Monday, July 20, 2009

Unintentional affliction?

I was reading Lamentations and nodding in agreement about the painful (as well as hopeful) truths written there.

Here's a passage that I agreed with, then suddenly noticed that it seemed like a contradiction.

Take a look:
For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.

For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.

-Lam. 3:31-33


Verse 32 says that He brings grief, yet verse 33 says that He does not willingly bring affliction or grief. * But can God do something unwillingly? Wouldn't that imply that He's going against His own will? Is it by accident? Is someone forcing Him to conflict grief? This brings us to one of the so-called "omnipotence paradoxes": Could God make a rock so big He couldn't lift it?

An illustration that probably fits a little better is to see God as the Father here, disciplining His children. Does He want to cause them pain? No? Does He want them to learn? Yes, so He must discipline them. Well, you get the idea. Maybe it is more profound than that, but it's all I came up with.

*Different translations may use "afflict," etc. But the word used in verses 32 and 33 is identical.


  1. Hi, I'm Tiffany a fairly recent reader of your blog. I think the passage isn't necessarily contradictory. In the 2nd bit it says "Though he brings grief" and in the last "For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men." He doesn't bring grief Willingly, it's not something He finds joy in doing. I suppose it's like when a parent sees their child being disobedient they have to discipline them, it's not something they enjoy or look forward doing, no parent wants to see their child in any pain or discomfort. However, if discipline is not enforced the child will only hurt themselves in the end, and have to deal with the consequences. Same with God, our consequences of sin mean we need discipline, and God loves us so much He is willing to do whatever needs to be done to get our attention and turn our eyes back on Him.
    This is just my view on it, I may not be correct, it's just how I understand it.

  2. Hi Tiffany, that sounds about right. That's what my instinct says, although when you stop to break it down, you have to make sure the passage says what you think it does. Sometimes my reading skills are on auto-pilot. You did a better job of describing the parent-child connection than I did.

    So you're going to Russia? I'll leave a comment over on your blog.


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