(All Bible references are from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern.)
“And without trusting, it is impossible to be well-pleasing to God, because whoever approaches him must trust that he does exist and that he becomes a Rewarder to those who seek him out.” — Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 11:6
A classic question posed by many who struggle with the concept of believing that God is real goes something like this: If God is loving, all-knowing and all-powerful, then how do you explain all the suffering in the world? How could a loving God stand by and allow innocent, undeserving victims to fall prey to every imaginable evil?
The problem with this question is that it is rhetorical. It is not really meant to be answered because the answer is presumed: A loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God would be aware of all the suffering in the world and because he loves everyone, he would save everyone, protect everyone, heal everyone. In essence, so the presumption goes, such a God would not allow anything bad to happen.
This line of reasoning is derived from the basic assumption that the actions of God are subject to human standards, or “I expect God to meet my requirements.” And that assumption overlooks the idea that an infinite and perfect God is beyond my finite and imperfect understanding. However, within the relatively limited scope of human understanding, there are some things we can know.
We read in Isaiah 55:8,9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says ADONAI. “As High as the sky is above the earth are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This doesn’t mean we aren’t to question things. It means the answers to those questions may not tell us what God wants us to know. We need to find a way of seeking God’s truth that goes beyond having our less-than-perfect questions answered. That begins with being open to God.
Psalm 8:4,5(3,4) expresses the awe appropriate to our relationship to God: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place — what are mere mortals that you concern yourself with them; humans, that you watch over them with such care?” But from Isaiah 29:16 we learn that God’s special care for us doesn’t make him answerable to us: “…Is the potter not better than the clay, Does something made say of its maker, “He didn’t make me”?”
Job was a man who suffered greatly: the loss of his possessions, the death of his children, a debilitating disease. He was a good man. He didn’t deserve these things. In Job 13:3 he told his friends, “I want to prove my case to God.” Job felt, as a righteous man, he was being punished unjustly and blamed God, saying, “…you destroy a person’s hope.” (14:39b). But God’s response to Job was not exactly what Job expected.
Job 38:1-3 reads, “Then ADONAI answered Iyov (Job) out of the storm: “Who is this, darkening my plans with his ignorant words? Stand up like a man and brace yourself; I will ask questions; and you, give the answers!” (emphasis added) Following this are four chapters of questions which, although poetic in nature, remain unanswerable to this day. Job got the message. In 42:2 Job admitted that God is omnipotent: “I know that you can do everything, that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job also admitted to the limitations of his own understanding. “Yes, I spoke, without understanding, of wonders far beyond me, which I didn’t know.” (42:3b)
So Job, the ‘righteous’ man repented and God restored his fortunes, giving him twice as much as he had before, including more children. But too often the lesson of Job is lost to folks who just want their own questions answered. We need to go back to the beginning to get the right perspective. It was Satan who asked God’s permission to remove his blessings and protection from Job. Satan thought that would make Job curse God and demonstrate that Job only worshipped his blessings, not God, himself. But despite Job’s challenge to God, he never cursed God. And when directly confronted with God, Job’s repentance glorified God all the more, because Job was worshipping God for who he is, not just for what he does. And Satan was foiled.
The reality of life includes both good things and bad. From this fact, some people decide that a loving God simply does not exist. Others choose to believe in evil gods that war against virtuous gods or of opposing forces, such as yin and yang, that need to be balanced. But these are all methods of avoiding the greatest reality: a perfect, infinite, loving, just, holy Creator to whom we all must one day bow. Any god who is less than that isn’t worth worshipping.
“That in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow — in heaven, on earth and under the earth — and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is ADONAI — to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10, 11)