Question: What is your theology on suffering and blessing? Punishment for sin and reward for doing good?
Today, I read Leviticus 26: vv. 1-13 for blessings vs vv. 14-39 for curses. Seems to me, more curses than blessings, more severe punishment than reward.
That also was the theology of Job’s friends. They accused him of doing something bad which was why he was suffering so much. Today, sadly many Christians are suffering just like unbelievers are. Even sadder, is the fact that many Christians or non-Christians believe it’s because they did something wrong. Suffering or troubles can be God’s means of correcting a wrong. And indeed, sin has bad consequences. Many suffer because of their bad choices in life. God does use suffering to discipline and call his children back to Him.
On the other hand, it is important to know that not all sufferings are God’s punishment for me. The world with its moral decay is a suffering world. Laws of nature, earthquake, tsunamis, drought, hurricane are part of the physical world we live in. Sinful people do bad things to ‘good’ ‘innocent’ people. It does not mean that these people deserve the sufferings brought about by the forces of nature, or committed by the crimes of others.
Theodicy is a hard issue. It is impossible for me to explain Theodicy, (from Greek theos, “god”; dikē, “justice”), why a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permits evil.
Job’s statement defined his theology on suffering: Shall we accept good from God and not trouble? He understood that everything in life whether good or bad is from the hand of God. Knowing this helped him to accept and endure suffering and maintain his integrity and loyalty towards God. He could do so because he believed God is good. ‘When he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.’ (Job 23:10) “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (42:1)
Joseph said: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20).
All through my life, I experienced that God worked out all things (good and bad) for good even though I do not love him perfectly, according to the purpose He has for me – that through me, by His grace and mercy, so that others will come to know Him… so that I will become more and more like Jesus, so that through me, He will be glorified.
God used my cancer to enable me to tell others how He carried me through the journey of the valley of the shadow of death. God allowed me to experience grief and anxiety when my parents died within 5 months of each other and I had broken ankle and surgery in the middle of it. I saw how God saw me through it all. When I was helpless in bed, unable to walk, unable to do anything but trust and obey, God showed me He provides. 2016 was a very challenging year. Yet God used that year to turn my journey into a book – to tell my stories since the day I was born, when He saved my mom from dying in the delivery room, through how He held my hand in each significant moment of my life, He never let go – even when I slipped and I fell (literally and figuratively) again and again.
And this is my simple-yet-not-so-easy theology of suffering and blessing. God is gracious in His blessings for me and merciful to me in my sufferings. He gives abundantly what I do not deserve (grace) and He withholds kindly what I deserve (mercy).
A blessed Sabbath to you, my dear reader.