“I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create calamity. I the Lord do all these things” (cf. Is45:7)
Reflecting on the divisions, injustices and suffering in the world, some might be inclined to share comic writer Woody Allen’s view that if there is a god, then he, she or it “is at best an under-achiever”. Such a case could be made if evil and suffering existed to the degree that it does and God had no real use for it, but He does, for I now perceive from Scripture that it is an essential ingredient within His plans for creation. Suffering is not a result of divine impotence or accident as Isaiah makes quite clear (above). As well as being the backdrop to highlight the beauty and loveliness of the good and therefore of God Himself, the existence of evil and the suffering that results from it is a means of preparing humanity for the next phase in her development. And that has application to “the Fall” and why God permitted it as Paul explains in Rom8:17-21. Initially the passage is referring to the privileges of the elect but typically for Paul (as well as Old Testament Scripture) the perspective broadens to incorporate God’s plan to restore the Earth:
If we are God’s children then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, providing that we share His sufferings so as also to share His glory. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Greek: huion tou theou). For the creation was subjected to futility; not willingly but because of Him who subjected it in the hope that the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Greek: teknon tou theou).
So according to Paul it is necessary that the elect suffer with Christ, and according to the writer to the Hebrews it was fitting even for Christ Himself to be perfected through suffering in the process of bringing His chosen ones to their glorious inheritance (Heb2:10 cf. Heb2:18). So God Himself participates in our suffering as I endeavoured to explain in my book from which I will quote directly in this instance:
Suffering indeed for all parties: our God was no deistic, impassionate chess master overseeing this wondrous plan. He had been perfectly entitled to enjoy unbroken felicity but for mankind’s sake He was prepared to endure the agony of observing His only begotten Son’s humiliation and death. If Satan (the snake) had been barred from planet Earth or Adam and Eve had been erased for their disobedience, Christ need not have died. But He permitted His arch-enemy what appeared to be an extraordinary victory for the sake of what He knew would be the ideal preparation for the beings created in His image to be raised from dust and prepared for a glorious destiny. This is why things have always been as they have been in the world and in the Church. Suffering partnered with essential spiritual healing and progressive enlightenment are the means by which God is drawing man toward his ultimate destiny as exemplified by His own Son’s experience. The suffering He had endured was principally (and most would have thought exclusively) to provide for man’s redemption; yet it also fulfilled another unexpected function as we have shown from scripture relating to preparation for Office (cp. Heb2:10,11,17,18) and as an example to those who would come to share in His inheritance. [Excerpt from chapter 7- Fellowship of the Secret]*
“I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create calamity. I the Lord do all these things” declares Yahweh through Isaiah. “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how inscrutable is His decision-making and His ways are quite beyond our discovery!” exclaimed Paul (previous post). One suspects the apostle knew more than most (2Cor12:3,4); likewise when the fuller picture is revealed to us we shall also be lost in wonder, love and praise.
Illustration: Woody Allen in the 1960s courtesy of Wikipedia