Summary: We, like Job, experience times of suffering. The way to deal with suffering is not to look for our own inner strength but to rely on God’s mercy found only in Jesus, our Redeemer.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God through which the Holy Spirit touches our hearts this morning are the words spoke by Job recorded in Job 7:1-7
“Does not man have hard service on earth? Are not his days like those of a hired man? Like a slave longing for the evening shadows, or a hired man waiting eagerly for his wages, so I have been alloted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me. When I lie down I think, ’How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss till dawn. My body is clothed with worms and scabs, my skin is broken and festering.”
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to and end without hope. Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again.” (NIV) – This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends who find comfort in Christ,
The name Job may be familiar to people, even if they weren’t brought up in church. His name has become proverbial for patience in suffering. We have the expression: “So-and-so is as patient as Job.” Yet if you read the book of Job, you soon realize that he was no superman. Suffering did not bounce off of him, like bullets bouncing off the man of steal. Yes, Job was a man of faith and we see much in his patience to imitate. But Job was also a sinful human being. He dealt with the same inner struggles that we do and at times his words flow from his sinful nature so that he challenges why God would do this to him.
Today we want to see how we are like Job and how by God’s mercy we can deal with suffering. So the theme today is: How to Deal with Suffering. But before we can see where the real answer is, we first of all need to see where it isn’t.
1) We don’t have the strength
The real answer is not found in ourselves. That thought goes contrary to worldly wisdom. So much of our culture from TV’s Oprah Winfrey to self-help books like Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking ask you to find the inner strength within yourself. They may talk about seeking help from others, but the reason to do that, they say, is so that others can help you visualize or realize the inner strength you already have.
Even a lot of our common expressions point us to our own strength. Consider expressions like: “Keep a stiff upper lip.” “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” “Just grin and bear it.” or “Just grit your teeth and bear it.” Although we might use these phrase to tell someone that complaining about suffering isn’t helpful, these phrases aren’t helpful advise either. They point us to the wrong place.
Job knew that he had no inner strength left to grit his teeth and bear it. Did you feel the helplessness in his words as the text was read? “My eyes will never see happiness again.”
What had brought Job to this point of helplessness and hopelessness? At first Job had been richly blessed by the Lord. He was blessed with great wealth and with a loving family. But the Lord took that all away in one day. Job’s wealth of oxen and donkeys, sheep and camels were destroyed or stolen. All his children were killed that same day when a wind collapsed the house they were in. Did Job rely on his inner strength to get him through this? Not at all! He said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20).
But things went from bad to worse. Job lost his health. His body was covered with painful sores. Even his wife told him, “Curse God, and die.” But once again Job did not focus on his own strength. He replied, “Should we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:9, 10)
As Job sits in misery, three friends come to comfort him. At first they are so struck by Job’s suffering they don’t know what to say. When they finally do speak, they try to convince Job that this must be happening to him because of some horrendous sin he had done. Their words only tortured Job more.
Job expresses his pain with very vivid words. If we think about them, we can almost imagine these sentences as snapshots of Job’s suffering. And when we look more closely at these picture, we can see ourselves in some of them too. For we, too, have times of suffering. We, too, need to know how to deal with it.