I’m on vacation with my family this week, so I’ve rallied some guest bloggers to take the helm. Today’s post is written by Steven Thorn, a professional writing major at the University of Oklahoma, one of my former students, and a dear friend.
“God and the Problem of Evil” has always been a stumbling block for me. In good times, it’s a conundrum that can keep me up at night. In trials, it’s a cause for doubt and spiritual crisis.
Thank God, I am not alone in this struggle. Job and C. S. Lewis wrestled with this issue.
In the Book of Job, this “blameless” and “upright” man loses his children, thousands of livestock, many servants, and his health in a short span of time (Job 1:1-2:10). Job spends the rest of the book asking God a simple question: “Why?”
After Job and his friends discuss the Problem of Evil for almost forty chapters, God appears. He refuses to answer Job’s questions. Instead, God interrogates Job.
God basically tells Job, “I’m God and you’re not. Who are you to question me? I created everything. What have you done?” Intimidated and humbled by God, Job can only repent. His questions about suffering remain unanswered, and he receives a new understanding of God’s power and glory.
There are two main things that I love about the Book of Job. First, the book’s approach to the Problem of Evil is complex. Suffering is not a formula.
Sometimes, God strikes down the unrighteous with cause. However, in the Book of Job, Satan incites God against the righteous Job to ruin Job “without cause” (Job 2:3). The cause of suffering was external to Job. He didn’t deserve it. However, throughout the suffering, Job refused to curse God (Job 2:3, 10).
Readers of Job see the exchange between God and Satan, as God proves that Job is a faithful servant. However, Job did not know of this heavenly confrontation, or of God’s confidence in and love for Job. In the immediate aftermath of Job’s tragedy, he has no explanation, only heartache. This inspires him to ask some of the most emotional and honest questions in the Bible—which is the second thing I love about the book.
God allows Job to question Him for a period of time. In the end, God ends Job’s interrogation and puts Job in his place. However, asking questions is an important part of expressing grief, and God gave us the Book of Job to demonstrate that truth. He also gave us the book to reiterate the fact that He is God, and we are not.
C. S. Lewis’s book, A Grief Observed, is another example of questioning God and expressing grief.
A Grief Observed is a collection of journals that Lewis wrote as he dealt with the death of his wife, Joy. Like the Book of Job, A Grief Observed is full of anguished and honest observations about life, death, and God. Neither Job nor Lewis ever doubts the existence of God, but Lewis does wonder if God is a sadist.
Throughout the book, Lewis has periods where it seems as though he has recovered his faith—but then he spirals back into darkness and despair. The book ends on a very somber note, but Lewis died a believer in Jesus Christ. He trusted the Lord, even after the death, and the questions, and the pain.
While the doubts and the questions were distressing for Lewis, reading A Grief Observed is a comfort to me—because the doubts and the questions are distressing. The knowledge that people like Job and C. S. Lewis have suffered through “God and the Problem of Evil” let me know that I’m normal and human. Additionally, the fact that these men could ask these questions and still maintain their faith reminds me that God is faithful to preserve all of His children.
Don’t lose heart if you struggle with “God and the Problem of Evil.”
Don’t lose heart in the midst of doubt and suffering.
You’re not alone. Ask questions. God is God, and He is faithful.