And guess what, that’s fine. “Oh, it’s fine, it’s not fine, it’s not fine from my perspective, God, Yahweh, you’re not God.” That’s such a harsh answer. You’re not God. He’s God. That’s just the way it works. Keyword, it’s not fair. God isn’t supposed to be fair. Where does it say God is fair? It says God is just, God is right. He’s righteous. That’s a big difference from fair.

Honestly, on earth does fair even exist? It doesn’t. Fair doesn’t even exist. So when we look at some ancient literature, right, and you look at the other tribes, the other groups of people there. They had what they– I guess what’s called a cosmic view of the world. A little weird. But they had their own understanding. It wasn’t scientific. Was it accurate? No, no it wasn’t, but they had a way of looking at the world. And I wrote more down, and I’ll share them with you. It’s actually six layers; it’s the way they saw the world. The first one is going to be the high heaven. Okay. High heaven. The technical term, I guess, is “Heaven of Anew”. If you care about that. The high heaven is where the God of the gods live. Remember, this is other cultures too, so we’re not just looking at Yahweh, this is all the other cultures, so this is common knowledge to them. The second layer is the middle heaven. So the middle heaven is going to be like the winds and the weather. The third layer is the sky or the lower heaven which are the stars and the constellations. The fourth layer is the earth’s surface, so that’s land, sea all that stuff, right. The fifth layer is the subterranean waters, depth of the sea. And then the final one is the underworld. Okay. That’s where death is. So that’s six layers. This is just common knowledge.

And what’s interesting is Chapter 38 touches every single one of those; every single one. I think it’s interesting that not only is God connecting to His servant Job, He’s explaining it to him in His own language. “That you understand it as six layers. I’m going to break down each layer for you. That’s cool. You’re talking about mining and silver and how you get gold and all that. Let me break down the layers that you guys talk about. Who did this in this layer? ‘Me.’ Who did that in that layer? ‘Me.’ Where were you when this outer layer happened? You weren’t there. I was there; I created it.” So Job 42. Here we go [verse 1-3]. “Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘I know that you can do all things. And that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand.'” Remember, he was talking about wisdom, right. All wisdom. What’s up with wisdom. This Yahweh schools him, and then he gets it. Oh. Man. There are things I don’t understand. God, this isn’t you, this is me. I’m the issue, not you, God. What a revelation to get, oh my goodness. “Therefore, I declare, he says, that which I do not understand. Things too wonderful for me.” Wonderful, the idea of it being giant. It’s too big. This is beyond me. I do not understand this. I can’t, and that’s the truth; the truth is no matter how far science goes and how far we go technologically and all that. It’s true. It’s too wonderful. It’s too big. It’s a monster. We cannot understand all of that fully.

I love science; big fan, but science can only explain the what or the how, how does this work or can do. Science can never answer why. It can’t. You have a world, wow. This is how it works, awesome. Okay, great. Why is it here? Can’t answer it. It’s impossible to answer. That’s not what science is for though. You see, so again, I respect science but it has its limitations, and that’s fine. So here’s the comfort. It doesn’t sound like comfort, but here’s your comfort. Why do all these bad things happen, why do people suffer? Why do these things happen to me? Do I deserve it? Quite honestly, you and me don’t understand the whole picture. Where were you when He made the first layer, the second layer, the third layer? I wasn’t there. I’m the created. To even dare to ask, “God, how dare you do this?” The created asking the creator how dare you do this. Do you see how twisted our thinking is? But it’s humanity. It’s broken humanity. It’s all it is. And I love here. And here is verse four (4-6). “Here now and I will speak; I will ask you, and you instruct me. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”

That is the conclusion, and that is the comfort. That, God, I don’t know why you’ve done these horrible things in my life, or whatever has happened in your life I don’t know, but I repent because I’m the created. I don’t know, and I’m not going to know every single thing in life. It’s just impossible. You know why because I’m not God. Because if horrible things haven’t happened to you, it’s going to happen. It’s just the way it is. That’s just the way this world works, right. Lord give me your wisdom. Tell me, “What do you know.” If you ask God for wisdom, He’s going to school, you just like He did to Job. So really think about the question that you’re even asking to God. Number one, let’s be honest if He is God He doesn’t owe us any answers. He’s God. He can do whatever He wants. He’s God. He runs the show. That’s the point of this book. No matter how horrible it gets, no matter how nasty and ugly it gets God is running the show. That’s the point. God runs the show. “But it’s not fair.” Okay. Maybe it’s not, from your perspective, but you’re not seeing it from above; you’re not seeing it from God’s perspective. If you don’t see it from God’s perspective, then you don’t know the whole picture. So quite honestly, you’re not even, you’re not even the right judge. You can’t even judge. But here’s where the trust kicks in, and I repent, number one, to God. But my trust isn’t that. Here is the comforting part. I don’t know. I don’t understand everything. I trust in the one who does. Not only does He know, He’s the one who invented it. He created it. That’s your comfort, right back to faith.

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