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Theodicy, the justification of Divine Justice in permitting evil in this world, is a fundamental issue for believers. People of all lifestyles argue on the possibility that God allows his people to suffer. Other people think that people would not suffer if God were truly righteous and fair. Some of them believe that suffering emanates from the DDevil since they believe that the DDevil has almost equal powers over the earth like God. They, therefore, attribute the sufferings to the DDevil. However, the Bible gives evidence that God allows people to suffer, especially in the Old Testament. The Bible gives three approaches to suffering; one, the Divine Retribution of sins done. Secondly, there is no correlation between suffering and sin and finally, the suffering servant. These perspectives attempt to explain why and how God allows suffering upon people in the world.
Divine Retribution of Sin
According to this point of view, people are going to suffer because of the sins they have committed. In the book of Genesis, God decides to destroy the city of Sodom for the evil and sins being committed in the city. God communicates his intentions to Abraham, who bravely confronts God on his intentions to destroy the whole city considering there are some righteous people left in Sodom. According to Abraham, God should spare Sodom the 50 or 40 or even 10 righteous people suffer from the wicked people of Sodom. Abraham perceives the world as ruled by justice where punishment and reward should be used in line with one’s actions.
The other event that shows that God punishes and allows people to suffer for committing sins, or breaking rules is the covenant between God and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. Under the terms of the covenant, the people of Israel had to follow God’s commandments. Failure to which, they would face dire consequences. In light of these, the Israelites went through triumphs and sufferings, victories and defeats depending on their conduct. For instance, in the book of Judges, the scriptures state that when the children of Israel committed evil, God handed them over to Cushan-Rishatayim, to suffer and realize that the Lord could save them. However, God is always willing to let go of the punishment levied upon the sinners if they repent their sins. In his Mercy, the Lord is willing to let go of the punishment, repeal his decision, and provide for the nation when the nation or the individuals repent their sins.
Correlation between Suffering and Sin
The book of Job gives a radical departure from the conventional view of suffering. In this case, the problem of suffering focuses on one person instead of the whole community of Israel. Under this perspective, there is no correlation between one’s sins and suffering. Job was a righteous man who carefully avoided any acts of transgression against the laws of God. He acted blamelessly, but like every other person, he had his own weaknesses. God made a decision to test Job’s character and see if he would tolerate adversity. The account of Job’s life and suffering help the righteous people when they are going through painful and discouraging experiences, to learn to patiently trust God while waiting for the resolution of their problems. To test his character, God boasted to Satan about Job’s righteous life to which Satan responded by asking God to stretch out his hand and touch the entire possession of Job, thinking that Job would certainly curse God’s name and his face. God granted Satan the acquiescence to take away all of Job’s possession and torture him with severe boils. Job lost all his possession, children and got a painful disease. Job’s initial response to the plight was that God gave him all he had and that God himself could take it all. In all situations, he continued blessing the name of the Lord. His wife saw all the sufferings and prompted him to curse and blaspheme God so that he would die and get away from all the sufferings.
Later on, three of Job’s friends heard of the adversities that had fallen upon him, and came to comfort him and mourn with him. After a week of lamenting they started discussing the suffering and calamities. Job listed all the complaints mentioned, and the list revealed the inequities in life. God agreed with Job that not everything in this life is equitable and fair. The three friends were, however, certain that Job was receiving punishment from God for a secret sin, which he could have committed like any person. Job strongly denied the allegations, which God verified later.
During the ordeal of suffering and loss, Job gradually started resenting God. Many chapters in the book of Job relate the faulty accusation and reasoning of Job’s friends and Job’s denials. In the face of his disappointments from his friends, Job beseeches God to help him understand where he made a mistake. At this point, Job was demanding to understand the reasons for his suffering, to which God answered out of the whirlwind. God agrees to the fact that he had willfully caused the sufferings despite his righteousness.
In this perspective of suffering, people suffer because of being servants of God as they seek to transform the ways of earthly people to be in line with Gods expectations. This perspective of suffering is visible in the four outstanding songs of the suffering servants found in the book of Isaiah, (Isa. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). In Isa. 42:1-4, God introduces his faithful servant to suffering saying that he will not rest until truth and justice prevails. In the second song, the servant merges with the people of Israel and after the merger, the people of Israel become the servant, who will act as the light upon all the other nations. In the third song, the prophet or the Lord’s servant pays a high price for being the Lord’s servant. In Isaiah 50:6, the servant laments that he gave his own back to those, who plucked off hair from his cheeks, and he hid his face from spitting and shame. Isaiah draws the conclusions that a prophet’s personal experience is one of suffering. He gives examples of Elijah praying to God to take his life; Jonah preferred escaping instead of being God’s messenger to Nineveh and Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth when the Anatoth people threatened him accusing him of treason throwing him into a pit to perish. In the last song, people admit that the prophets suffered a terrific deal due to their transgressions.
Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses
Under the Divine retribution of sin, people suffer for the sins and transgression against God. The strength of this perspective is that people take responsibilities for their own actions. God first gives the laws and makes sure that people understand them, and then lets them understand the consequences of not following the laws. The laws are highly explicit in the Bible, and the Ten Commandments summarize them all. Therefore, people may choose to follow the rules to avoid suffering the consequences of breaking the laws. The only weakness with this perspective is that when God decides to punish the nations for going against the laws, even the righteous people.
In the second approach where there is no correlation between the suffering and sins committed by a person, God aims at testing one’s faith in God and the strength to endure suffering. At the end of the suffering, someone gets back more that he had before the losses for the glory of God. The strength about this perspective is that people get stronger in the face of sufferings, and reduce their reliance on materials things. It strengthens one’s faith and trust in God. The weakness in this perspective is that people get to suffer for things they have not done. It becomes particularly difficult for such people to understand their suffering and in most cases; people lose their faith in God as they do not know the cause of their suffering.
In the servant suffering cases, the prophets suffer in the presence of the hostile nations. In some cases, the suffering is so awful that the prophets opt to die or escape instead of being prophets. The strength of this perspective is that after the prophets mingle with the nations successfully, the nations becomes prophets themselves and assist in transmitting the word of God to other nations. The major weakness with this perspective is that the prophets suffer a lot in the presence of the nations as they attempt to transmit the word of God and his laws. People transfer their angers on God to the people sent as prophets. This is not fair for the prophets since they are mere messengers acting in God’s capacity.