Summary: Why? Isn’t that the question most of us ask when we experience suffering? Is there a purpose for suffering? If so, what is it? The answers to those questions are not easy to discover. And many times, when we find the answer, we don’t like what we find.
I’m sure that many of you were doing the same thing that I was doing on Thursday evening. We had finished with the evening session of the pastors conference and I was planning on going back to the room and doing some studying. My laptop had other plans. It crashed. So I turned on the TV to catch up on the news. I’m sure that I was as shocked as you were when I saw what happened at Fort Hood. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was very early in the coverage, so the details were very sketchy. The only thing they knew for sure was that somebody had shot a bunch of soldiers on Fort Hood. The reports were that 12 were dead and several more were injured. I flipped back and forth between several news channels to see if anybody was coming up with any more details. And as I did that, I was amazed at what was going on. Periodically the base leadership was giving press conferences which was the only real source of accurate information any of the media outlets really had. But each network had lots of airtime to fill up. So each of them did something fascinating with all of that airtime. Each of them took their preconceived notion of what was going on, and ran with it. They each had their template, and began to try to wedge the few details they had into that template. One network’s preconceived notion was that soldiers who come back from war are crazy people who are suffering from PTSD. So PTSD and mental health issues were all they talked about. One network was completely opposed to the war. So they turned the whole thing into an excuse to bring all of our poor, unstable, overdeployed troops home. Only one of the channels did so much as even ask the question about whether the guy’s Muslim background might have had anything to do with it. Never mind the fact that any time an abortion clinic is bombed, they immediately begin to call the crazy killer a “fundamentalist Christian.” Why do all the news outlets do that? Because they all have an agenda. Whether you agree with their agenda or not, you can’t argue the fact that they all have an agenda. That agenda shapes the way they cover the news. It shapes the stories they cover. And it shapes their reporting of those stories. But when you know their agenda going in, you know how to watch them. You know what to do with the individual stories. You know how they all fit in to what they’re trying to accomplish. Did you know that God has an agenda too? He created everything and is going to bring everything to the ends that He has determined. And the ends that He has determined will ultimately bring Him the most glory. That means that the ends that God is bringing everything to are good. A good God is actively bringing all things together for good. That is His agenda. When we begin to realize that, it can shape the way we look at all the individual stories of our lives. Even suffering.
The chapter we just read is Job’s first discourse in the book. And when he speaks, he is kicking off the dialogue section of the book. It kicks off a series of rambling back and forth between himself and his three friends. But I want you to notice what he keeps going back to in this chapter. In the midst of his grief and anguish, one thing is foremost in his mind. And that’s a question. He asks it in verse 11. He asks it in verse 12. He asks it in verse 20. And he asks it in verse 23. What’s the question he asks? He asks the same question we ask when we suffer or see suffering. He asks, Why? Notice what Job’s perspective is here. He is telling God that it would have been better if he had never been born. In other words, a greater good would have happened if something other than what had happened, happened. God, I know that you said that you are working all things together for good. But I think greater good would have happened if you had done it another way. So is your idea of good better than God’s? Of course not. But when you’re in the middle of suffering, it’s hard to see the good, isn’t it? It’s hard to figure out how God is going to make your suffering work for good. This week, I heard about a 15-year old young lady. One year younger than Katelyn. It was summer time and the girl walked over to the community swimming pool. Later on, it was getting late, so she started to walk home. Along the way, she was captured and brutally raped. She doesn’t know exactly what happened, because God mercifully blacked that from her mind. But despite the horror of the attack, with the support of her Christian mother, she trusted God. The girl was very naïve and had no idea what was going on with her body over the next several weeks—but she knew something was going on. So she went to the trusted family doctor. The doctor told her she was pregnant and needed to have an abortion. Of course he didn’t use those words. He tried to gloss over it and make it sound like some sort of benign clinical procedure. But that’s what he told her. So here she was… 15 years old, naïve, brutally raped, and now pregnant. She had always been a good girl. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She had a good family. What good could come from all of this? Well, she didn’t listen to the doctor. She trusted God. “God I don’t understand it. None of this makes sense. This is the blackest night imaginable. But I know that you are in control. And I know that somehow, you will work this together for good.” So she had that baby. And I met him on Thursday. And by God’s grace, I hope we can bring him here when his schedule allows. His name is Jason Lovins and his band led worship at the convention this week. And he leads worship in churches all across the country. He writes and plays songs that glorify and magnify Christ and the Lord has saved many people through his ministry. God brought that unimaginably horrible situation together for good. But that’s just the good that, by His grace, we’re able to see. The greatest good is yet to come. And we won’t get to see that till we see it in glory. Revelation 5 gives us a glimpse of the praise that will be going on in heaven. Except that the praise going on in heaven will be going on for eternity. Won’t that be boring? The only reason that it won’t be boring is because of what will be fueling that praise. You see, what will fuel our praise for all eternity, is the fact that we will get to see how God has worked everything together for good. We will get to see how He has worked our suffering together for good. Will we get to see it work together for good while we’re here? Maybe. Maybe not. Job didn’t get to. God gave him some good things in the epilogue at the end of the book. But I don’t care what kind of good things you get, nothing can replace your children. Yes, God gave him more children. But he still never got to see how the loss of his 10 children worked together for good. At least he didn’t in the book. But he does now.