28 October – 3 November 2018.
When it comes to the problem of Job’s suffering, the young and foolish Elihu thinks he has all the answers. Many of the answers Elihu offers Job are not so different from ideas on suffering we still hear from people today.
In chapter 37, Elihu tells Job that God’s power and plans are greater than we humans can possibly understand. God is like the sun, fierce and bright, too great to look at, too great to comprehend. And so when suffering comes into our life Elihu’s advice is that we should just remember that God’s plans are beyond our understanding. We should just quietly have confidence in God and trust that our suffering (even though we can’t understand it) is still part of God’s mighty and mysterious plan for our lives.
While this is a common opinion even today, it’s incredibly dangerous. First, it makes God into some kind of terrible monster. After all, what kind of hateful God would purposefully plan suffering for our lives? What kind of God would purposefully plan for our lives to be destroyed and for our children to die? That’s not the loving God we know.
Second, while sometimes we truly can’t understand suffering and evil, sometimes it’s really not that hard. Too often the evil we suffer comes directly from the hands of people who purposefully hurt us. When that happens it’s important for us not simply to throw up our arms and say that this evil is just some deep mystery. To do that would be to give evil (and the people who commit it) a free pass. Instead we need to call out evil where it happens, push back hard against it, and demand that those people who commit evil are held responsible for it.
Lamentations 3:33 tells us that God “does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” When evil, pain and suffering destroy our lives, that is not part of God’s plan for you or me. And when we face evil, God’s plan for us is not simply that we should shrug our shoulders and let it destroy us. God encourages us to be brave enough to call out evil where we see it, to patiently stand against it, and to push back against it with love, compassion, and the demand for more justice, more fairness, and more goodness in our world.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis