Monday, July 11, 2011

Special Suffering

William Henry Green, Conflict and Triumph: The Argument of the Book of Job Unfolded, pp. 63-64:

It is undoubtedly true that where there is no sin there will be no suffering among the subjects of God's moral government. All suffering has sin as its invariable and necessary antecedent. It is also true that the consciousness of sin and ill-desert must for ever close the mouth of every sufferer from any well-grounded complaint against the righteousness of God. The holiest and the best are sinners nevertheless; and, whatever sufferings they may endure in the providence of God, it cannot be said that they are unjustly treated; for, as Zophar states this point in more developed form to Job, 'God exacts from less than your iniquity deserves' (11:6). No man's sufferings in this world are equal to his just deserts.

But, while this is true and incontestable, it does not account for cases of special and extraordinary suffering, and especially such as occur in the experiences of good men such as Job. The general sinfulness of men may account for human sorrows so far as they are uniformly distributed; and a like principle may be applied where they are plainly graduated in proportion to the demerit of the sufferers. But special suffering, not involving special guilt, cannot be thus accounted for. A sinfulness common to all cannot be the reason why one is singled out rather than another, and made to endure extraordinary sorrows.

The special significance of suffering, therefore, remains unexplained. Its importance as a test of character, its value as a means of discipline and training, and the far more exceeding reward by which it shall be abundantly compensated, are not once considered. Eliphaz alleges that man suffers because he is a sinner; he knew not that a man may likewise suffer because he is a saint that he may thus exhibit more distinctly his saintly character; that he may be ripened still more in holiness; and that his final recompense may be proportionally increased. Suffering, to Eliphaz, was ever and only a punishment, a judgment for sin, an infliction of the divine displeasure. He knew not that it might be also a token of love, a means of grace, a blessing in disguise; that whom the LORD loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.

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