The Problem of Suffering

The last few blogs dealt with Illness and Sickness. Now we must move into the bigger arena of suffering and sorrow and how to make sense of tragedy, if we ever can. Think about your personal response to suffering in the world….

As of this writing, there have been  over 3,400,000 worldwide cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19), with 1,130,000 in the U.S. Worldwide deaths= 240,000. U.S. deaths are at 65,000. Wow. The grim reaper strikes again.  The list of pandemics is long and goes back to antiquity. For example, Smallpox virus has killed 100s of millions of people in the world prior to 1977 (when it was eradicated by vaccination programs) and literally destroyed civilizations. Tragic, you say, and I agree. Natural disease phenomena runs rampant at times.

Our world is filled with tragedies and we experience them every day- for example, on December 26, 2004, an earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean created a tsunami tidal wave that caused more than 200,000 deaths on the shores of Southeast Asia.  On August 29, 2005, New Orleans was hit by hurricane Katrina.  Within a few hours, 80% of the city was flooded.  Some of us may be in a severely unhappy marriage, or have a handicapped child from birth, or be battling the bitter disappointment of a miscarried pregnancy, or the premature loss of a loved one through the agony of a motor vehicle accident. When pain and suffering strike, people often ask, “Where is God?” This is an age-old question.

Men and women since the beginning of existence have grappled with suffering in the world. People find it difficult to accept that tragedies can be allowed by God. Why me? Why my mother? Why my best friend? Why my son? And so young? Why? Why? Why?

Pain, sorrow, and suffering invoke strong, emotional responses. God knows that, and He wants to help us in our agony. He doesn’t leave us dangling. He gives us an answer to the questions Why? Why? Why?

God enlightens us in the book of Job in the Old Testament (written between 1800 and 2000 B.C.) to answer the difficult questions on why there is suffering in the world.

Satan and God have a conversation in the beginning of the book of Job. A first view of suffering is from Satan. His view is shared early in the book (Job 1:1-2:13).  He says that people believe in God only when they were prosperous and when life was going well for them and they are not suffering. In other words, loving God was conditional on being treated well by him. Satan says “Add some suffering to people’s lives and we shall see what happens.”  This is an “offensive slap in the face to God”, as we shall discuss later.

God allows Satan to interfere in the life of the blameless and righteous “all around good guy” Job. How did Job suffer? He lost his wealth, his family, and his health. How is that for the top three categories in anyone’s life?

Our next blog will continue to discuss this age old question that baffles mankind.


About Dr. Robert

I am married to Janet and we have four children. I am active in Grace church in Racine, Wisconsin and serve there in leadership and teaching . I have been an internist for 30 years and keep busy by taking care of a full load of patients. On the side, I like to write, coach, mentor, spend time with my family just hangin' out, and help take care of our two dogs; a rusty colored Golden Retriever named Finley and a Bernese named Sadie'.
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