Job 1:20-22 says, “Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.’ Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.”
When you’re close to pain, it’s tough to see what God is doing. When you’re suffering it’s tough to trust Him when you can’t see Him. When we are suffering we often ask, is God good and is He in control? Does He care and does He have the power to help me?
The answer is the cross. When you look at the cross it’s a reminder that God allowed His innocent Son to suffer on our behalf, yet God was in control and He also cared because His death paid our fine, and His resurrection made us alive! He did that because He loves us.
When going through suffering we also tend to think that this pain is meaningless. We often cry out for an explanation, but an explanation can’t meet our need for hope. Only trusting in Christ gives us hope. If God gave us an explanation we would trust the explanation instead of trusting Him.
The question we should ask isn’t why, but Who? If God is in charge, and if God is good, than His grace is sufficient. His grace is sufficient even in our weakness. And knowing His grace is more important than us knowing comfort.
Psalm 63:3 says, “My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life.” We think that the only time we can praise God is when things are going well. But Job praised God even when he lost everything. He did that because he knew that even when we suffer, God is still in control and He’s still good. Again, remember the cross.
Job said in Job 13:15, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.” Job’s hope wasn’t in “his life.” His hope was in God who is Life! So what robs us of peace and hope during our suffering is idolatry. A lack of peace and hope is the result of trusting in something or someone rather than God. For me that is self. I’m too self-reliant.
My flesh often wants the glory. It wants to make a name for myself. I often commit the sin of looking out for number one. Instead of making life all about Christ, I make it all about me.
And when I find myself angry or bitter or discouraged or with a lack of peace or joy or hope, it’s all due to clinging to something or someone more than clinging to Christ! I’m clinging to fool’s gold rather than clinging to the King!
The Apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 1:8-11, “For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in Asia: (notice these words that I made bold): we were completely overwhelmed – beyond our strength – so that we even despaired of life. (that’s fear and depression).
Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. (that’s relying on God’s power instead of our own). He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. (that’s the Gospel). We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers.” (that’s faith in Him).
Is that a great verse or what?! Read that again, slowly. So the problem is sin, fear, unbelief, anger, depression, bitterness, etc. The solution is to rely on God’s power which is brought about through the Gospel, through Jesus and His great mercy toward sinners like us, and our part is to believe it. To trust in Him.
God obviously allowed Job to suffer, He allowed Joseph to suffer, He allowed Paul to suffer, He allowed Peter to suffer, and He allowed His own perfect Son to suffer. Why? For His glory and our good!
God is not the author of evil but He does allow it for His good purpose. We often don’t understand why we suffer, but the reality is we don’t need to understand. What we need is to trust the Savior.
Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” And Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”
Getting an explanation for our suffering is irrelevant. Even the circumstances of our suffering is irrelevant. What matters is Who I cling to? Who am I trusting? It may seem like God is trying to kill us, but the reality is He is saving us!
The disciples thought all their hopes were destroyed when Jesus died, when in fact, His death brought us life! He died so we can live! He who was holy was treated like a sinner, so that I, the real sinner, could be set free!
God often doesn’t give us an explanation for our suffering, but He does give us something better – Himself! He gives us Himself through the Gospel. He came to rescue us and redeem us.
As you know, we live in a sinful fallen world. We’re all messed up, but when we cry out to God for grace we are living by faith. When we live by faith that pleases the Lord.
Our faith is in the fact that God is good and He does care and He does have the power to accomplish His purpose. Our faith is in the fact that one day God will right every wrong and He will put this broken world back together again!
Jesus doesn’t sit back and do nothing while we suffer. He is working out His perfect plan. He is making you and me what we ought to be. He is growing us to be more like His Son. He is teaching us to rely on Him and not on ourselves.
We are weak and that’s good because if we were strong then we wouldn’t look to God for rescue. 2 Cor. 4:7-10 says, “Now we have this treasure (the treasure is the Gospel) in jars of clay, (weak vessels – that’s us. The more humble we are the more wonderful He looks), so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. (He gets all the glory, for He alone is worthy)!
We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. (We suffer, but God is still good. Life is hard, but He still showers us with His grace).
We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (we become a living sacrifice and witness unto the Lord so a watching world would see how awesome our God is)!
The God of the Bible is the one true God, but of all the gods, our God is the only one who suffers for our behalf! God isn’t distant in our pain. He understands our pain, but He’ll use it to bring us closer to Him.
Tullian Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson said, “If you’re suffering, or angry, or bitter, or joyless, it means you idolize whatever it is you’re losing.”
In other words, if our response to suffering isn’t faith but fear, it’s because we are holding on to something or someone more tightly than we are to God.
This brings me back to Job. Notice Job lost everything, yet he fell to the ground and worshipped God. Sure Job was in deep grief. Sure he was human and felt pain. Sure he didn’t like his circumstances, but notice what his foundation was.
It wasn’t his possessions, or his family, or himself, it was God. If my hope and happiness is in this world, then when I lose something of this world, I get angry. I get bitter.
But if my hope and joy is in God, then suffering actually takes me deeper into knowing God. Suffering can take me deeper into knowing that God is good all the time, knowing that He is in control all the time, knowing that He cares and has the power to deliver me, and knowing that His grace is sufficient.
I’m not going to know that on any level if my life was like a bed of roses. For God to purify me or refine me, He has to scrap off the rough edges. I actually grow more through suffering than if I had a good day every day.
It’s not that God likes to see us in pain, but He knows how to rescue us. Paul said in Philippians 3:10-11, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
God will use suffering to draw us closer to Him. If we respond to suffering with bitterness and anger than that reveals our idol. It reveals our god. It shows that we’re trusting in and loving something else rather than Him.
But if we respond to suffering the way Job did, (he worshipped, he didn’t blame God, he trusted God), then our hope isn’t in anything of this world, but in God alone!
Job endured because he understood God’s grace. He knew that everything he had was on loan from God. God owned the title of everything in his life. He only had what he had because of grace. He didn’t deserve any of it.
He didn’t think, “I deserve better! I deserve more!” Instead he thought, “I’m not entitled to anything.” His identity wasn’t in anything of this world; his identity was in God’s love and grace for him.
Job was free. When you live by faith, you’re free. When you live by grace you’re free. But when you live in fear you’re a slave to sin. Your idol is in this world.
So when you suffer, you will either surrender to God and be free, or you will sin and be a slave. I’m free when I believe Jesus is all I need. Everything we need is found in Jesus Christ.
If I live as if I need the things of this world, then that will lead to more despair, more sin, and more unbelief. But if my life is built on God and His grace as shown through the Gospel, then when suffering comes and I lose those things which are precious to me, if God takes away my idols, I can say like Job, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
It’s His grace alone that will help us get through difficulties. His grace is sufficient. He will never leave us nor forsake us. It’s His promise. Rom. 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”
What a comfort to know that our God is alive, our God set us free, our God has inexhaustible grace, our God is with us in our suffering, our God is in control, our God cares, our God is good all the time, our God has all powerful and all wisdom, and our God loves us with an everlasting love!
Now we can live this life not free from pain, but free in pain. Freedom and suffering can go together. Joy and pain can link arms. Confusion and hope can walk side by side. We can know Peace in the midst of the storm. But one day God will erase suffering, pain, and confusion from the equation. Think about that.
Love, Pastor Doug