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“What is my strength, that I should
And what is my end, that I should
Why God allows people to suffer is one of the Bible’s greatest mysteries. There are no obvious answers. Our own suffering, or that of someone we love, is unbearable only in those dark days when – as the Bible puts it – God hides his face. At such times we cry out, “How much longer?” We may even exclaim, “Why me?” The Bible says that we will overcome suffering if God answers us. It also says that he does hear us and that if we are patient and wait for him, he will reveal to each of us a way to understand and transcend our suffering.
“In stormy times, when the foundation of existence is shaken, when the moment trembles in fearful expectation of what may happen, when every explanation is silent at the sight of the wild uproar, when a man’s heart groans in despair, and ‘in bitterness of soul’ he cries to heaven, the Job still walks at the side of the race and guarantees that there is a victory, guarantees that even if the individual loses in the strife, there is still a God, who, as with every human temptation, even if a man fails to endure it, will still make its outcome such that we may be able to bear it; yea, more glorious than any human expectation.”
S. Kierkegaard, Edifying Discourses (1843)
“Affliction makes God appear to be absent . . . During this absence there is nothing to love. What is terrible is that if, in this darkness where there is nothing to love, the soul ceases to love, god’s absence becomes final. The soul has to go on loving in the emptiness, or at least to go on wanting to love, though it may only be with an infinitesimal part of itself. Then, one day, god will come to show himself to this soul and to reveal the beauty of the world to it, as in the case of Job. But if the soul stops loving it falls, even in this life, into something almost equivalent to hell.”
Simone Weil, Waiting for God (1951)
“The justification of the injustice of the universe is not our blind acceptance of God’s inexplicable will, nor our trust in God’s love – His dark and incomprehensible love – for us, but our human love, notwithstanding anything, for Him. Acceptance – even Dante’s acceptance – of God’s will is not enough. Love – love of life, love of the world, love of God, love in spite of everything – is the answer, the only possible answer, to our ancient human cry against injustice. . . . Our labor always, like Job’s labor, is to learn through suffering to love . . . to love even that which lets us suffer.”
“God Has Need of Man” (1955)
“One cannot use his individual sufferings to deny the manifold evidence in God’s world of his goodness. Without the goodness of god in creating and sustaining the world, man indeed could have no hope. Finally, the very fact that God chose to appear before Job is an act of grace. Job is comforted, not because he has an intellectual understanding of a problem which is hidden in the mystery of God, but because his own eyes have seen God and he can trust even where he cannot understand.”
G. Ernest Wright
The Book of the Acts of God (1957)
“The inequalities of life belong to man’s outer lot; but this is immaterial to his spiritual life.”
From Moses to Qumran (1963)
“Therefore a man leaves his father
and his mother and cleaves to his wife,
and they become one flesh.”
Marriage in biblical times was a very different institution from what it is nowadays. The extended family was the basic social unit in the ancient Middle East; the “nuclear family” is the rule in today’s world. Nevertheless, the teachings of Scripture have continued to provide a framework for marriage and family life in both Jewish and Christian traditions down to the present.
“Love thy wife as thyself, and honor her more than thyself. Be careful not to cause woman to weep, for God counts her tears. Israel was redeemed from Egypt on account of the virtue of its women. He who weds a good woman is as if he had fulfilled all the precepts of the Torah.”
“When God at the first institution of marriage had . . . in his contemplation that it should be a remedy against burning, God gave man the remedy before he had the disease; for marriage was instituted in the state of innocency, when there was no inordinateness in the affections of man, and no burning. But as God created rhubarb in the world, whose quality s to purge choler, before there was any choler to purge, so God according to his abundant forwardness to do us good, created a remedy before the disease, which he foresaw coming, was come upon us. . . .
“The second use of marriage was . . . for children . . . and here also may another shower of his benedictions fall upon them whom he hath prepared and presented here. ‘Let the wife be as fruitful vine, and their children like olive plants.’ . . .
“The third and last use in this institution of secular marriage was . . . for mutual help.
. . . Every body needs the help of others; and every good body does give some kind of help to others. Even into the Ark itself, where God blessed them all with a powerful and immediate protection, God admitted only such as were fitted to help one another, couples. In the Ark, which was the type of our best condition in life, there was not a single person. . . . Christ . . . saved none but married persons, to show that he eases himself in making them helpers to one another.”
Sermon Preached at a Marriage (1621)
“God has laid upon marriage both a blessing and a burden. The blessing is the promise of children. God allows man to cooperate with him in the work of creation and preservation. But it is always God himself who blesses marriage with children. ‘Children are a fight that cometh of the Lord’ (Psalm 127), and they should be acknowledged as such. IT is from God that parents received their children, and it is to him that they should lead them. Hence parents exercise an authority over their children which is derived from God. . . .
“God intends you to found your marriage on Christ. . . . live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but take one another as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.
“From the first day of you marriage until the last your rule must be: ‘Receive one another . . . to the praise of God.’
“such is the word of God for your marriage. Thank him for it, thank him for bringing you thus far. Ask him to establish your marriage, to confirm and hallow it and preserve it to the end. With this your marriage will be ‘to the praise of his glory.’ Amen.”
A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell
“Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
From earliest times believers have experienced apparently supernatural interventions in their lives and have them as signs from God, to be pondered deeply and declared in tones of awe and praise. It was a prophet’s role both to predict miracles and to explain what they meant: “Ah Lord God! . . . Nothing is too hard for thee . . . who hast shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind” (Jeremiah 32:17-20)
“We . . . believe that the Divine Will ordained everything at creation and that all things, at all times, are regulated by the laws of nature and run their natural course in accordance with what Solomon said, ‘As it was so it will ever be, as it was made so it continues, and there is nothing new under the sun.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This occasioned the sages to say that all miracles which deviate from the natural course of events, whether they have already occurred or, according to promise, are to take place in the future, were foreordained by the Divine Will during the six days of creation.”
Commentary on the Mishnah, Avot
“[Belief in] hidden miracles is the basis for the entire Torah. A man has no share in the Torah, unless he believes that all things and all events in the life of the individual as well as in the life of society are miracles. There is no such thing as the natural course of events.”
Commentary on Exodus 13:16
“Miracles are not wrought outside of nature, but above nature.”
“I say that the miracles and the extraordinary interventions of God have this peculiarity that they cannot be foreseen by any created mind however enlightened.”
The Discourse on Metaphysics
“I know not, brethren, if you are like-minded – I at least believe, cherish, reverence and follow the teaching of Jesus Christ not because of the miracles which were done in the service of that teaching, but because of its inner truth and excellence.”
C.F. Bahrdt, Letters on the Bible
“Miracles happen at all times. However, since they come to us not because we deserve to be saved but because of His great mercy and grace, they remain unnoticed. Only a generation that serves Him wholeheartedly is worthy of knowing the miracles that happen to it.”
Rabbi Eliezer of Tarnegrod,
Amaroth Tehorot, on Psalm 136:4
“A miracle is an event with which human comprehension has not yet caught up. It is not an interruption of law, but the working of a law which human reason has not yet charted.”
Ralph W. Sockman
The Interpreter’s Bible
“Miracle and prophecy belong together. . . . What would be sorcery in the hands of the magician, becomes portent in the mouth of the prophet. And by portent, the prophet proves the dominion of providence which the magician denies. . . . This explains the delight in miracle. The more miracle, the more providence.”
Franz Rosenzweig, “On the Possibility
of Experiencing Miracles”