The God who Makes us Suffer "on a Whim"?

A responder to a previous hub, Those Disgusting Scriptures, writes as follows: “It strikes me that you find my stance somewhat unfathomable ~ especially as I speak of things that seem to reflect a loving creator; yet I doubt his existence. More specifically, I cannot equate this loving creator with God, as described in the Bible. But I find your stance somewhat unfathomable, too. You believe in a 'personal creator God', who supposedly loves us, but who is willing to make any of us suffer apparently on a whim.”

She cites numerous examples: those who were drowned in Noah's flood, David’s wives and baby, the people of Amalek, including specifically, the suckling babies; the man who gathered wood on the Sabbath; cheeky sons, daughters who cannot actually prove that they are virgins when they marry; the list goes on. Plus of course, all the doubters and followers of other faiths who will go to hell.

She continues, “You say 'There is so much of life that we accept on the basis of reasonableness, rather than scientific proof', but where is the reasonableness in believing that a super-being, who is omni-everything, would want to keep making his creation suffer ~ sometimes for absolutely no reason at all. For example, why would God, supposedly, chat with Satan, and allow him to torment poor Job in such a horrific manner?! That isn't reasonable.”

I quote the above rather fully because I want to address what is actually said. I’ve noticed that its easy to talk/write past each other rather than give honest answers to sincere questions. So does the God revealed in Scripture act on a whim? I don’t think so. He acts in accord with his holy nature. It is in the nature of fire to burn what is combustible. It is in the nature of holiness to destroy what is unholy. The Scriptures assert that God is, indeed, a consuming fire. Of course, to us he may appear to act on a whim because we don’t share His view of right and wrong.

God - A Consuming Fire

We measure right and wrong by observing and assessing outward behavior. Hitler is wrong because he massacred the Jews. Mother Teresa is right because she helped so many poor in India. God, on the other hand, looks at humanity as evil by nature. Thus, to continue the analogy, humanity is, by nature, combustible.

How did humanity become so horribly evil? Well. that too reflects the unique glory of the God who speaks in the Bible. When He created human beings, He embedded his own image in us. It is that image that enables us to think rationally, make choices, exercise freedom, enjoy beauty, love sacrificially and communicate in abstract concepts. God gave Adam and Eve the choice of following Him and live, or striking off on their own and die. When they chose the latter, God, true to his word as always, did not overrule their choice but allowed the consequences to kick in. Immediately they lost sweet fellowship with God. That loss began to take its toll on their inner well being and their outward behavior. They and their descendants face eventual physical death and certain eternal condemnation. The further away from the original offense we've come, the more compounded human sin has become. There really is no limit to the horrific suffering we may inflict on each other. One little understood point is that there are no innocents. Babies share the corrupt nature of their parents. Have you ever had to teach a child to lie or to be selfish? So it is that even children suffer.

What amazes me is that we are not all consumed instantly. If we are not, who is to be credited? God! He has communicated a set of principles and practices which have the effect of protecting humankind from his consuming holiness. It starts with his general beneficence toward us called common grace. It rains on the just and the unjust. It continues with the laws of nature discovered by careful observation. The heavens declare the glory of God. It then gets very specific, as God chose a nation through which to bless the rest of the world. This is what the Bible is all about. The Israelites were given a set of instructions by which they were enabled to approach God in all his holiness without being destroyed. It centered on their offering on an altar an animal to be consumed by fire. That animal was a temporary substitute for the sinner who wished to approach God. By humbly offering his lamb, he accepted reconciliation with God which would later be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Now this is a woefully oversimplified description of God grace. But it is enough to help understand the reasonableness of God’s response to those who willfully reject it. It is not destruction on a whim, but the inevitable result of combustible humankind rejecting God’s offer of protection. Ultimately then, all the suffering humans endure is of our own making. It’s not a mathematical thing as though a pound of sin brings upon you a pound of suffering. When committed against an infinitely holy God, all sin makes us equally “combustible” in his presence. Humans are so linked together that one person’s offense, be it small or great by our standards, contributes to the suffering of all.

Some will rightfully note that even followers of God often suffer; in some cases more than those who reject him. Believers accept the suffering as God’s temporary discipline and discover that his grace is sufficient even when under extreme duress.

Now here’s an amazing thing. There are lots of passages in Scripture which naysayers like to quote in which this horrible human suffering is attributed to God. Yes, God is not afraid to own responsibility. Being all-knowing and all-powerful he could have overruled human rebellion but he didn’t. If He had, he would have violated that which makes humankind utterly unique among the animals. We bear his image.

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Comments: I suspect this was hard to take. I'm listening 29 comments

Carajean 23 months ago

What a plersuae to meet someone who thinks so clearly


Darence 23 months ago

You've maenagd a first class post


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 3 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

goliah, thanks for stopping by. Not sure where you're coming from. Yes I read some of your hubs. We seem to agree that sin and evil are of human creation, but then you aver that "nothing has yet to be revealed." This is where I respectfully disagree. The central truth of the Christian faith is that Jesus is God in the flesh who himself bore our sin on the cross. That can be blown off as fanciful, except that he rose from the grave, an event as well documented in history as scores of other events we never question. That risen Savior is God's revelation as reported in Hebrews 1:1-4.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 4 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Xlushx, thank you for your comment. It's encouraging to know that my writing has helped you bridge the barrier to God. Feel free to contact me if you have further questions.


Xlushx 4 years ago

Ahh thank you! I've often seen questions regarding this and I was really short of what to say. This has really inspired me (in the real way), and one big question in my head has finally been answered :) Hopefully I can get past the barrior separating me and God :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 4 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Careful, Jo, all your acolades may just go to my head! But thanks!


Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 4 years ago

This is B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L ! :) I can't help but to read every single one of your great hubs! You are indeed a blessing! Thank you and may God continue to send a lighting bolt to allow you the ability to continue! :)

Vote up and shared on twitter! :)


docbruin profile image

docbruin 5 years ago from USA

Excellent hub liftandsoar! You did a great job of explaining a complex issue that many like to parade around as proof that God does not exist or if He does He is not loving. God is all loving, man is not. The world suffers the consequences. Faith is believing in God's love even when things happen that are beyond our understanding. I won't go into a rant here but thanks for such an insightful hub.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

That's very interesting!!! :) :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Might God part the sea? :-) Even I am an agnostic on that one!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

I'm sure that we could have some stimulating discussions ~ but there is a lot of water between us :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Sadly, yes; but if offers an opportunity to show that folks from different world and life views can respect each other. Certainly your issues have made me think more deeply about my convictions. Hopefully, those listening in are helped as well to see our differing perspectives. I'm beginning to hope I meet you sometime in person. :-)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

As you say, LiftandSoar, the divides between our 'overall world and life views' seem to mean that we will sadly never see these events from the same angle :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

God wills indeed that the principles he put in place at creation should play out in response to human choices. The immediate cause of the suffering is man's choices not God's capriciousness. The Bible puts it in simple terminology which makes it clear that He's in charge even though human beings are the blameworthy cause of the suffering. There's some mystery here, I know. My conclusion is drawn from not just this Scripture but from all that the Bible reveals about God.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

The following isn't just standing back and allowing humans to play out their sinful lives, according to their own free wills:

"I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight"

This is God saying 'I will do this'. 'It is my will that it should happen'.

According to the Bible, God wills that these women be raped. Here, he is, indeed, 'ordering, endorsing, sanctioning'.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

I think there's a huge difference between God ordering, endorsing, sanctioning the rape of women and the killing of childen and his standing back to allow the natural consequences of human sin to take effect. It is the latter that is meant in II Samuel 12. That God says "I am going to bring calamity" is his bold ownership of all that comes to pass, including such things. That's one of thing I admire about the God revealed in Scripture. As sovereign he is in control and he's not afraid to own up to it.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

Pintoman said: ' I don't see where God ever sanctioned rape.'

Well, here is one example:

2 Samuel 12

11 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

I doubt that the wives had much say in this humiliation.

Pintoman said: 'Just because accounts of it are in the Bible does not mean God sanctioned it.'

I agree. This is what I have been saying all along.

However, according to the Bible, God did sanction it.


Seek-n-Find profile image

Seek-n-Find 5 years ago from Illinois

There are actually different kinds of suffering. Think of a human analogy we can relate to. A child does something that is bad/wrong/a danger to himself. The parent, because he loves the child, will discipline the child to help teach him how to be safe. This child suffered--but it was a good suffering that had the purpose of restoring that child and positioning him to be safe and successful. Then there is an evil kind of suffering. Child abuse, for example. A parent hurts a child out of hatred, cruelty, etc. The child suffers harm. Now, apply to God and Satan/Sin. God disciplines those He loves as an act of love--to teach, restore, and protect. Satan causes suffering because he is evil and wants to "kill, steal, and destroy." Bible also says that the consequences of sin is death. So sin causes suffering, as well. When we see the source of suffering, we know how to partner with God in it. When a friend is being disciplined by God I will in love be there for him/her and support and offer love...but I will not try to intercede and work against God. Godly suffering produces good fruit. But if a friend is experiencing bad suffering, I will partner with God to help that person. God chose to work through humanity as His agent. He gave up His right to do it all Himself when He chose to partner with us humans. So when we see evil suffering, God wants us to do something about it! It is interesting to look at the Greek and compare when the different words are being used--helps the context to make more sense. Godly sorrow (suffering) leads to repentance (which leads to life!) while worldly suffering leads to death. Thanks for taking on such a tricky topic!!!


Pintoman profile image

Pintoman 5 years ago

I think this is a good explanation. I don't see where God ever sanctioned rape. Just because accounts of it are in the Bible does not mean God sanctioned it. On the contrary, he laid out specific punishments for it. I don't see the OT as so contradictory to the New. The old was the picture of the New. People want to cherry pick and take things out of context. Yes, genocide is terrible. God is sovereign. Would you rather that generation after generation offered their children as living burning sacrifices? Or would you rather that God judged them? Some of the complaints are God does nothing about suffering, but then when he judges, more complaints. I don't think complaining about out of context scripture diminishes the Bible one bit. One of non-believers complaints is they want to do what they want, except they want God to intervene when they say. You can't have it both ways.


EnglishM 5 years ago

One of my favourite guidelines (by the greatest human being, Jesus) is: Keep on asking, and it will be given to you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

OK. That I can accept ~ sort of :)

But there is still the question of why you think that these ancient people were correct, when attributing these evils to God, rather than to themselves.

By the way, I hope that you will have a look at some of my hubs on related issues. I doubt that you will agree with my conclusions, but you may find them interesting :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Ha! we agree on something! Please Trish, don't think that I'm any less horrified by the things you mention than you or anyone else. They are despicable evils. I'm not going to defend the God to whom they are attributed in the Bible. He can do that for himself. But neither can I dismiss Him for what I disapprove of or can't understand. It's that old resurrection thing again. Convince me He never rose, and I fall into your view of things rather easily.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Liftandsoar: "... the divide between your overall world and life view and mine is the real issue ..... our give and take on the conclusions, while interesting, will prove futile ..."

Hi Liftandsoar :)

Sadly, I think that you are right.

And I am left feeling bewildered that 'good Christian people' can accept such horrors as the works of God ~ just because an ancient tribe said that God was responsible.

Not all Christians ~ some Believers think that these ancient tales are just that ~ stories that have no connection to God, except in the minds of the writers.

Quite possibly they are true-life stories, but they need to be seen within the context of their time and place.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Agnostic now, but with my roots firmly in Christianity, I must say I agree with your comprehension of God as a being who acts in accord with his holy nature.... destroying what is unholy. This is quite an acceptable explanation for all human suffering on earth. Many suffer apparently innocent, but comparing God with fire – or any other element (water/air/the ingredients of earth) – it has no mercy.

However, a person’s interpretation of God depends on his/her interpretation of the makro cosmos (stars/planets) and mikro cosmos (viruses/bacteria). Very few people have a rational idea of His power. In their efforts to understand Him – whom I also interpret as evasive Truth – they create metaphors and hall stands to hang Him on. I even grew reluctant to refer to Him as ‘him’.

Jesus was the first to call God ‘father’ (abba). He convinced (some) that God loves people like (good) fathers love their children, and that He is on the side of the suppressed, the poor, the ill and all who suffers some kind of adversity. That was/is a wonderful, positive message to humans. And now back to YOUR description of God’s nature – He is obviously NOT a father according to our idea of what a father should be. He makes us suffer to purify us for eternal life in heaven? So comparing this to our interpretation of fathers, we cannot help but think (like Trish) that He is extremely cruel and sadistic.

I think we must take some scriptures in the OT to heart, those that say ‘Fear God’.... Fear, meaning respect. He is. He is what we cannot understand and/or control. We can control only animals and other people, and the latter sadly too easy with “His Word”, which is another most controversial topic.

I have not read the comments yet, and I know it will pursue me to share more of my personal views. But look at the space I’ve already taken up!

To conclude I want to repeat what I’ve commented before – Every individual’s comprehension of God, and their ‘relationship’ with him, is too intimate to share with others. We can have religious orgies, but no one is able to determine the individual’s personal relationship with Him. All alone with Him (the omni-presence), our interaction with Him has a unique character, which may be hot, warm or cold. And this, again, is another controversial topic of discussion.

I like the way you present your views, liftandsoar, though I do agree with Trish. She sees what Christians prefer not to see. That image of God – who ordered his people to mutilate, kill and rape – is one Christians deliberately ignore or try to justify.

People want to hear/see only what they want to hear/see.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

So much to respond to, Trish. Really appreciate your taking the time to write. It feels a little like trying keep a 100 pingpong balls under water... with one hand... at the same time. I might address them each at a time, but the issue is the particular but the divide between your overall world and life view and mine is the real issue. I go from Jesus the risen one to His being my Lord and Savior to the Bible being his means of communication to believing that what I don't understand or offends me is my problem not His. You go from seeing yourself as a responsible free agent to examining the data to drawing the conclusions to write about. Do I understand you correctly. If so, then our give and take on the conclusions, while interesting, will prove futile. Please don't take this as rejection nor as a signal that I want to disengage. Just wonder whether you would agree with this assessment.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi LiftandSoar :)

I am interested to see how you and others will respond to all of my quotes :)

Certainly it is very hard for me to 'equate this loving creator with God, as described in the Bible' because the Biblical description of God does seem to have him 'make any of us suffer apparently on a whim'.

*

LiftandSoar: "Hitler is wrong because he massacred the Jews."

Yes, I believe that Hitler was wrong and cruel and I think that most people would agree.

Hitler used his power to terrify the weak and innocent.

His behaviour towards Jews and others, such as Gypsies, could be considered genocide.

Genocide would be classed as evil by any reasonable person, I think.

If we go back to the First World War, anti-German propaganda had images of German soldiers bayonetting babies.

Now let us look at the Book of Samuel.

God wanted all Amalekites annihilated.

This is Genocide.

God specifically requested that suckling babies be killed by the sword.

This is similar to bayonetting.

In many modern battle zones, rape is a now weapon of war.

Surely no reasonable person would consider rape to be acceptable ~ in any situation.

It is disgusting and it happens almost everywhere that there is war or insurrection.

Consider that many women would also be murdered, but that the scared young girls would most likely be kept alive, to service the fighting brutes.

This also happens in the Bible.

Women are raped as punishment for their husbands ~ as with David ~ or they are raped as spoils of war, or they are ambushed and kidnapped to be raped as per the story of the Benjaminites in Judges

*

LiftandSoar: 'How did humanity become so horribly evil?'

I don't think that we are all 'so horribly evil', though there is much evil in the world.

Many of man's laws ~ certainly not all ~ are reasonable and seem to strive for what most of us would consider morally right.

Remember, though, that Christians believe that God created this world and that he created humanity, supposedly, in his own image.

How could anyone, made in the image of God, be anything but Godly?

Let us look at some of the evils of man.

Murder, rape, kidnap, war ~ these seem to be some of the worst.

And, yes, for those who believe that we are made in the image of God, the similarities are plain to see.

*

LiftandSoar: 'God gave Adam and Eve the choice of following Him and live, or striking off on their own and die.'

I believe that the story of Adam and Eve is allegorical, but, even if it were true, this couple were, in effect, new born creations made in God's image.

They were naive and too 'young' to be blamed for anything ~ yet a taboo tree and a wily serpent were put into the garden with them.

Why? ~ They were set up to fail.

Yet, being made in God's image, they should not have failed, unless they reflected failure within God. How does that make sense?

*

LiftandSoar: "One little understood point is that there are no innocents. Babies share the corrupt nature of their parents."

This disturbs me immensely. I have huge difficulty even responding to such an idea.

I think that some babies may well be born with problems that may cause them to become psychopaths ot Sociopaths.

I think that some babies may well be born to neglectful or criminal parents, who will bring them up to have no sense of right and wrong.

But I certainly do not think that we can say that all babies are born corrupt and sinful.

I do not think that every member of humanity is corrupt and sinful, so why would all babies be 'bad'?

*

LiftandSoar: "There are lots of passages in Scripture which naysayers like to quote in which this horrible human suffering is attributed to God."

But I do not attribute the 'horrible human suffering' to God.

I say that the ancients did this, because it suited them / they believed it / it felt rifght at the time.

It is the Christians who accept these stories and who believe that their loving creator could have babies murdered and women raped who are attributing this 'horrible human suffering' to God.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi LiftandSoar :)

Before reacting to the content, specifically included here, I shall add my response to your comment re the 'Disgusting Scriptures' hub.

LiftandSoar said:

"I start with the assumption that God is good and wise and powerful and choose to believe these painful events have a reason which has not been revealed and may never."

"What I mean by "assumption" is something like one's hypthesis in scientific investigation. That's where one starts. The assumption/hypothesis is either confirmed or rendered unreliable by subsequent investigation."

I, too, started out with similar assumptions.

Here in England, it was once the case that nearly everyone at least appeared to be Christian. It is still the official state religion and Christianity was taught, every day, in all schools.

Thus, we were brought up to believe.

We believed in God and in Jesus and we were told that everything was about love and righteousness; goodness and mercy.

My Dad was brought up in the same culture and he never doubted, until he went abroad with the Royal Air Force, aged 20, and he met ... an atheist! He was stunned! How could anyone disbelieve in God?! But the seed was planted and the more he looked into it, the more disbelief became logical.

He doubted, but he allowed for the possibility of a power behind the Universe.

My Mum, then as now, was / is a Roman Catholic Christian, with complete 'faith'. Roman Catholics did not, then, tend to read the Bible very often, so she absorbed her faith via her church, rather than from the actual Scriptures.

I have always enjoyed reading, studying, debating, discussing and thinking. I looked at what society and my parents told me and came up with my own ideas on the subject.

I looked at the assumption / hypothesis that 'God is good and wise and powerful' and found that, based on the evidence, he could not be these things, because the world that he created could only reflect its creator ~ and there is much that is 'bad' in the world.

We can find evidence of this 'holy badness' in the way that powerful beasts terrify weaker beasts and rip them apart in their quest for food. (It was my Dad who first pointed this out to me, by the way.) Why would a wise and loving father-creator plan such a thing!?

We can find evidence of this 'holy badness' in the Bible, too ~ and this is what we have been discussing, as 'troublesome' and 'disgusting' scriptures. Why would God cause so much suffering ~ whim or not?!

Not that I believe that God actually had anything to do with it ~ but many Christians do. Why? Why do they believe it, when an ancient document, written by an ancient tribe, tells them that God had women raped and new-born babies ripped open by the blade of a sword?

Would they believe it, if any other set of ancient documents made such claims!? ~ I very much doubt it. I think that they would be appalled.

LiftandSoar, I appreciate that you see something positive, where I only see unpleasantness, and so you 'choose to believe these painful events have a reason which has not been revealed'.

However, I just look at the bare evidence and see horrible and harrowing events.

Just imagine of they were happening before you now ~ what would you do? What would you think, then?


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

This is a clear explanation. Since the issue is so complex, it could continue forever. Ex: Job suffered horribly but received so much more, just as we did through Christ.

liftandsoar, I think you did a great job here. Joy in Jesus, Hyph.


Binaya.Ghimire 5 years ago

Encouraging deliberation on faith. Good work.

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