CHRISTIANS CAN BE CONFIDENT THAT INEXPLAINABLE SUFFERING IS REDEEMABLE
Nothing hurts worse than the emotional experience of watching a child suffer . . . “being there” for someone whose loved one has committed suicide . . . holding the hand of a dying person struggling to breathe.
We could go on - telling stories of suffering, wherein just “being there” - in person, or, in thoughts and prayers – was, is, far more powerful than attempts to explain that which is inexplainable. Such suffering must be left “in God’s hands”.
Although suffering is beyond human understanding, it’s okay for God’s people, called by His Name, to humble themselves, to pray, and to seek answers from the LORD God our Maker as we wrestle with issues relative to suffering. Just be sure to do so with receptive minds.
The Book of Job is the story of one righteous man’s struggle with God for an explanation of his suffering. Long story short: Job never received an explanation!
Instead --- The Lord God challenged Job to see himself and his situation in light of Who God Is and What God Does - in order to gain a new perspective on how God works in and through circumstances to accomplish HIs overall objective.
An excerpt from the lengthy dialogue which occurred between Job and God will suffice to give us insight into the challenge God issued to Job --- Job 40:1-8 . . .
God challenged Job to realize that we mortals don’t know enough to fully understand God’s work, nor do we know enough to understand God’s justice.
Humanly speaking, we are good at complaining . . . arguing . . . finding fault. God asks Job: “Will a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?”
This is actually a follow-up question to God’s speech in the previous two chapters (38-39) in which God points to the wonders of His natural creation, then asks Job probing questions (38:4): “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation” and (39:27): “Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high”?
To “contend with the Almighty” means to disrespect God’s sovereignty . . . to disregard God’s authority as if God does not know what He is doing.
Recall one of our studies in connection with the series “Defending Our Faith”? Based on Psalm 19 . . . We concluded that our best defense is to be able to say with certainty: We Rest Our Case on the Sovereignty of God!
By the end of his dialogue with God, Job reached the determination we all need to reach: God is great . . . good . . . to be thanked for His goodness and mercy.
Before arriving at that determination, Job had undergone several moments of truth in which he realized just WHO it was he had been scolding, as if a little voice in his head said: “Job, don’t you realize you are chastening the Lord God Almighty?”
At that moment of realization, it’s as if a light came on in his head and Job blurted out, “Well, shut my mouth!” Have you ever felt that you or someone you were listening to would do everyone a favor if they would just hush?
One of Job’s finest moments occurred next - when he chose to be silent. Silence can be, though not always, golden. Mark Twain once said that he wondered about a certain politician’s ignorance, then the politician opened his mouth and erased all doubt. Sometimes folks need to set aside their differences so that they can just listen and learn!
There’s a much more significant aspect of silence suggested here:
In times of intense suffering caused by great loss, there comes that moment of truth, after all has been said and done, when we simply stop what we are doing, or stop on our way somewhere, and just sit there in silence, in awe of God’s wonderful works of nature as may be depicted in a painting, or, as visualized by a magnificent sunset, or sunrise, or whatever it is in God’s beautiful world that has captured our attention and left us speechless. Therapeutic!
Eventually to Job’s credit he put out of his mind words he had heard as well as his own misgivings about God, to listen and learn. In this case, God stirred up a storm complete with thunder and lightning to get Job’s attention!
As you review life’s experiences: recall who or what got your attention and turned your thoughts toward God . . . spoke to your heart . . . served as perhaps God’s instrument of discipline and healing in your life.
Job came to attention! (Like coming to attention in the presence of a superior Army officer) and was told by sovereign God to get ready to be disciplined like a man!
Up to this point, Job had been demanding answers from God. But now, God became the One asking the questions and Job the one to give answers.
God’s main concern seems to have been Job’s going “over the line” of honest doubt and legitimate questioning to condemn God. Thus, God’s question:
“Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” Job’s exasperation and frustration got the best of him so that he started condemning God to make himself look good. This tactic of tearing down others in order to build up oneself is never advisable - whether it’s someone we do know, don’t know, or (heaven forbid) we go to the extreme of blaming God.
Put the blame where it belongs - on Satan! Although God allows Satan to take away from, test, tempt God’s faithful servants, never lose sight of the fact that, although Satan appeared as the “serpent” in Paradise, the Devil still exists as a “snake in the grass” - rearing its ugly head, wreaking havoc, seeking to invade weak minds with evil ideas to be acted upon.
God confronted Job because Job yielded to Satan’s temptation to play God! Enough was enough! It was time for Job to face up to the fact that, as a mere mortal, he was no more able to exercise divine judgment and justice in the moral realm than he was able to create and control the natural realm! Only God can do that!
Well, Job, what do you have to say for yourself? As the Lord does with all His children, God demanded a mature response from Job – Job 42:1-6 . . .
Job got the audience he wanted, but God did not provide the explanation Job demanded. Sovereign God is not bound to defend Himself or explain His acts. He alone is God and must be recognized as such by His creation. When that truth sank in, Job acknowledged God as sovereign, and humbled himself. So must we!
Once Job saw Who God is, his response was to confess that the LORD is God and has the right and the power to act. God knows more about being God than we do!
God does what He does not only by His will but also by His grace - which means that whatever He does, whatever He allows to happen . . . is - or eventually will be - in the best interests of His creation.
Grace! Grace! God’s Grace! Grace that is greater than all our sins! Grace that is greater than all our suffering! By God’s grace, all our suffering is redeemable! “I reckon that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed!” (Romans 8:18).
In humility Job admitted that he had not known what he was talking about. If - from the beginning of his quest - he had placed his faith in God fully, he would have altered his demands (adjusted his attitude) by making requests - adding the stipulation, “not my will but thine be done”.
What finally won the day for Job was that: he humbled himself before God, confessed the sovereignty of God, repented of his arrogance of “playing God” and he finally submitted himself to the rule and reign of God.
As we face grievous situations that cause suffering of whatever kind, may God help us to realize that the struggles we endure are not always about us, but about God and His purpose and plans for those who love and trust Him.
Yes, we have a past . . . present . . . but thank God we have a future!
God’s purpose has been unfolding for a long time . . . God’s plan continues to be as incredible as ever . . . God’s reproof at times is necessary . . . God’s Way is sure and leads to life everlasting!
One verse in the Book of Job was inscribed on the chalkboard of my mind sixty-four years ago by one of my seminary professors: Job 19:25: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth!”
And today, all these years later, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me – a sinner, condemned, unclean. Oh, How marvelous! Oh, How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!” Amen.