Suffering and Divine Causality

“suffering is permanent – obscure and dark” by Azlan DuPree

Was it providential (or synchronistic) that this devotion I wrote over a month ago would come out two days after Richard Mourdock’s comments about God’s causality when it comes to rape and conception? In any event, here is another reflection on suffering and divine causality. This appears as today‚Äôs Fourth Church Daily Devotion, part of our congregational project of reading through the Bible in 2012.

Psalm 119:65-72
You have treated your servant well,
Lord, according to your promise.
Teach me knowledge and good judgment
because I’ve put my trust in your commandments.
Before I suffered, I took the wrong way,
but now I do what you say.
You are good and you do good.
Teach me your statutes!
The arrogant cover me with their lies,
but I guard your precepts with all my heart.
Their hearts are unfeeling, like blubber,
but I rejoice in your Instruction.
My suffering was good for me,
because through it I learned your statutes.
The Instruction you’ve given to me is better
than thousands of pieces of gold and silver!
(Common English Bible)

Reflection

When it comes to what we think about suffering, there is a fine line in our faith tradition between believing that good can come from suffering and believing that God causes suffering.

As people of faith, we search for meaning behind life events, both good and bad. An often repeated statement of faith maintains that “everything happens for a reason.” In retrospect, it is often possible to see that good things can in fact come from suffering. One door closes and another one opens. A health scare helps us refocus our priorities. Tragedy draws us closer together.

But do these experiences, coupled with a belief in God’s sovereignty and providence, lead to the conclusion that God actively causes suffering in order to bring about positive outcomes? Personally, I have a hard time believing that God causes suffering for any reason.

The writer of today’s psalm has both suffered and benefited from suffering. I’m grateful that the question of God’s causality is left ambiguous. Whatever each of us may believe about the origin of suffering, we can all take comfort in God’s care and the wisdom of following God’s way.

Prayer

Loving God, when I am suffering and when I am well, help me to recognize your presence in my life and learn from your way. Amen.

Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Nice post John… Also really enjoyed reading your last one about recent politicians and statements about rape. To me, when I read this Psalm, I do get a hint that the writer is making a subtle statement about God’s causality in his suffering (or at least an association between his choice to follow God and the lessening of his suffering), when he says “Before I suffered, I took the wrong way,but now I do what you say. You are good and you do good.”
    I hear these same sentiments that “everything happens for a reason” echoed in other faiths as well as among non- believers. I think it’s a comforting thought whether or not we are talking about faith in God.
    Love seeing links to your blog posts- it’s a breath of fresh air from all the political chatter clogging my Facebook feed at the moment:)

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