Christianity · Theology

The Intertwining of God’s Goodness and Our Suffering

“Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” ~Job 2:10, NASB

At first glance, God’s goodness coupled with earthly suffering do not complement each other. We know instinctively that good and bad are antithetical; we find it hard to believe that they could be otherwise. As that case weaves through our minds, many professing Christians tend to accept the one and reject the other. But what if, instead of one being good and the other bad, both God’s goodness and suffering are good in their own ways? Is there something to be said for accepting both, and if so, is this saying Biblical? Let’s explore this further, following the deeds of the ultimate fleshly sufferer as well as one of the most admirable worshippers, Job.

Accepting God’s Goodness without Accepting Suffering

When we accept salvation from sin, we accept the promise God gave us in First John 1:9:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~First John 1:9, NKJV

What we often do not realize upon salvation is that the road of living the Gospel is not a smooth one. The promise of suffering goes hand-in-hand with the promise of God’s forgiveness, as Paul explains in Second Timothy:

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” ~Second Timothy 3:12, NKJV

Adversity, then, is a necessary part of the believer’s life. This is the principle Job’s wife could not stand. Her belief in cursing God when things go wrong evokes the image from the Parable of the Sower:

“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” ~Matthew 13:20-21, NKJV

Consequently, Job’s wife has no lasting faith. Accepting God’s goodness without accepting suffering is accepting half of the Christian life. Loving the redemption story while refusing to stay faithful when life is difficult are two utterly antithetical concepts. Suffering is as much a part of God’s plan as His forgiveness.

In addition to pulling opposite beliefs together, the act of accepting God’s goodness without suffering stagnates your faith. Consider the words of Romans 5:3-4:

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” ~Romans 5:3-4, NKJV

If tribulation is the most effective catalyst of the fruits of the Spirit—if the refiner’s fire is the spark that flames into a deeper love for God—the acceptance of God’s goodness without that of suffering stunts any significant spiritual growth we could ever hope to achieve.

Accepting Suffering without Accepting God’s Goodness

While the removal of suffering from a believer’s worldview results in much faithlessness, the same could be said of accepting suffering without God’s goodness. We like to believe that God inflicts our suffering upon us without realizing that we not only permitted but encouraged sin to enter into our world in the Garden of Eden, and that every generation of humanity since then has done the same sorry act. Suffering, trials, tribulations—they came with the digestion of lies, literally and figuratively. And we are the ones who consume the repulsive fruit. We did it; we do it; we will do it; we are at fault for it.

“For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” ~First Corinthians 15:21-23, NKJV

There is another way we can accept suffering without accepting God’s goodness. In addition to believing that God is not good, we also like to say that we are too depraved, completely hopeless of attaining God’s forgiveness. This can occur even in the most mature Christian’s walk, especially when our conscience convicts us and brings forth guilt. We become stuck in the exact thing God got rid of by dying on the cross—a stagnating resignation to hopeless living. The suffering we have brought upon ourselves is not enough for God; we are bound to commit day after day, and as such, the sea of guilt seems to know no end. In this outlook, however, we fail to realize that, upon the expiration of a Christian’s life, this sea suddenly reaches its limit; and even when we reach the boundary of guilt’s sea, we will never fathom the endless overflow of God’s sanguine, glorious agape. We can never hope to imagine this love, though, if we are stuck  in something we ought to be redeemed from—if we accept suffering and reject God’s goodness.

Accepting God’s Goodness and Our Suffering

Accepting both the goodness of God and the suffering we experience results in a fair, humble, and brave belief: that (1) we deserve our suffering, (2) God’s goodness is enough to cancel our sinfulness out, and (3) if we trust in Him, His goodness will cancel out our sinfulness, and that goodness will be enough to carry us through our suffering if God chooses to let it remain. In accepting both concepts, we also accept the whole of the Gospel, both the Fall and the Redemption. Instead of becoming like the flimsy seed sown on stony ground, we become like the strong plant who continually grows on the word of God. It is only when we accept suffering and goodness together that we become like Job, able to worship God with a willing, joyful, and trusting heart.

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” ~Job 1:20-22, NKJV

 

~Sarah Merly

April 10, 2018

Isaiah 53