One of the most talked-about people from the Scriptures when it comes to suffering.
Are you dealing with the loss of a loved one? Job experienced that.
Struggling with a physical or mental ailment? Job struggled, too.
Have you ever experienced so much emotional pain that you’re just too worn to stand anymore? Job did. He was brought to his knees. He hit rock bottom.
The craziest part? The part that no one seems to be able to wrap their minds around?
God let him.
One of the first things we learn about Job, is that he is blameless and upright; “one who feared God and turned away from evil”. The second thing we learn? He is blessed beyond belief, described as the man who is “the greatest of all the people of the east”.
Doesn’t sound like much suffering is happening, right? But take a look at this:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 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 1:6-12 (ESV)
There is a specific question that people seem to ask all the time: “Why does God let innocent/good people suffer?” In this case, Job is the innocent, good person that God has allowed to suffer.
But there is something that we all need to understand about sin, before we start pointing fingers and blaming God for our suffering.
In Romans 3:23, it says that we have all “sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. This verse alone shatters the validity of the above question. None of us are sinless – we all have a sin nature, one that we have inherited from Adam. When we choose to sin, we choose to suffer.
But what about Job? He was upright; righteous. Why would God, in verse 8, literally offer up Job as someone whom Satan could torment and bring suffering upon?
Take a closer look at the above passage. Satan seems to think that if Job experiences pain and suffering, he will curse God. God, however, doesn’t seem to agree. He proves this by offering Job to Satan.
Within the first chapter of Job, we see the servants, livestock, and all of Job’s children die. In the second chapter, we see that Satan attacks Job’s health. At this point, even Job’s own wife is pleading with him to curse God. But Job does not. The rest of Job is filled with chapter after chapter of Job pleading to God, questioning where his hope is, but in the end? We see him confess and repent. And what did God do? He “restored the fortunes of Job”.
This gives us a good picture of what our own lives are like. Though we suffer in this life, and often question God, it is nothing compared to the forgiveness and grace that we consistently receive from God…and furthermore, what awaits us in Heaven.
But I don’t want to leave you with just that. Too many people chalk up our suffering to something that is a) just because of sin, b) temporary, and/or c) “happening for a purpose”. Which may be true to an extent, but rarely do we see it broken down and explained. I want to cover three different ways that suffering is – plot twist – a good thing.
Suffering for the Sake of Us
There are two different aspects to this point.
The first and absolute foremost is something that has drastically changed many lives. And that is, the suffering of Christ.
In 1 Peter 3:18, we see that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…” (ESV)
When we suffer, we often throw our anger and frustration in God’s face. We blame Him, accuse Him, curse Him. But Christ, the righteous, suffered the absolute most for us, the unrighteous. He gave His own life, that we might be brought to the feet of God. He suffered for the sake of us. We need to remember the sacrifice that He made, and the grace that has been given to us, the next time we find ourselves in hardship.
The second aspect is our own growth, through suffering.
Romans 5:3-5 says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV)
Suffering may not seem beneficial when we’re in the thick of it, but I can’t think of a single time I went through a hardship or trial in my life, and didn’t come out having been humbled, or encouraged, or pushed closer to Christ.
Suffering for the Sake of Christ
One common misconception about Christianity, is that it means less suffering and more blessings. Key word here being misconception. But if you were to look in scriptures, you’d see that suffering is expected, and something we’re even told to rejoice in!
Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” (ESV)
One thing I have been challenged by lately is that suffering is not about us. In 2 Corinthians 12, we see that God’s power is actually “made perfect in weakness”. Verse 10 says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NIV)
Suffering is not something that God allows because He is an evil or an unjust God. He does not allow it because it brings Him pleasure. It is because He is made perfect in it, through it. It is because it brings Him glory, which leads me to my final point.
Suffering for the Sake of God’s Glory
1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”
Here’s a question for you: if suffering did not bring God glory, or benefit Him in any way, would He still allow it? I honestly don’t believe He would. But because there is a purpose for it, because there is glory revealed through it, it is something that He allows.
When Job suffered, it probably didn’t make any sense. But at the end of the day, Job remained faithful to the God he knew and feared. And through his suffering, God’s glory – His sovereignty, His love, His grace – was revealed to both Satan, the bringer of suffering, and Job, the one who suffered.
Suffering is inevitable. But we belong to the God who has a higher, greater purpose for it. Trust Him.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (ESV)