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Bible Study: Why does God allow suffering?

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the YOU curriculum.

Bible Passages: Job 30:26-31, 42:1-6

Discussion Questions:

  • Though most people prefer not to suffer, what are ways we suffer that God can use for our good?
  • Without suffering, how can our relationship with God be negatively impacted?
  • What are ways we can focus on our relationship with God when we suffer?

Food for Thought:

In various interactions with non-believers, there is a specific argument heard frequently as they attempt to dismiss belief in God: “Either God is a loving God, or He is an all-powerful God, but He cannot be both. If He were a loving God, He would not allow suffering. And since suffering exists, He is either not loving and doesn’t care, or He is not powerful enough to stop it.”

Of course, none of these are true. An understanding of suffering requires much deeper thinking, which the Bible helps us to do through the life of one who suffered. We know him as Job. This Old Testament suffering servant is a great starting point for our questions on suffering.

Read Job 30:26-31, and 42:1-6. We hear Job’s despair in these verses. He had lived an upright, righteous life. He had “hoped for good,” but experienced just the opposite.

In the heart of what Job was feeling is a question that, no doubt, we have all asked at one time. It is a universal question. Why am I suffering? Job’s life points to one reason for suffering: It is the direct work of Satan himself. In the opening chapters of the book of Job, God allowed Satan access to Job’s life to test him. We may not know all the reasoning behind God’s permission, but we do know that Satan is able to operate in that way.

There is a more basic reason suffering exists, and it is explained in the story of the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Before they sinned, God’s creation was perfect. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world, all of creation was corrupted — both the natural world and the human spirit. At that point, evil entered the picture and became the source of all kinds of suffering. All of creation fell because our ancestors disobeyed God.

In Job 38, God finally responded to Job. For four chapters, God asked Job question after question, but He never gave Job a clear reason for his suffering. Instead, God chose to reveal more of Himself to Job. In those four chapters, God spoke of how His ways were well beyond Job’s understanding.

God specifically described His immense power in being able to establish all of creation. He then challenged Job to give a rational argument as to why he felt qualified to judge God’s motives and actions.

In Job 42:1-3, Job’s eyes were opened as he realized he was not qualified to judge God. Job recognized that God might have legitimate reasons for allowing suffering that Job himself was not qualified to question. “Surely I spoke about things I did not understand things too wondrous for me to know,” Job said. When Job came to that realization, he immediately repented and begged God for forgiveness.

We see a similar dynamic in a teaching from Jesus in Luke 13:1-5. A group of people asked Jesus about the suffering Rome had inflicted upon a group of Galileans. Rather than directly answering their question about the suffering, Jesus called on His listeners to repent. As God did with Job, Jesus was letting His hearers know that a relationship with God was more important than understanding every detail about things they were incapable of understanding.

YOU is committed to providing a complete Bible study experience for small groups and classes. Every session is written through an urban and multiethnic lens that provides relevant, engaging and applicable studies that not only encourage and equip people, but also motivate them to mission. This flexible, non-dated, all-in-one quarterly resource offers weekly Bible study for leaders and learners, devotionals and teaching plans, as well as articles on hot topics and missions. For additional downloadable online teaching resources, visit You.Lifeway.com.

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  • Staff/Lifeway Christian Resources