Over the last few weeks I have been reading the book of Job. As I’ve read through it, I’ve been impacted by Job’s pain as one tragedy follows another. As his ten children die, along with his servants and livestock, his pain is all consuming. As he protests his innocence, his so called friends arrogantly conclude that it must be his sin that has brought ruin upon his whole household. Job is judged by his friends and treated accordingly. His misery is compounded even more as his health is taken and dreadful debilitating sores break out all over his body. Job’s suffering was great and his isolation too painful for words, and there was no comfort to be found anywhere.
God was aware of every aspect of Job’s suffering.
Job never understood why God allowed his suffering and he must have felt forgotten by God as he languished in his misery, but God was aware of every word that was uttered, and every forlorn emotion that Job experienced.
not one moment of our pain is hidden from God.
In his distress and pain, Job’s so called friends judged him. Job needed his friends to listen and then show him compassion and love, but all they did was compound his misery and heighten his pain as their “wise” counsel hurt and distressed him. God seemed far off, but he wasn’t. God was aware of every wrong accusation against Job which would eventually come to light.
God’s ways aren’t our ways. When it’s dark we need to trust him.
We may not understand why God allows suffering, and as we see from Job’s experience, God doesn’t owe us any explanations. Job was oblivious to the conversations which were taking place in the heavenly realms. He was completely unaware that he was the topic of conversation between God and Satan, he was also unaware that his response to suffering would silence Satan and bring honour to God. Satan says to God:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
Job clung onto God as he is stripped of everything, and says:
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
Job didn’t lose his faith. He hunkered down and trusted God. In all our suffering we are called to do the same. Like Job, we have no right to know why God allows us to feel such utter abandonment and pain, but in it, he is working out his plans and purposes for our good and for his glory, and he will give us grace to endure and shine for him through it.
Job clung onto God as everything turned against him, and trusted him as death loomed. As he faced a miserable end he said:
“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”
God brings our impurities to the surface through suffering.
Job wasn’t sinless in his suffering and God addresses it. Suffering brings our hidden impurities to the surface. As we grapple with self pity and resentment, hurt and revenge, God reveals our hearts before him. As we look upon those who have hurt us and silently judge them, God reveals the truth of our hearts to us. We disobey God in so many ways when we aren’t joyful, or thankful. We disobey God when we refuse to find contentment in the situation he has placed us in.
Job’s response to suffering points us to Christ
Suffering always points us to Christ. As Jesus suffered in darkness, despised and rejected, alone and forsaken, he obeyed and did his father’s will. As we hunker down in the darkness, God understands our pain and isolation, he sees when we are misunderstood and wrongly judged, and He will give us grace to honour him in each trial if we draw on his mercy. As we look to Jesus who went before and suffered without sinning, we have this confidence: God turned his back upon his Son and left him utterly forsaken so that we will never be. As we suffer, God is with us. In our darkness there is always light. In our pain there is always comfort. In our loneliness and isolation there is a knowledge of injustice and hurt and an understanding that God will deal with it. Whether on earth or in heaven we know this: every deed good or bad will come to light in God’s spotlight. God uses suffering for our good, even when it feels like the opposite is true. Suffering is an opportunity to grow, but how impossible that is without God’s grace and help covering us.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”