“Okay, so if God is so loving, then why did he allow my best friend’s dad to be KIA?” “If God is so powerful, then why can’t he just eliminate evil?”
Have you ever pondered questions like these? If so, then read on. We can’t promise you’ll like what you read, but we can assure a thoughtful response posed by the problem of evil.
Hanging in the hallway of our home is a framed map of the world. You would see it right away as you come in through the front door. From a distance you can see a well-defined picture of our world. But as you walk closer you discover that the lines of demarcation are not as clear as they once appeared. The picture becomes a bit fuzzier; it is harder to make out the coastlines and other fine details, and you find yourself tilting your head in a quizzical sort of stare. And then it hits you! The map you’re starring at is not just a single picture, it is actually a 1,000 tiny pictures—all carefully put together to form an image bigger than itself. That’s right, it’s actually a puzzle! And there’s a reason that puzzle is glued and framed! Because once you finally put it all together you would be insane to tear it apart!
What’s interesting about this wall hanging, unlike all the other pictures in our home, is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Think about it: 1,000 tiny pictures actually forms 1000 and 1 pictures. Interesting, huh?
But here’s something else that’s worthy of observation. In this life, we—for better or worse—are not afforded the perspective of a distant observer; no, we are only granted a zoomed in portion of a tiny section. We might be able to make out the details of a couple pictures in the pieces right next to ours, but there is no way we can see how our minute lives coalesce into the grand scheme of human history.
So when bad things happen to good people—when terrorists fly planes into buildings or blow themselves up in densely populated public arenas or when something terrible happens to a close friend or family member—we who are left behind naturally want answers. Inwardly, and even perhaps outwardly, we forcefully shake our fists toward heaven, “Why, God?! Why didn’t you prevent such evil? What is your purpose in all this pain and suffering I’m feeling right now?”
Such questions are fair; they are even natural. And you are not alone in your quest for answers to life’s most brutal setbacks. In the course of human history, each generation has come face to face with the problem of pain. In this study, we will take a look at just one of those persons. But, we should warn you in advance. This guy had it bad! If you’ve ever wanted to cry yourself a river or throw yourself the world’s biggest pity-party, then maybe you will begin to appreciate the sort of tragedies that happened to Job. Interested? Then read on…
Due to its length, selected portions from the Old Testament book of Job are reproduced here. The selected passages are intended to convey the angst and confusion Job felt over his “series of unfortunate events.” As you read, pay attention to the verses in italics as they highlight all that Job lost.
Scripture: Job 1:1–2:10
- From the passage above, who actually causes the harm to Job and all he has? Prior to Satan’s conversation with God, was Satan able to touch Job and his possessions (see 1:10)? Why not?
- What is the difference between causing something and allowing something? Why does God permit Satan to do harm to his servant Job (see 1:11 and 2:5)? Is Job aware of the conversations that took place between God and Satan?
- Where you surprised to learn that Job never cursed God for the bad things that happened to him? If not, why? If so, what kept him from doing what most of us would do if we were in his place?
- Referring back to our introductory story, where is Job standing in relation to the map of the world? Where is God standing? With regard to the pain and suffering you experience, whose perspective do you have, God’s or Job’s? Whose perspective do you want to have?
- What is the cause for Job’s sufferings? Why does God offer Job to Satan (see 1:8 and 2:3)? Do you find this comforting or unsettling? Why?
- Job’s words in 2:10 read, “When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Considering all that happened to him, Job’s response to his wife reveals remarkable maturity. Do you agree or disagree? Does Job have any right to demand an explanation from God? Do you?
- Does God ever answer Job’s demand for why all those bad things happen? Read chapters 38–41 to see God’s complete response (PS: Don’t let four chapters scare you; these contain one of God’s greatest monologues in Scripture. He absolutely lays the smack down! Read it to find out more!)
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Admit to God that your perspective in life is limited. Admit to him that you desire to know why tragedy has struck in your life. Then, entrust yourself, as Job did, into God’s hands.
If you can’t find the words, try this:
I know you have a plan for me and the whole world; but right now, I’m frustrated and don’t see it. This hurts. I simply don’t like it and I want it to stop. Please show me why this is happening. Guide me because I’m not sure what to do. You know best, anyway, right? I love you and I know you love me. Please help me to feel that love right now, that peace from knowing you will take care of me. I’m trying to trust you. I know that you are a mighty God and you love me. Help me Father God.