Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column.
By Michael J. Brooks
It’s a question as old as the book of Job: “Why do the righteous suffer?”
Sometimes we rationalize in our minds God is active in the business of judgment when something bad happens to someone bad, but when something bad happens to someone good, we may in our humanity question the ways of God.
Job certainly did. He suffered terribly and initially served as a peerless example of patient endurance. But as his pain and losses continued, he came close to blasphemy. He questioned the character of God, accused God of abandoning him, and pleaded for an advocate to argue his case to heaven’s court. At the end of the book, God, in effect, still retained a shroud of mystery. God declared Job wasn’t there when he created the world and its creatures, and if Job didn’t understand these mysteries, he couldn’t understand the greater mystery of suffering.
So we still wrestle with the matter of suffering.
We understand that everyone has a measure of suffering in their lives. We all face hurt, disappointment, and death. But it does sometimes seem that the wealthy and influential of the world have an easier path than the rest of us.
I’ve known many faithful Christians who tried hard to follow and serve the Lord, though beset with physical pain, great losses, or other hardships. They lived out the beautiful prayer of Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the LORD; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3: 17-18).
President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was instrumental in the Camp David Peace Accords in 1978 when he, Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin, and American President Jimmy Carter met for 13 days to find peace. President Carter once described Sadat as his greatest friend among world leaders. Sadat traveled to Plains, Ga. in August 1981 to visit the Carters in their post-presidency and sadly was assassinated two months later. Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter represented the USA at the state funeral.
In his autobiography, Sadat reflected on his years in prison for opposing British rule in Egypt: “Suffering crystallizes a soul’s intrinsic strength; for it is through suffering that a man of mettle can come into his own, and fathom his own depths . . . . This is why I regard my last eight months in prison as the happiest period of my life.”
Perhaps God has lessons for us to learn in adversity that we can’t learn anyplace else.
Reflections is a weekly devotional feature written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.