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Is Everything That Happens God’s Will?

Although Job knew that the calamity that had befallen him was not due to sin in his life, he did not understand why God (the only possible source of his suffering based on his understanding of life) had afflicted him. Throughout the book of Job, he continues to ask God, “Why me?” and often does so very angrily.

Does God answer Job’s questions? Not in Job’s lifetime, nor throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus Christ, however, taught truths that do answer Job’s questions. Kushner has some excellent insight on the record of Job:

To try to understand the book and its answer, let us take note of three statements which everyone in the book, and most of the readers, would like to be able to believe:

A. God is all-powerful and causes everything that happens in the world. Nothing happens without His willing it.
B. God is just and fair, and stands for people getting what they deserve, so that the good prosper and the wicked are punished.
C. Job is a good person.

As long as Job is healthy and wealthy, we can believe all three of those statements at the same time with no difficulty. When Job suffers, when he loses his possessions, his family and his health, we have a problem. We can no longer make sense of all three propositions together. We can now affirm any two only by denying the third.

If God is both just and powerful, then Job must be a sinner who deserves what is happening to him. If Job is good but God causes his suffering anyway, then God is not just. If Job deserved better and God did not send his suffering, then God is not all-powerful. We can see the argument of the Book of Job as an argument over which of the three statements we are prepared to sacrifice, so that we can keep on believing in the other two.

Job’s friends are prepared to stop believing in (C), the assertion that Job is a good person. They want to believe in God as they have been taught to. They want to believe that God is good and that God is in control of things. And the only way they can do that is to convince themselves that Job deserves what is happening to him. [1]

Job, for his part, is unwilling to hold the world together theologically by admitting that he is a villain. He knows a lot of things intellectually, but he knows one thing more deeply. Job is absolutely sure that he is not a bad person. He may not be perfect, but he is not so much worse than others, by any intelligible moral standard, that he should deserve to lose his home, his children, his wealth and health while other people get to keep all those things. And he is not prepared to lie to save God’s reputation.

Job’s solution is to reject proposition (B), the affirmation of God’s goodness. Job is in fact a good man, but God is so powerful that He is not limited by considerations of fairness and justice. [2]

Kushner correctly states that Job considered himself an innocent victim and that Job thought that God afflicts both the righteous and unrighteous. Often Job attested to his own innocence. He said, “I had not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10b); “Show me where I have been wrong” (Job 6:24); “I am blameless” (Job 9:21); “You [God] know that I am not guilty” (Job 10:7); “Can anyone bring charges against me? If so, I will be silent and die” (Job 13:19); “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice” (Job 27:2); and “Let God weigh me in honest scales and He will know that I am blameless” (Job 31:6). Job made his case that God does whatever He pleases and afflicts both the innocent and the guilty: “…I say, He destroys both the blameless and the wicked” (Job 9:22).

Under this assumption, Job wished there were a mediator or an umpire that could help him out. “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both” (Job 9:33). Of course, no umpire or mediator appears. What does appear is a storm, and God Himself speaking from it (Job 38:1). What did God say to Job in answer to his pleading questions? Well, one thing is clear— God did not give Job any reason for the problems besetting him.

Many theologians and Bible teachers rightly point out that God never gave Job an answer to the question of [why he was suffering]: “…God never answers question one about Job’s predicament…” [3] “With all due respect to the many capable and godly preachers and writers who have taught that the major question as addressed in Job is why do the righteous suffer, we note that if this is the question, it is never answered in the Book of Job.” [4]

Why not? Because the truth about the Devil as the source of human suffering was not revealed in the Old Testament. It was Jesus Christ who first openly revealed the true source of mankind’s suffering.

Interestingly enough, Rabbi Kushner comes to the same conclusion we do, that proposition (A) is the proposition that is in error — “God is all-powerful and causes everything that happens in the world. Nothing happens without His willing it.” We do not, however, agree with his overall understanding of the book of Job, by which he arrives at this conclusion. We arrive at our conclusion from the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. Nonetheless, we applaud Kushner’s insight about people’s reaction to this conclusion. He states:

There may be a sense of loss at coming to this conclusion. In a way, it was comforting to believe in an all-wise, all-powerful God who guaranteed fair treatment and happy endings, who reassured us that everything happened for a reason, even as life was easier for us when we could believe that our parents were wise enough to know what to do and strong enough to make everything turn out right. But it was comforting the way the religion of Job’s friends was comforting: it worked only as long as we did not take the problems of innocent victims seriously. When we have met Job, when we have been Job, we cannot believe in that sort of God any longer without giving up our own right to feel angry, to feel that we have been treated badly by life.[5]

The New Testament makes it crystal clear that not everything that happens is God’s will. For example, Jesus instructed his disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth (Matt. 6:10). If everything that happens is God’s will, such prayer is superfluous. In Romans 1:10, Paul said he prayed for “a prosperous journey in the will of God” to see the believers there. Another meaningless prayer? No. The will of God for an individual, whether revealed in the written Word of God or by direct revelation, generally comes to pass only when that person understands it and, by his own, acts accordingly.

Rather than sit passively by waiting for God’s will to happen, we must make a diligent effort to learn God’s Word and then aggressively obey it. God’s will, for example, is that people do not steal, but rather that they work to earn what they need (Eph. 4:28). Very simple. We just do what He says. But are some people stealing? Yes. If everything that happens were God’s will, then nothing would be sin or disobedience. What a travesty of logic!

Going a step further then, if it is so easy for us humans to disobey God, what about the Devil and his spirit army? Can humans sin by choice while evil spirits cannot? Obviously spirit beings can sin, since sin was the reason the Devil and his hosts were thrown out of God’s presence to begin with. Via Adam’s sin, the Devil was legally given authority over the earth. The Devil did not and does not obey God. The Devil has been sinning for a long time (1 John 3:8). The Devil is a murderer (John 8:44), a liar (John 8:44), and a thief (John 10:10).


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