God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.” (Job 28:23-28, NLT)
When we evaluate our suffering through the lens of justice, we are left with questions that focus on fairness, equity, and whether or not we are deserving of such pain. How could a good and loving God allow such tragedy? Why do bad things happen to good people? Those discussions are endless and unsatisfying.
It should be pointed out that some of our suffering may be the result of poor judgment or wrong behavior. And I believe that when those cause and effect relationships are in order, they are recognized. The majority of our questions are directed toward those instances when we cannot establish the cause and effect, such as in the case of Job.
There is an alternative, and that is the way of wisdom. When we look at suffering through the lens of wisdom, three things become evident that may be helpful to the righteous sufferer.
First, there is the consequence of creation. When God created the universe he set forth laws that are immutable and absolute. The creation account of Genesis 1-2 describes an ordering of creation, complete with these laws of nature that have been in place from the beginning. Take, for example, the law of gravity. Sir Issac Newton is the scientist credited with its discovery. And each of us is fully aware of the absolute truth of gravity. What goes up will, without a doubt, come down.
Second, there is the consequence of free will. Not only did God create the universe with laws that are immutable and absolute, he also gave the power of free will. In the same creation account, Adam and Eve, securely situated in the Garden of Eden, are given just one rule with outlined consequences. Don’t eat from the one tree. That was it. They had one rule, and they broke it.
Which brings me to number three, the consequences of the fall. Things went sideways at a breath taking pace following Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey. And the repercussions of that choice impacts each one of us today. The “fall” continues to make its presence known in our lives on a daily basis, and ultimately results in our physical deaths.
So how do we move forward in a positive fashion?
We begin by acknowledging the wisdom of God at work in the world. God is the source of all wisdom, and he is the place to begin. In addition to that, we can cultivate awe and wonder. Contemplating God’s vastness helps our hearts to know that the God who created all things also is the God who sustains all things. God is great enough to hold the universe in his hands, and personal enough to call me by name and know the number of hairs on my head. Which means he can be trusted. And when I learn to trust God, I can then come to him in my moments of pain and suffering and be loved by him.
Think of a small child who falls on the playground and skins his knee. He hobbles to his parent with tears in his eyes and reaches his arms to the sky, signifying his desire to be picked up and held. The parent sees what has happened and immediately sweeps the child up and holds the child. Few, if any words are spoken. The child is in pain and comes to his parent knowing that he will find comfort, compassion and strength to carry on. Healing will take place, but there may be a scar to serve as a reminder of the hurt. But the deepest memory will not be the pain. It will be the comfort felt in that deep and profound moment of suffering.
I am aware that large books have been written about suffering and that this is merely a blog post from a sermon I delivered. For me, though, the lens of wisdom is a valid way to approach our personal pain, and I hope you find it helpful.