Sunday, May 10, 2009

How to Understand What We Can Understand About Suffering: A Lesson on Job 38 - 39

Text: Job 38 - 39

Main Idea: To understand suffering one must understand the wonder of understanding.

Beauty is best described rather than defined. When we see a morning sunrise, we can predict with mathematical precision when the sunrise will occur. But a sun rise that is beautiful is better described as awesome, radiant or spectacular. Beauty is not limited to a sunrise; it is in all sorts of things, fish, a family picnicking at the park, rock formations, birds, cattle, volcanoes, clouds, and a host of other things have beauty. The beauty is not simply in the lines and form, but in the associated phenomena. The movement of clouds can have its own way of fascinating the mind and eye. Those things that are not beautiful are in someway not good, they cause pain, they are ugly. Suffering in this world come through the fall, that is the sin of the first pair of humans. When they sinned, they affected not only the human race. Suffering was multiplied on the human race and not only affected them, but the whole of creation. Not only is beauty all around us, so is suffering in the midst of all creation. To understand all of suffering we would necessarily understand all of the world. As we look at God's answer to Job in chapters 38-39 God discusses the wonders of creation the limits of human knowledge. He is pointing Job to the fact that humans have a basic limitation to knowledge of creation so therefore human knowledge of suffering is intrinsically limited. This concept touches on the idea that there are limits to our knowledge and how to adequately organize knowledge when it is incomplete. To understand suffering one must understand the wonder of understanding.

1. You and I know in part and we prophesy in part, and this is particularly informing on our understanding of suffering. There are some Renaissance men and women out there. They not only are well read, but they do home repairs, make all their own clothes, participate in community theater, and grow vegetables for the poor. Other people are Renaissance men and women, they know how to sail a boat and navigate the sea, they know where all the best places to eat are in New York City, have a fine appreciation for the best in classical music, paint sunsets and teach reading at the local library to immigrants. Though one might be accomplished in multiple fields of achievement, these accomplishments by nature are partial. The man who has mastered sailing the seas probably has not mastered the art of mountain climbing. Those people who are considered the best in sailing and mountain climbing also sometimes show that they have limits of knowledge and skill.

What good things can come from trying to understand suffering?

What bad things can come from trying to understand suffering?

Our modernistic mindset usually looks for naturalistic causes for suffering and not moral causes for suffering. Job and his friends looked at suffering in too narrow of a point of view from the broad topics discussed by God directly. What are some ways we in our culture may limit how we view suffering?

Partial Understanding of Suffering
2. You and I can not master all the knowledge regarding the diverse creation, therefore we can not master how suffering has affected all creation. If we have limits at understanding things that are beautiful and wonderful. We necessarily have limits in understanding suffering also. Suffering is woven into the creation. Some of if we understand, some of it we do not. But simply saying we have a limit of our understanding in general helps us to manage our expectations to understand what causes suffering.

When we study beauty we do not intend to master all knowledge from all times on the topic, we realize we have limitations in resources such as time, books, foundational knowledge from other fields. What are some things that might limit our knowledge and understanding of suffering?

Are explanations ever appropriate when someone is suffering?

3. You and I should be amazed at the diverse types of knowledge to be pursed in regard to the creation. We have a whole world to enjoy and in that enjoyment we should praise our Creator, Lord and Savior. Good food should make us praise God. Good friends should make us praise God. The wonders of the natural created order should make us praise God.

What types of suffering are beautiful?

Here is a quote from 1 Corinthians 13 (ESV):

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

What are some of the relationships between Job 38 – 39 and 1 Corinthians 13:8-13?

In what ways will knowledge change in heaven as compared to this present life as explained in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13?
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