Theodicy – the question of God’s goodness in the face of our suffering.
Have you ever faced suffering and asked, “Why me, God?” Have you ever wondered why an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing God would allow our suffering? “If I suffer,” we think, “then either God is not all-powerful (and can’t stop it), or not all-knowing (and doesn’t know about it), or not all good (and doesn’t love me enough to help).” I believe this comes not from a mystery of God’s character, but a misunderstanding of suffering.
I’m always amazed that the whole book of Job seems to be a futile argument around Job’s righteousness. For 35 chapters, Job and his friends battle back and forth trying to justify Job’s misery. Their question is the age-old question of theodicy. Job says he is righteous and doesn’t deserve the punishment he is facing. His friends say he has sinned somewhere along the way and deserves it. His wife says that its hopeless and he should simply “curse God and die.” The Adversary itself says Job is simply self-seeking in his righteousness and will turn on God when his own happiness disappears. But in the end, all of these arguments are silenced in the face of the reality of God. And God responds by showing His very nature as eternal creator and sustainer of all things. God says, “Before you throw your arguments at Me, remember Who I Am.” And then God blesses Job even more than before his suffering began.
What if the goal in life was not to be happy? Our society tells us it is, and we live like it is, but what if it’s not? What if the goal in life is to be holy? What if our goal is to be more like Christ every day? Take a look at Jesus and think about what that really means. Jesus had no “stuff”, was considered crazy by His own family, suffered again and again, felt fear, anger, frustration, and in the end was abandoned by those who called themselves His friends. To be like Jesus is to suffer. And while that may not be a great evangelistic message, it is the truth. Suffering can be a pathway to Godliness if we are but brave enough to walk it without running away.
If Jesus was willing to walk the path of suffering for our sake, would it not be the greatest act of devotion and commitment we could make to walk the same path for His?