RBY Scott, in his book The Way of Wisdom (New York: MacMillan, 1971, 144-147) offers eight solutions / perspectives to take on the problem of human suffering. These perspectives are based on his analysis of Old Testament wisdom literature in particular.

Here’s Scott’s list:

  1. Retributive — just punishment for sin (Job 4.7-9; 8.20)
  2. Disciplinary — corrective affliction (Deut 8.3; Prov 3.11-12)
  3. Probationary — God’s testing of the heart (Deut 8.2; Job 1.6-12; 2.10)
  4. Temporary or apparent, in comparison with the good (or bad) fortune of others (Job 5.18; 8.20-21; Ps 73)
  5. Inevitable, as a result of the Fall (Job 5.6-7; Ps 14.1-4)
  6. Necessarily mysterious, since God’s character and plan are inscrutable (Job 11.7; 42.3; Eccl 3.11)
  7. Haphazard and morally meaningless, in that time and chance happen to all (Job 21.23, 25-26; Eccl 9.11-12)
  8. Vicarious — one may suffer for another or for the many (Deut 4.21; Ps 106.23; Isa 53.3, 9, 12)

Anything you’d add? Any of them that don’t make sense? Isn’t it interesting how in some sense, we can see Christ taking on each one of these types of suffering during his life, ministry, and death? Even the suffering of the Old Testament anticipates the Messiah!