Last week we looked briefly at Psalm 107 and addressed ancient concepts verses modern concepts about God.
We discussed how ancient man viewed everything as controlled or influenced by God while modern man views virtually everything as independent from God. While we call ourselves "enlightened," this forced independence from God and the evidences around us reveal that we are really more in the dark than was ancient man.
If you read the passage, as I suggested you might want to do, you should have been struck with another thought that modern man tries desperately and vainly to deny: according to this passage, God at times is the causal agent of human suffering. Psalm 107:12 points out that God "subjected (some) to bitter labor." Psalm 107:25 points out that it was God who sent the storm that threatened the lives of the sailors and verse 33 talks about God turning lush grasslands into barren wastelands. Now if you are tempted to doubt my interpretations of these passages, you still have to deal with passages like Isaiah 45:7 where God says, "I made the light and the darkness. I bring peace, and I cause troubles. I, the Lord, do all these things," (NCV) and Exodus 4:11 where God takes direct responsibility for human handicaps.
For many, what I have suggested here may be seen has heresy. Yet is this not what these verses say? Not only do they support my claim, but they are only a small random sample of many other verses in which God takes direct responsibility for sending the bad as well as the good.
The main trouble with the philosophical problem of pain is we cannot see how a good God can allow bad things let alone cause them. In our efforts to defend God (who by the way does not need our defense one bit), we have in one sense locked ourselves on the proverbial horns of a dilemma.
In fact, one writer addressing this very issue came to the erroneous conclusion that God could either be perfectly loving or perfectly sovereign, but not both. His thought was that a God of love could not permit the suffering that we experience in this world if he were all-powerful. Therefore this writer postulated that the God of the Bible was love but he was not all powerful, otherwise, he would stop the suffering.
That seems to make sense if you don't take the Scriptures into account. Deuteronomy 28:20 warns, "The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him." Notice if you will that this is not God simply removing his hand of blessing and letting us experience the error of our ways, this is God actively responding to our rebellion by sending, "curses, confusion and rebuke."
Lest you think my suggestion is the ranting of a theological Neanderthal, let me explain my thought process. First, suffering and evil are a real problem in our world. Second, trying to explain it away without reference to God is the very ingredient from which atheism is made. Third, God clearly addresses the problem of evil in the Bible and he takes full responsibility for its existence. It's neither a problem that he has no control over nor one that has him wringing his hands in wonder or worry over.
Why does a God of love permit or sometimes cause suffering? Precisely because he loves us. I wish I had more space to explain this, unfortunately I don't. So let me quickly write that if we are honest, all of us pretty well know that our thoughts, desires or hearts do not tend naturally to God. In fact, when things are going well, most of us don't give God a second thought, and if he does come to mind, we almost resent it as an intrusion upon our pleasures. But when we are in trouble, ah, that is a different story altogether. We cry out to him, plead with him, and make all kinds of promises we will never keep as we seek to bargain with him.
This God knows that our only real hope to happiness lies in him. So what does he do? He either troubles us himself or allows us to experience troubles so that we will turn to him. Cruel? It may seem so at first, but in the long run it is in this act that he most deserves our praise. Even when he knows the only reason we are turning to him is that we have run out of all other options, he still accepts us.