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“Would You Condemn Me to Justify Yourself?”

January 13th, 2009 · 1 Comment

“‘Would you discredit my justice?  Would you condemn me to justify yourself.'” (Job 40:8)

I received a sad comment this weekend. It was a response to a Purpose Weekly letter “Has God Forsaken You?” You can read the letter and the comment (feel free to comment yourself) at: http://www.gotpotential.org/gods-purpose/has-god-forsaken-you.

Here’s the comment from John:

Bull____. In one sentence you have the quote, “he will never leave you nor forsake you”. In another, you indicate the “reasoning” that God leaves us feeling forsaken with “he didn’t spare his own son”. This is a contradiction.

God has forsaken me. At first I was asking for reasons…since then, I have GIVEN him reasons. Not a day goes by when I don’t cuss at him. I used to serve him with a grateful and obedient heart. Now I despise the thought of him. My mother throws the ‘fear of hell’ at me. Why would I want to serve a god like this?

John

I wrote that particular Purpose Weekly for folks like John. People who have suffered or are suffering and don’t know why. The problem comes when we mistake God allowing us to suffer for God forsaking us. In the midst of suffering, especially when we don’t know why we’re suffering, we can feel like God has turned His back on us.

Job felt that way (Job 30:20). David felt that way (Psalm 22:1). Matthew suggests that Jesus, as he hung on the cross, may have even felt that way (Matthew 27:46). They equated their suffering with God’s forsaking them. Even Jesus, at the height of his pain on the cross seemed to disconnect from the reason for his suffering.

God allows suffering. And there is a reason for suffering. That we aren’t aware of disapprove of the reason doesn’t mean that suffering is without reason.

I can explain why some suffering exists – we create it for ourselves. If I smoke two packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years and then suffer from lung cancer I can only blame myself for my suffering.

But not everyone is to blame for their own suffering. People suffer every day; many of them from causes which they did not bring upon themselves. Millions suffer and die of starvation or thirst from famine. They didn’t cause the famine; it may have come by the weather, or by pestilence, or by corrupt men who destroy the lives of innocents with their greed or ideology.

When we suffer and don’t know why or when we see innocent people suffer, we look to God for the answers. It’s natural to ask, “Where is a loving, omnipotent God in the midst of this? If He loves us so much why does he allow this kind of suffering?

When we don’t get the answers we want, we reason that God is either bad or He has turned His back. As John said in his comment to the letter, “Why would I serve a god like this.”

If God isn’t bad and He hasn’t turned His back why does He allow suffering? God is a God of love. But inescapably, He is also a God of justice. There is a price to be paid, accounts to be settled for all of the world’s injustice and suffering.

The New Testament is all about God’s love and His justice. Suffering is a seminal theme in the gospel. The crucifixion of Christ was the pinnacle of innocent suffering. The one Man innocent of all sin is the one Man who suffered and died for all sin. God allowed the innocent suffering of his own Son because it was the only payment that would right the accounts of man’s sin.

The salvation of the world – that was God’s reason for the suffering of His own Son. That’s why, as His followers, our emblem is a cross. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (Philippians 1:29)

Even though Job was innocent before God, there was a reason for his suffering too. Job didn’t understand it, his wife and friends sure didn’t understand it, but we have a glimpse why God allowed Job to suffer. Job’s innocent suffering foreshadowed One who was to come and, though innocent, suffer so that those who came behind him might be spared.

Job also provides a lesson on how we are to deal with suffering we can’t explain. Just because we can’t see the reason for our suffering or the suffering of those around us, we can’t we put God on trial for it. But we do every day. “Why would I serve a god like this.”

Job proves that it’s not up to us to judge God and His purposes because we don’t understand our circumstance. “‘Would you discredit my justice?  Would you condemn me to justify yourself.'” (Job 40:8)

This is a broken world; a world in which innocent people suffer and die. They may not have done anything specific to bring on their suffering. The only thing they may be guilty of is showing up on earth.

You might feel like you’re in the same boat. A tragedy has befallen you through no fault of your own, or someone you love has had to suffer for no apparent reason, or you’re sickened by the senseless tragedy too common in this world. You just can’t figure out why a God of love allow it.

In his comment, John says, “I used to serve him with a grateful and obedient heart. Now I despise the thought of him.” My best guess is that something happened to John that he couldn’t reconcile. Whatever it was, it was bad enough for him to believe that,” God has forsaken me. At first I was asking for reasons…since then, I have GIVEN him reasons. Not a day goes by when I don’t cuss at him.”

John believes God has turned His back, and he can’t figure out why, so he’s making his own reason for God’s apparent desertion. John isn’t the first one to curse God for his problems. Job’s wife pioneered that strategy. “… ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!'” (Job 2:9)

Whatever happened, John, God hasn’t forsaken you. He promised he wouldn’t. “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).  That doesn’t mean I have an answer for what happened and why. But He doesn’t forsake those He has chosen, and your daily cussing Him won’t release His hold on you that easily. He has enough grace to cover your pain.

One thing I do know, whether we have the answers for why God allows bad things to happen in this life or not, there will come a day of judgment when innocent suffering is vindicated. God is a God of justice and one day those who aren’t covered by the payment made by Christ’s blood on the cross will pay in full from their own account.

I’d listen to my mom if I were you when she tries to warn you about hell. You don’t have to wind up there, but you can choose to go.

Until then there’s only two responses to God that I know of when bad things happen that I can’t explain. Like Job, I can say, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him …” (Job 13:15) or like his wife I can, “… Curse God and die …” (Job 2:9)

I don’t understand why God allows some things right now. And I’m not in the position to put Him on trial when I disagree or I can’t see His hand. But I have to trust that His hand is still there, close to mine, and that His back is not turned.

That He didn’t spare His own Son and that it was for my sake that He suffered is enough of a deposit that I can trust He won’t turn His back on me in the midst of my suffering.

Until next week,

Steve Spillman

P.S. Job made out okay at the end of the book. It doesn’t say what happened to his wife.

Tags: Courage · faith · Fear · God's purpose · God's Voice · Heaven · Hell · joy · Justice · love · Obedience · peace · Prayer · purpose · suffering · Thriving in Tough Times · Trust

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Randy // Jan 21, 2009 at 7:32 am

    This sounds extremely familiar. Reminds me very much of someone I know, a friend. He and I have engaged in this very conversation many times over and he is one tough cookie to break. Good luck! My guess is you’ll get another response in the next few days from “John.”

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