What Job 1 Can Teach Us About Suffering

Suffering isn’t something we like to think of. Particularly if you live in a culture where the goal is happiness. In a naturalistic framework, suffering is the ultimate evil–killer of happiness. What does the Bible say about it? Quite a bit.

Lately, I’ve been camped out on two subjects: the problem of evil, and suffering. If you want to take Suffering 101, read the book of Job. That’s where we’ll be today, Job 1, and looking at the lessons from it.

A Philosophical Look At Job

It begins with an introduction to a man so righteous and good that only two other Old Testament characters can compare. Of course, it’s Job. Philosophically speaking, the question is, can you love God for who He is rather than what He’s done for you?

Job proves that you can. However, we learn something about the culture at the time. There were two lines of thinking then.

One is the Great Symbiosis, a line of cultural thought that says you seek favor from a deity or multiple gods by caring for them. Offerings were usually just cooking them dinner, or plying them with gifts.

A good modern day equivalent is talismans or offering something for a favor. How many of us have ‘negotiated’ with God? I have and didn’t keep my end of the bargain.

The second is the Retribution Principle. It simply states the righteous will prosper while the wicked will suffer. Karma follows the same line of thought, someone paying back what they did in a past life. You see calls for it online, “Karma will get them,” or “They’ll get what’s coming to them.”

My question is when they go through hard times, do they consider it to be their bad karma being worked off?

At the core of the Retribution Principle is justice. In a perfect world, it could work. However, we cannot avoid being affected by others’ actions, or our actions affecting others. The fact Job was the most righteous man to have ever lived at that point blew that principle out of the water.

A Personal Look At Job

This is where we turn from the philosophical to the personal. Job wasn’t guilty of anything, yet he suffered. Jesus wasn’t guilty of anything, yet the Son of God suffered. Not all who suffer are guilty of anything.

It’s not always punishment or the natural consequences of a sin. It can be because of this broken world, a personal or satanic attack. Supernatural beings aren’t using us as pawns in an undecided game. We serve an all-powerful, all-knowing God who sees and knows the end result.

Part of that was God the Son coming to earth to suffer and die for us. God knows suffering on more than an intellectual level. Suffering is actually part of the Christian life. 1st Peter is a pretty good book on it.

I don’t know who said it, but they put it like this: to the Christian, joy is at the center with suffering at the periphery. For others it’s reversed, suffering is at the center and joy is at the periphery. How can this be true?

The Christian’s joy comes from a relationship with an unchanging God.

What’s This Mean For Us?

We can’t comprehend the why of it in totality or see how far the ripples will spread. Romans 8:28 tells us God knows and He’s with us working all things–the good and bad–for the good of those who love Him, according to His purposes.

In this light, since I came with nothing, and will leave with nothing I have gotten for myself, I should–as hard as it is–give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Because as Christians, we have our salvation to be thankful for, the good to enjoy, the lessons pain teaches us so we can help others, and can rely more on God.

So cry, and run to the Father, remembering He works all things for your good according to His purposes.

The Lord Is Faithful In Your Struggle

Have you ever felt like an ant in a mean kid’s ant farm? Trouble comes to everyone in this fallen world, even good people. I know a few of them. Pastor Rod preached a sermon on lessons from his own family’s struggles. I pray that it helps you, too.

Troubling Times

Are you facing something now? More trouble could be coming; Satan loves to pile on, hoping to distract you. But remember Jesus’ word’s in John 16:33; “In this world, you will have trouble, take heart! I have overcome the world.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
Lamentations 3:22

He also said that God will use unlikely people in unexpected ways to remind you of His faithfulness. Be ready, and willing to hear. Can you remember that happening?

Faith

cryingHere’s an important point: experiencing emotion isn’t a lack of faith. You can express them, just read Psalms or Job. We’re not robots and can still have faith while wracked with emotion. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…”

I said it myself during our last miscarriage.

You can even take a step of faith during your fear. Find an area to put more trust in God. Rather than allowing a wedge to come between you and God, get closer.

Why?

We wonder why things happen, and unless a natural consequence is evident, we usually don’t know. What we can do is use it. Pastor Rod referenced the verse that that got me involved in leading GriefShare at church.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

 

The principle is God can and will use your trouble to minister to others. He can actually use trouble to protect and position you for His help and blessings when you look in hindsight. Many ministries have come from that principle.

All seven of FirstNLR’s GriefShare leadership team is evidence of it. The leaders in Celebrate Recovery, DivorceCare, our single mom’s ministry, etc. We’ve gone through it, and because of it, we can walk with you rather than just talk to you. I’ve linked to all of them if you need someone to walk with you through your troubles.

When you share your struggles, you can receive the support of God’s people. God has an assignment and purpose for you, even in troubling times. Respond with radical dependence on Him.

We can’t choose what’s happening, but we can choose our outlook.

The Lord is Faithful

Pastor Rod’s outlook is God knows, and He is faithful.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 

If you want to see the sermon of Pastor Rod and Cindy’s cancer journey, you can watch at http://subsplash.com/firstnlr/v/bkax35p

The Making Or Breaking of Faith

It has been an emotional rollercoaster since we lost Squiggles. Even when we have a good day, our emotions ambush us. Crying “it hurts”, as tears stream into the pillow as I fall asleep. Times like this are the proving grounds for our faith.

The Proving Ground

This thought chased me for two weeks. It started in class while studying Philippians, noting Paul’s attitude in prison. A story from experience came up, and the advice that was given to one person was, ‘your actions now will either invalidate, or validate, everything you’ve taught the last few months.

It reminded me of Dr. Tripp’s quote in a GriefShare video on whether you Sunday theology matches your Tuesday theology. Between the two, I had some thinking to do.

I thought of Job when Satan told God it’s easy to follow someone in the good and easy times. Isn’t there some truth to that? Think of fair weather friends and bandwagon fans. It’s when it gets hard that your integrity is proved.

I Surrender

At a bit of a loss, I would sing two songs, every day. They were my prayer.

What To Do?

The next Sunday in class, this verse hit me right between the eyes.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:27a

Whatever happens, good or bad. Why is that even important? That answer came an hour later in service. On my outline:

In my darkest hour, my testimony is revealed. Other people are watching to see how I react to difficulty.

It hit home. My life as a Christ-Follower began after a tragedy, and is now being proved in loss. People desperately want something or someone to trust in, and when they see it, they want to know how can continue under the circumstances.

An Opportunity To Grow

You can grow from this, and aren’t alone in it. My friend, Daisy, opened up a GriefShare session talking about ‘walking through the valley of the shadow of death’. Through it, not staying in it. That’s the 23rd Psalm, and in the same sentence is, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

It doesn’t feel good right now. I’m remembering that Christianity is about a Savior and Lord who suffered. Jesus can more than identify with us.

Paul and James wrote about what can come of it.

 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Romans 5:3-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

What word appeared both times?

Perseverance. Suffering strengthens and toughens us, building character and maturity. Hope develops.

How?

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Take an eternal perspective. We assume we’ll get about 80 years, and hate anything that makes it more difficult. It messes with our limited time frame until it’s permanent lights out.

That perspective does mess up our happiness. On top of that, you’re not even guaranteed tomorrow. Let that sink in.

However, what if that 80 years is part of an eternal life? That is less than a split-second of pain in light of joy forever. It doesn’t compare.

It Sucks, But Not Forever

Yes, this sucks. I’ve seen five people I know die this year. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Until then, follow this passage:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5