FINDING JOY IN AFFLICTION
A blog series on navigating through the challenges of life with purpose
The Difficulty of An Earthly View
In the past few years, I have watched so many people that I dearly love endure some extremely heartbreaking circumstances. Circumstances that were completely out of their control. I have fervently prayed for relief, for healing, for restoration, or whatever I thought would end the suffering that they were having to fight through at no fault of their own. I wrestled with my Father in moments of prayer and solitude and hoped for an answer to the many “Whys” that I had. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see people that are suffering through something that they nor any other person had any control over; my desire to offer an explanation creeps in. I hope in those moments to offer words or hope that bring them comfort, something that eases their pain, or even something that will make it all better. But the reality is that in life we often endure painful situations that are out of everyone’s control. In these moments, well-intentioned words are often the most misleading and quite often belittling of their pain. Last week we looked at the difficulties that arise when we simply lack complete Faith in God. By complete, I mean total, unconditional, and unwavering Faith. This week we will see that even when we suffer over things that we have no control over, God is always in control. And while our pain and suffering are real, we must strive to keep our hearts set on His promises of eternity spent with Him.
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job 1:1
The book of Job is in the Old Testament. The author and the time that it was written are not totally certain, but it has been guessed that Job is more than likely the author and the book stands as a testimony of the hardships of his life. Here, Job is described as blameless and upright. When I read the verse above, I see a man who followed God, trusted His ways, and most certainly didn’t chase the ways of the wicked. In addition to his character, Job was not only a man of great wealth but impeccable status as well.
“Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So, Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Job 1:9-12
From my perspective, Job had it all. Most importantly, he was devoted to God and walked in His ways. But after that, he was helpful, caring, compassionate, wealthy, of good repour and so much more. God knew it but so did Satan. What we see here is Satan questioning God about the steadfastness of Job’s faith. Satan believed that the only reason that Job was the man of God that he was, was only because of his abundant blessings. God allowed Satan to test Job in the area of his earthly blessings. Through the book of Job, we will see that for the most part, he loses all he has. Through a series of tragic events, Job loses his children, his animals, his servants, and his wealth. Even his health takes a hit when his entire body is consumed with painful sores. Along with the agony that Job was forced to endure, His wife told him that he should just Curse God and die.
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10
Not only is Job suffering, but his wife along with his friends are trying to convince him that He had wronged God in some manner. These four friends are trying to open Job’s eyes to the fact that “good” people are rewarded, and “bad” people are punished. They attempt to lead him down a road of repentance for sins he “must have” committed. All the while, Job stands strong in the fact that he is not in need of repentance. He becomes weary of listening to these “so-called” friends of his and decides to take his complaints and accusations straight to God himself. Job was in want of an explanation –a reason for his suffering. The problem is that his worldly view prevented him from finding a solution. Most often when we try to reason out the cause of our pain on this earth, we simplify God’s magnificent plan.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth. Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” Job 38:4-5
Job demands an answer from God and God came in a whirlwind to speak to him. He begins with a series of questions to help Job see his limited vision of the universe that was created by Himself and not Job. God’s Creation is so complex that our human brains will never be able to grasp it in totality. Job was desperate to find a reason for his suffering; a place I find myself often. I have felt the need so often to offer solutions to people's struggles in hopes that they would be comforted. But sometimes the best way to bring comfort to one’s unfortunate circumstances is simply to point them towards God. In all truth, sometimes there just is no explanation that our earthly brains can understand. God doesn’t ever give Job a definitive answer for his suffering and sometimes that is the case for us too.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Isaiah 43:2
There are reasons for the suffering that is out of our control. Sometimes we are being refined to be more like Christ himself and for others, we are being tested in the efforts to draw us closer to our Maker. But truthfully. If we were to know every single reason for our painful situations, would that reasoning end the suffering? I would say in most cases, No. God never promised His children that if we trusted in Him then He would remove our pain. The verse above does not say "If" it actually says "when". God knew this would would be hard for a variety of reason. And even in all of the pain, we have a constant to look towards and trust.
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42:1-2
Job finally arrived here –the place where He humbled himself before the Almighty and repented of His accusations. He didn’t repent because God gave explanations, reasons, or understanding to the cause of his pain. He repented because God was able to show him that the world that we live in was not designed to be free of suffering, hardships, and trials. And that the only promise that we have is that He is a God that cares for us and that no matter how difficult the path, our comfort is found in Him. It is not found in empty reasons or solutions, but just in trusting that He is exactly who He said He is. I think we must reach a place in life where we say with all humility and trust that God is enough –no matter what.
“But now my eye sees you;” This proclamation for Job is one that I just love. Are you amid suffering, pain, heartbreak, or tragedy today? Are you seeking answers where just maybe there aren’t any? Are you surrounded by people with well-meaning intentions that are offering empty promises and inaccurate statements? If this, is you today, here are some practical tips to help you in these unfortunate moments.
1. I encourage you to look to see what is hindering you from seeing the sovereignty of an almighty God. Pray that God would open your eyes to His truths.
2. Be careful of whose advice you are listening to and who it is that you are allowing to offer reasoning.
3. Spend some time alone with God each day. No motive, no purpose, and no plan. Just rest in quiet with Him. Separate yourself from the busyness and just be.
4. Find fellowship in Christian communities that will point you to Christ repeatedly.
5. Ask yourself this question. Is God enough regardless?
6. And finally my friend, if you are heartbroken and hurting, I'm so very sorry! I don't have the power to take your pain away but I encourage you to turn your eyes to an almighty soverign God who is with you through it all.
Our Bible Reading plan this week will take us throught the book of Job.
If you have questions or things that you don't understand, please email them to me and I will add them to the Q&A section. I can't promise you that I will have all of the answers, but I can promise I will do my best to find them if I don't have them.
Growing in God
Would you like a tool to encourage your growth in God? Check out my newly released 12-month spiritual disciplines book/journal. This journal will give you a brief understanding of 8 tangible spiritual disciplines as well as give you a space to implement these disciplines into your daily walk with God.