Evil at God’s Hand

“Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and . . . not evil?”

I still remember the first time I read these words. The author of this question, Job, made the answer sound so obvious: of course we receive evil at God’s hand.

The meaning of this verse was not so obvious to me. I looked it up in a commentary and was told that evil can have many meanings in Hebrew, including “catastrophe.” That sounded plausible, but it didn’t really answer my questions.

Is God the author of catastrophe?

Job believed that the answer was clearly yes. At the time, as a young convert, I chalked it up to one of those deep mysteries about a sovereign God.

God is the author of Christ’s suffering. Then I came across the verse in Isaiah. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him,” speaking of His Son at the Cross.

That claim amazed me. The heavenly Father took credit for what the Jews and Gentiles did against His Son. He did it, and He took pleasure in doing it.

Okay, this was hard to understand. After I got older and had my own family, the claim perplexed me even more.

God constantly does things I don’t expect, but one reason I don’t expect them is that I don’t know Him fully yet—or His plans. Life’s hardships keep forcing me back to His Word, where I find a God who is more exciting and wonderful than anything I had dreamed of.

God cursed the earth. Creationists, who study snakes’ deadly designs, gave me another clue about suffering, which I had overlooked earlier. God is the One who cursed this earth, not Adam.

When Adam rebelled, the Creator could have instituted the death penalty immediately, hanging him on a tree and destroying his domain. But He didn’t. Instead, He cursed the earth and introduced pain and suffering. Why?

The Lord gives a hint in Genesis 3:15. The suffering earth would somehow set the stage for God to implement His great redemptive plan.

Ultimately, God would cause His own Son to suffer and die on a tree. His Son would take Adam’s place, enduring more sorrow than anything He had ever created.

Christ didn’t enjoy the Cross—He endured it, looking for the joy to come (Hebrews 12:2).

God lets us share in Christ’s sufferings. If it pleased the Father to bruise His Son, then we know that our sorrow can “work together for good” in His eternal economy.

The Bible doesn’t say that “all things are good” but that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). We may not see the good now, but we must remember God’s words to Job: He knows things we don’t.

Suffering is temporary, a brief interlude. God made His Son to suffer, along with all of creation, for a higher purpose. Now God lets believers share in Christ’s sufferings. “Rejoice,” Peter says, because we are “partakers of His sufferings” and “of the glory that will be revealed” (1 Peter 4:13; 5:1).

Knowing the end of Job, we are supposed to consider ourselves “blessed” when we suffer, knowing “that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).

I’m still working on that mystery.

Answers Magazine

July – September 2009

How do I deal with cancer? Why did God allow evil in the world? Why do snakes appear designed to kill? God’s curse is a historical reality, and we can see its results in everyday life. Don’t miss this special issue, which will give you the tools to tackle questions about evil and its true origin.

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