May 6, 2020

The Mystery of Suffering

By Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

COVID-19 has plunged the world into fear and panic. The pandemic is something new to us; we are facing a global epidemic that is more serious than anything we have experienced before. In fact, some western nations face more serious challenges than some of the nations in the East. While this is something we never imagined would happen, it’s a consequence of human nature and systems. Western countries place importance on human rights and individual freedoms, and because they are more advanced in science and medicine, some assume they are better than the East. Some think that only ‘backward’ countries will struggle with this pandemic while ‘advanced’ countries will know how to handle such problems. Some have taken the situation for granted and believed they would not need to take precautionary measures. They didn’t realize until much later that this is a global epidemic, a global disaster. Now they have finally awakened. Actually, this is good because when people reach the end of their own capabilities, they begin to find God.

In the midst of all this, many are suffering. Suffering is a mystery; we cannot use a formula to explain it. How should we face suffering? There are two theories in the theological world: one is the “yes-saying” theology while the other is the “no-saying” theology. Note that these two are not contradictory but instead are complementary.

The so-called “yes-saying” theology explains the will of God through the revelations in the Bible. Our God is a God who rewards good and punishes evil. It says that God is a righteous and loving God, that those who obey God’s will shall be blessed by God. Meanwhile, God will bring disasters on those who disobey God’s will.

The three friends of Job believed in this theology, which is why they were so sure that Job had sinned and claimed that it is because of his sin that he encountered such terrible calamities. However, this view is clearly an incomplete theology because the revelations in the Bible do not completely embody all of God and His ways. Yes, the Bible is God’s revelation, but there are many more aspects we don’t understand because God does not fully reveal Himself in the Bible. Just like Job’s suffering, much of the suffering we see has nothing to do with sin. This is something Job’s three friends could not understand.

In addition to the “yes-saying” theology, there is also the “no-saying” theology, where we acknowledge that we cannot fully understand God and the things of God. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us that the secret things belong to the Lord, our God. There are some things we simply can’t fully understand.

In the face of suffering, people always ask, “Why?” Church, we don’t need to know why; instead, we only need to know who. To know ‘who’ is enough. God is the all-knowing God, God is a God of justice and love, and as long as we are in His hands, we need not worry nor fear. God is good all the time, and at all times, God is good.

Next Post: Sources of Suffering, Part 1



COVID-19使全世界陷入恐懼驚荒之中, 這是過去從來沒有發生過的事, 這是全球性的疫情,比過去我們所知道的更嚴重;而且某些西方國家的情況也比東方國家的情況更壞, 這是我們想像不到的事,其實這與人性與制度有關。西方國家注重人權自由,而且因為科學與醫學的進步, 他們總以為比東方優勝,這是人性的驕傲,他們總以為這樣的事只會發生在某些東方落後的國家,好像我們這樣進步,這樣先進的國家,我們是不是有問題,所以什麼防備措施工都不作,直到現在他們才明白,這是全球性疫情,全球性的災難, 他們也醒過來了。這是一個好的開始, 因為人的盡頭常是神的起頭。

苦難是一個迷, 我們絕對不能用一個方程式來解釋,但當我們面對苦難的時候,我們又當怎樣去面對呢?在神學界裡有二種的理論,一種稱為肯定神學 Yes-saying Theology; 一種稱為否定神學No-saying Theology, 二者之間不是相對而是補充。

所謂肯定神學 Yes-saying Theology 就是正面從聖經的啟示來解釋神的旨意, 神是賞善罰惡的神, 神的公義慈愛的神, 那些遵行神旨意的, 神要賜福給他們; 那些違背神旨意的, 行惡神, 神要降災難給他們。

約伯三位朋友就是督信這神學理論的人, 所以他們肯定約伯一定是犯了罪, 才會面對這樣的災難; 但是明顯這個觀點不完全, 因為聖經的啟示不代表神, 對, 聖經是神的啟示, 但神還有更多的地方是我們不明白, 因為神沒有將祂自己完全顯明在聖經的啟示中, 正如約伯受苦根本與罪沒有任何的關係, 這是約伯三友不能明白的。

所以除了肯定神學, 還有否定神學, 這是我們不能完全了解明白的; 申命記29:29告訴我們奧祕的事是耶和華, 有些事是我們不能完全知道的。

在面對苦難的時候,人總會問: 為什麼? Why? 但其實不用問為什麼? 我們只要知道是誰? Who?已經足夠了, 神是全知全能的神, 神是公義與慈愛的神, 只要我們仍然在祂的手裡,我們還有什麼需要擔心懼怕的呢?God is good all the time, and at all times, God is good.