Attempts To Explain Unjust Suffering

Three arguments to explain the suffering of the righteous are put forward  by Job's friends in their attempt to explain the inexplicable.

(1) Suffering as Punishment for Sin

This is possibly the commonest argument put forward by those trying to make sense of the mystery of righteous suffering.

In The Book of Job the friends' argument is that Job's suffering is either because of sins he has committed himself  or  for the sins of his forebears or sons.

Job's response is to ridicule their arguments. He has done everything possible to keep a clean sheet before God and man. If he could put his case to God, he would be vindicated.

A key answer to this argument is to be found in JOHN 9:1-3.

As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, whose sin, this man's or his parents', caused him to be born blind?"
" Neither," said Jesus. "This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

(2) Suffering as A Test of Faith

Suffering tests the reality of our faith and our relationship with a loving God who has promised never to fail us nor forsake us. The heroes of the faith all suffered (see HEBREWS 11), but God did not desert them. So suffering is an opportunity for me to experience God's love and his faithfulness.

God will either take me out of  the suffering or he will take me through it. Either way, I can trust God's faithfulness completely ISAIAH 43:1-5; LAMENTATIONS 3:21-23; 2 CORINTHIANS 12:9-10. [ For more on this, go to JONI.]

This is in stark contrast to the fact that when you are suffering, your friends will almost certainly let you down at some point. They are not actually experiencing what you are suffering, and so you are on your own in one sense.

They may even add to your sense of anguish by some of the things they say and the way they behave, and even seem to mock you in your misery (JOB 16:20; 17:2). But even though your friends let you down, God is faithful and will take you through the suffering (HEBREWS 13:5-8)

(3) Suffering as Part of a Refining Process

At one point in the discussion, Eliphaz suggests that God sometimes uses affliction to discipline us, as part of a process of refining us to conform us to his likeness.

This argument is also to be found elsewhere in the Bible: ISAIAH 48:10; ZECHARIAH 13:9; MALACHI 3:3 ; 1 PETER 1:3-9.


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