Q. In response to ‘A Losing Strategy’, I was wondering why you think God allows Satan to persecute and afflict believers? I have read somewhere that the devil has to ask God’s permission to attack a believer , so why would God grant it? I also know that God will not allow suffering beyond one’s ability to deal with it.
When discussing Jacob’s wrestle with the angel, a well known preacher concluded that God afflicts us in order to bless us. Does this mean that the reason God allows us to suffer is to show loving discipline? If this is true then why does he allow affliction when discipline is not needed for instance in the case of abuse or rape. I believe in an all powerful God so why can he not protect those who place their trust in Him?
A. This is a complex matter. I’ll try to make it simple. There are two levels to our relationship with God. One is called Union and is eternal and unconditional. It’s our salvation and is based on our belief. (John 3:16) The other is called Fellowship and pertains to our relationship with God here on Earth. It’s temporal and conditional and is based on our behavior. (1 John 1:8-10) It’s this level that’s at issue here.
From my studies, I don’t see any way for a just God to afflict believers arbitrarily. We leave ourselves open to attack by sinning and then failing to confess. This leaves our hedges down, to use popular Christian terminology, and makes us vulnerable. When Satan asks for permission to afflict us and we have unconfessed sin in our lives, God, being 100% Just cannot refuse him. But being 100% Merciful, He can use the torment we experience to bring us to our senses so we’ll confess and be restored. This is the underlying theme of the Book of Job. The parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:23-35) gives another good explanation.
The condition of having unconfessed sin in our lives is called being out of fellowship. Our salvation is not at risk but our safety is. I liken it to the sheep who wanders away from the safety of the flock. The shepherd goes after it, but a wild animal may get there first. Sometimes the wounds are superficial, but other times they’re serious. You can’t blame the shepherd, it’s the sheep’s fault for wandering away.
So it is with us. You can’t blame God, it’s a consequence of our sin. We’re supposed to be smarter than sheep and know better than to wander away.
God loved us enough to die for us while we still hated Him. He’s not going to start punishing us now that we love Him. But when we sin, we can’t be in His presence until we confess. The minute we do we’re forgiven and welcomed back as if nothing ever happened. In the meantime, the enemy has a certain amount of access to us.