THOUGH HE SLAY ME
by David Sisler
It is only right that the wicked suffer, we say. If there is justice, we expect that they will, but tragedy comes as often to saints as to sinners. If there was a reason for calamity, it might be easier to accept, but suffering seems to happen randomly.
A high school student was electrocuted repelling from a high voltage electrical tower. The sorrow brought on by his death is no less grievous because of the preventable manner in which he died. But what of the stray bullet, the drunken driver, the suffering without a satisfactory explanation and with no sensible pattern.
Skeptics call the Old Testament book of Job an allegory, a presentation of an abstract or spiritual message under concrete or material forms. The book itself demands that you accept it as the factual account of a man who suffered great loss, and even though he was stripped of everything we humans hold dear -- family, health, fortune -- never once wavered in his trust of the God he believed was treating him unjustly.
One day Satan, the attacker, the accuser, the arch-enemy of good stopped thrashing through the earth and gained an audience with God. Satan immediately took advantage of the interview and proposed a well-planned attack against Job.
Job, according to Satan's accusation, was only serving God because of the blessings he was receiving. If those blessings were removed by violence, Satan challenged, Job would curse in God's face. God lowered the spiritual defenses which had protected Job's physical life, but the defenses which faith had built in Job's heart turned back every attack.
At one point Job's wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
Job replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"
The Bible gives its own commentary about Job's honor: "In all this, Job did not sin in what he said."
In one powerful, dynamic affirmation of faith Job declares, "Even if God slays ME, I will still trust him!" Many believers have echoed Job's conviction. But what if God slays your child?
In Sullivan, Illinois, Samuel Herschberger was torn nearly limb from limb in a farm accident. The young Amish boy was caught in a powerful grinding machine a few days before his tenth birthday. Doctors were able to save all but Samuel's left arm. He still needs more surgery but he will retain the use of his right hand and his feet.
Zachary Blacklock, 19, worked in a video store. Employees arriving for work found Zachary and two co-workers dead with bullets in their heads. The next day police found Zachary's grandparents, miles away from the video store, shot to death. Police believe the couple stumbled upon the crime, were abducted by the robbers and murdered.
Dunblane, Scotland will never be the same. Sixteen kindergarten students and their teacher were massacred by a gunman who finally turned his weapon on himself. Gerry McDermott, a member of the Dunblane school board said, "To most people this is a nightmare. But they will not wake up from it."
More than 2000 times before he died, the victim of a mugging, Dr. Robert G. Lee preached a sermon entitled, "Pay Day, Someday." He recounted the injustice and murder perpetrated on individuals and on a nation by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. I once owned a tape recording of that powerful message and I will always remember Dr. Lee thundering, the pain obvious in his voice, "Where is God? Where is God!"
Untold suffering. Senseless violence. Heart wrenching tragedy. Where IS God?
Is God personally responsible for suffering? Sometimes. One day God told Moses, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?"
Is there anyway to distinguish whether the affliction is coming from the hand of the Lord, or by his permission, from the hand of Satan? If Job's story is typical, not always.
Does God derive pleasure from our suffering? No.
If there is a purpose to suffering, could not the same purpose be accomplished by different means? Maybe. And then again, maybe not?
If Satan is responsible for so much suffering, can God not stop him? Yes, he could.
Why doesn't he? I do not know. In fact, the writer of Proverbs (chapter 25, verse 2) said, "God is honored for what he keeps secret. Kings are honored for what they can discover."
Who would want to serve such a God? Me, for one.
Why? The Apostle Paul, in Romans 8:32, gave the best answer I know: "God let even his own Son suffer for us. God gave his Son for us all." I can trust a God who, on my account does not spare his only Son. That much, at least, is certain.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 6/8/96
Copyright 1996 by David Sisler
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