Summary: One man's attempt to unravel the Scriptural reasons for suffering, especially the suffering of the people of God. Not an easy task.
SUFFERING, per the BIBLE
Another man’s attempt to figure it out…
It’s not as easy as we are led to believe. We get sick and right away someone tells us we are being judged of God. Maybe.
Another person gets sick, and he is told there is no spiritual significance to the illness. Maybe.
Five men have damaged legs. Same leg, same damage. Five different reasons, as I understand Scripture. There may be more.
1. The first man is minding his own business when he is attacked by a violent thief. There is a scuffle, and the thief manages to push the victim over a small cliff. Upon landing he finds his leg is broken. The evil of men is the reason.
2. A man is out enjoying nature near that same cliff. He looks at an over-passing eagle, and likewise falls over the cliff. Breaks his leg. The carelessness of men.
3. The announcement is made of a child born. Father rushes back to the birthplace to be greeted by a grieving mother who has just given birth to a deformed child. One leg will never function properly. Candidate for healing, as the man born blind in Scripture. Or one who will test patience of himself and all who care for him.
4. A crazed shooter questions the faith of a line-up of people. All who are Christ’s are shot in the leg. The cross of Christ.
5. A young rebel is hooked on alcohol and drugs. He gets behind the wheel. He is met by an oncoming car as Junior crosses over into the wrong lane. His leg is mangled. Idiocy. Rebellion.
All these men will suffer. And you, Christian worker, how will you deal with each of them? Certainly not the same. Suffering is not suffering. It’s fruit. It’s education. It’s punishment. It’s sovereignty of God, it’s the cross. None of it should be taken lightly. Discernment must weed out exactly what this particular suffering is about. Sometimes rejoicing is in order, as those who suffered for Jesus in the Philippian jail. Sometimes repentance is the need. Sometimes pure trust. Sometimes patience. Sometimes miraculous faith for a healing.
Not all suffering is equal, by any means. The proper response to your particular form of suffering will bring about the fruit God is after. Does He want you to believe in His power? Does he allow you to share in His own suffering? Does He want you to limp as Jacob did, rest of your life, as a reminder of who is in charge? Does He merely want to take you aside –as Job- and give you a course in His most precious subject, then bless you more than you ever experienced in your life? Is He making you weak so you can be strong?
Ask Him what He wants before you go off in a disappointing direction.
Let’s examine some of the “suffering” passages and people of Scripture. Surely God has not left us without light on this matter.
Everyone’s favorite and most obvious subject is Job. What can we learn from him?
Job is mentioned by two other Bible writers: Ezekiel, and James. Ezekiel – God actually – lists Job with Daniel and Noah as three of God’s favorites. Here is evidence of the fact that we are not studying about a fictional character, but rather a man as real as Noah and Daniel, whose existences are seldom questioned. The other interesting fact to note is that much of the book of Job is about a man who is arguing with God and Life. We get a keen insight into the heart of God, who loved Job no less in the middle of the book than He did at its peaceful beginning and its victorious ending. God allows His children to speak their minds. He does not hesitate to speak His own, either. His relationships with His people are strong enough to endure steamy conversations.
Worthy of note in the James comment is the out-take of James of the story of Job. He says, “You have heard of the patience of Job.” Yes, and that phrase “patience of Job” has become a complimentary description of all people from then until now who know how to endure. But as you are reading the book of Job, it does not seem you are listening to a patient man at all. He is angry. Bitter. Betrayed. Then rebuked for many chapters by the One Who allowed all this turmoil in his life. All we can glean about patience is that the Devil lost the day. For the Enemy had vowed that at one point Job would simply, as his lovely wife suggested, “curse God, and die.”
But that never happened. He cursed his day, the fact of his being alive. He smoked his so-called friends. He lamented the loss of family. But in the midst of it all he knew that his Redeemer would somehow appear and bring victory from all this.