The DEEP

Suffering

and higher purposes.

Job 42:5–6 (NKJV)

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”

In the end, after experiencing an ocean of pain and grief, Job sees his sinfulness in a new way. His kids are dead, his life trashed, but he has learned a profound lesson. Could that justify all those terrible things? Could one man’s character development outweigh the importance of everything and everyone else in the whole world?

It does in A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge’s character development is a higher purpose than everything else in that world. Thus, by analogy, it might make sense for God to prioritize Job’s character development over everything and everyone else.

This isn’t easy to get comfortable with. Our universe isn’t a novel or a play, and it’s almost insulting to compare God’s purposes to Charles Dickens’s, even if he is created in God’s image. Novels and plays are created for an audience; our universe has a much grander purpose. Still, the dramas we create illustrate how a creator’s purposes can be different from those of the created beings.

So, let’s dig a little deeper into the higher purposes in created universes. What are the higher purposes in A Christmas Carol? For example, what is the purpose of Jacob Marley’s suffering?

The first purpose of Marley’s suffering is to get Ebenezer Scrooge’s attention and to prepare him for the visits of the three ghosts.

But there are other higher purposes—mostly connected to the higher purposes of the story as a whole. Marley’s suffering—and Tiny Tim’s too—form the basis of the moral of the story. They are part of the higher purpose of teaching charity to the audience. This in turn fits into the even higher purpose of Dickens’s lifelong crusade to improve the lives of the poor in London.

Charles was offended by the deprivations they suffered, and many of his works were written to shine a light on their condition.


So, there are two takeaways from studying the higher purposes in A Christmas Carol. First, we see a clear case where the character development of a single character is more important than the lives of all the other characters.

The second takeaway from A Christmas Carol is that higher purposes can be part of even higher purposes. Jacob Marley’s suffering was part of the theme of the book, which was in turn part of Dickens’s larger goal of fighting poverty.

This fits quite well with the Bible. Character development is a relentless theme in scripture. From Abraham, to Jacob, to David, and even to Christ Himself, we see character development emphasized.


All the weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.