Why Pain and Suffering?

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Are there Complaints about Pain and Suffering in the Bible?
Yes, Complaining is Nothing New!

Complain, complain, complain. It seems that a major activity of humans is complaining. If we are willing to admit it, we have all been guilty of complaining sometimes.

One of the biggest complaints, voiced by people from toddlers to grownups is that something is "not fair." Fairness is a concept that we seem to have stamped into our brains. We have the idea that everything should be fair, so when we think we are not being treated fairly we complain about it. Even the writers of the Bible voiced their complaints.

For example the writer of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, complained:

“In this meaningless life of mine, I have seen both of these:
A righteous man perishing in his righteousness,
And a wicked man living long in his wickedness.”
Ecclesiastes 7:15 NIV

How many times have you heard someone complain in a similar way, “Only the good die young.” We have a deep feeling that the wicked should suffer and good people should be blessed with wealth, prosperity and a long life. Solomon had more to say:

“There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.”
Ecclesiastes 8:14 NIV

So, he is saying that the righteous should be blessed and the wicked should be punished, but it often happens the other way around. Most of us would agree with that. We say “Yes!!” when we see an evil person get what is coming to him. We ask “Why?” when a good person suffers. We think it should not be that way. Why do we think that? Did God put the idea of fairness into our heads?

Here is a shocking revelation about this life. This life is not fair! Furthermore, God never promised that this life would be fair. But that doesn’t stop us from thinking that it should be and complaining that it is not.

Solomon was not the only Biblical writer who complained about the situation. Another complainer was Asaph, a director of choral music in the house of the Lord under David and Solomon. Notice his words in Psalm 73:

“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills….
“Sureley in vain have I kept my heart pure;
In vain I have washed my hands in innocence.”
Psalms 73:3, 4, 13 NIV

Are the wicked always prosperous? Is our clean living all in vain? Not really, but we sometimes feel that way. These words of Asaph are an exaggeration which results from frustration. This is a frustration which you may have had at some time -- perhaps now.

If being good does not bring good things to your life and protect you from the bad things, then why should you be good? On the other hand, if you knew that doing good would always bring rewards and always prevent bad results, wouldn’t you have more incentive to be good? In other words, if you knew that living a life of virtue would always give you health, wealth and prosperity with never a problem of pain and suffering, would you live a virtuous life? You would be foolish not to.

Suppose, however, that this world did work that way. Would your motive for living virtuously be because you love God and want to please Him? Of course not! Your motive would be strictly selfish. You would live virtuously to benefit yourself. If you were only doing it to benefit yourself, would it really be virtue? Think about this from the perspective of our heavenly Father. If you are a parent, do you want your child to obey you only because you give rewards for good behavior and only when you give those rewards? Wouldn’t you want your child to obey because your child wants to do what pleases you? Wouldn’t you want your child to obey out of love for you instead of rewards?

True virtue comes from doing the right thing even though we may not be rewarded and even though we may even be punished in this life. We don’t like to hear that. In the cartoon strip of Calvin and Hobbes one time young Calvin expected a reward for doing something good. His teacher told him, “Virtue is its own reward.” Calvin’s response was, “No wonder the world is in such bad shape!”

The best known biblical example of a righteous man who endured great pain and suffering is Job. (Rhymes with robe.) Job was a good and virtuous man. He suffered anyway. He also complained:

“Man born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.”
Job 14:1 NIV

Job complained and questioned why God allowed terribly bad things to happen to him when he had lived a virtuous life. Even though he complained, Job never quit doing good and he never turned against God. In fact, Job said:

“Though he slay me yet will I trust him.”
Job 13:15 KJV

While Job continued to trust God, he wanted to plead has case before God himself. He wanted to ask God, “Why?” He was frustrated by God’s silence.

If I only knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.
Job 23:3, 4 NIV

We have all been faced with the question of why bad things happen to us. We want to plead our case before God. We want answers to our questions. So did Job.

Another biblical complainer was Jeremiah the prophet:

“You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked proper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”
Jeremiah 12:1 NIV

Again Jeremiah used an exaggeration as he prayed to God for answers. The wicked and treacherous do not always thrive. The good do not always suffer. But because we think it should never be that way, we tend to remember those instances when it happens.

So did Jeremiah get an answer from God? Yes, he did. God told him it was going to get worse! That was not the answer Jeremiah wanted. He probably wanted God to say, “I’m sorry, Jeremiah, I will correct this situation right away.” If that is what Jeremiah wanted, he never got it. But Jeremiah accepted the answer he received.

Did God answer Job’s request to be allowed to come before God and plead his case? Yes, in the final chapters of the book God spoke to Job. However, when confronted with the majestic power of God, Job withdrew his complaint.

The bottom line is this: God does not promise us a life of health, wealth, and prosperity free of pain and suffering, in this world, even though we have within us a feeling that there should be such a life. Here is the best part. Jesus tells us that there is a time when the wrongs will be corrected and evil will be punished.

The fact that evil will be punished should sound an alarm for us. If we will examine ourselves clearly we will find that all of us have failed to live a virtuous life. We have all committed evil acts. We all deserve punishment. Our complaints of “That’s not fair!” could backfire on us if God gave us what we deserve. So what God has done is more than fair … to us. Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, was treated unfairly so that our sins can be forgiven. We can live forever in a place where God will wipe away all of the tears and there will be no more suffering or pain.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4 NIV

So the Bible contains the complaints of other human beings like us who became discouraged over the unfairness of this life. God didn’t tell them he would immediately correct the problem. He didn’t tell them it would get better in this life. He usually didn’t answer their questions and complaints at all. He had already devised a better plan. In fact, it was a plan infinitely better than the complainers could imagine. It was a plan that only God himself could devise.

If you want to know more about this great plan of God, please contact us. We would love to tell you more. - Roland Earnst

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