Third, it follows that when we face suffering of any kind, we should use the occasion for self-examination. God may be speaking to us in the language of a wise heavenly Father who chastens those he loves. Such chastening may be God’s response to specific sins in our lives; it may be a more general way of toughening us up in this broken world so we will stop thinking that God owes us good health, or that our clean living and organic food guarantees us long and robust life. Or it may be that God has a bet going on with Satan himself: think Job. So our self-examination ought to be honest, and any repentance should be forthright—but we should not whip ourselves into thinking that the crippling accident we just endured was a function of our sin. Even if it were, the remedy is always the same: flee to the Cross, and trust our good and gracious and holy God. And it’s not inconceivable that we may conclude, with Job, that this suffering cannot be God’s punishment for specific sins in our lives.
We sometimes observe that hard cases make bad theology. But easy, formulaic answers to questions of suffering are invariably reductionistic—and they make bad theology, too.