Friday, March 09, 2012

On Suffering and Asking Why

As I read through the Old Testament, I'm also reading through Mark Dever's immensely helpful book The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. He has written a chapter (adapted from a sermon) on each book of the Bible, providing a bird's-eye view of the main themes and how they all fit together.

His explanation of the book of Job emphasizes three simple truths: "We often suffer. We sometimes understand. We can always trust." I found the following two quotes especially insightful. When we suffer, we always want to understand why. But is that really best, let alone possible? Dever writes:
"Demanding that suffering have a reason and meaning that fits within the narrow scope of our human understanding prejudices the explanation that can be given. As humans, we must see that, given our limited understanding, there are only a few types of solutions that are available to us. When we fail to recognize our limitations, it's like deciding that because our own car radio is not picking up any radio broadcasts, then there must be no radio stations sending out a broadcast anywhere. But why assume that? Is that the only possible explanation? And why assume that we must understand what God intends through suffering?" 
"At times, God does graciously allow us to see how He has used a difficult situation for our good. And surely we should thank Him for the consolation such moments of understanding afford. But there is danger in assuming that He must give us such understanding. What will follow is a counterfeit trust, a trust in our own abilities to figure out all of God's purposes within any particular trial, rather than a trust in God and in His character as He has finally revealed it in Jesus Christ on the cross. A counterfeit trust in God might work for some things, but it will not finally work. The only one who is worthy of our trust is not ourselves; nor is it our own clever ability to figure out life's knotty questions; it is God Himself." 
--Mark Dever, "Job: Wisdom for Losers," The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Kept, p. 474/478 

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