Suffering and evil are endemic throughout life as we know it, and the longer we live, the more inured to distress and affliction we become, notwithstanding the 50 ongoing conflicts and wars and over 715 terrorist incidents, so far, this year. Furthermore, the news media’s daily dose does not fail to impress us how dysfunctional our world has become. The recent Sri Lankan suicide bombings in churches and hotels draw out our tormented breaths over the numerous innocents killed, reminding us of Habakkuk’s despair, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises” (Hab 1:2-3). What these latter days portend for us, the Bible has clearly warned us – it will be traumatic; evil seems to be personified, and yet we are encouraged to endure to the end (Matt 24:5-14; 2Tim 3:1-3; c.f., 2Cor 11:23-28; 2Cor 4: 16-18). Nevertheless, these constrained circumstances focus us on the fragility of earthly life and our undeviating mortality, with one bright spot which lies assuredly before us – the prospect of an eternity with our Lord and God.
Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking consequence is to watch children as part of a refugee band, bereft of parents and family, or maimed and permanently handicapped due to unrestrained battle atrocities. We are apprised that these traumatised little ones are the outcome of collateral damage; the aftermath of indiscriminate bombardment that targeted civilian homes, hospitals and ambulances! Without belittling the suffering of the victims of wars and persecution, and the wanton slaughter by terrorists, gleaning through the Book of Job assuages our struggles on the sovereignty of God. When Yahweh finally addressed Job, His series of rhetorical questions stumped him into silence and repentance. His audacity to presume that God needed to justify to him the loses he had endured drew forth his penitence (c.f., Job 9:32-35; tantamount to a lawyer giving evidence in a court to substantiate his case). Nonetheless, Job’s causal suffering remained ambiguous; he was contented not to know God’s covert purpose, concluding, “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). And God being God, being no man’s debtor, He justified Job’s innocence before Satan (Job 42:10-17). Our hearts may be shattered over the demise of our broken world when we are unable to comprehend God’s authority over His creation, but one thing is certain, He is the Almighty One and IS in control of everything that is going on!
Within God’s economy, suffering is often used as a time-based discipline, and surprisingly, as a witness for His people too (2Cor 4:16-18; 1Peter 5:10). God’s sovereignty is not diminished by, neither is it contingent on human cognition and behaviour, as we possess complete moral responsibility for ourselves, exercising our own choices (c.f., Gen 50:19-20; Isa 10:5-15; Acts 4:23-30). The fact that God foreordained and predetermined what is to happen within the context of time does not make it any easier for us to fathom the mystery of His transcendence nor pacified by any likely explanation to our messy world. Having said that, to therefore acquiesce and submit to fatalism is certainly not Biblical. We are ineradicably reminded that God does love His creation and agonised over all the suffering; His love had been expressed through the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross. Hence, to be able ‘to grasp’ Who God is and to love Him is to embrace His irrepressible lovingkindness over us. In due course, we are comforted that God “causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28-30). Even so, come, Lord Jesus.