Summary: This is our fourth and final look at suffering in the book of Job—and today we’re going to get personal. We’re going to talk about how to deal with it when we are the ones who are suffering. How can we suffer well?
Horatio Spafford was a very wealthy man. He was a very well-known lawyer in Chicago. He had a beautiful Scandinavian wife named Anna and they had a son and four daughters. Even though Horatio was a lawyer, he made most of his money as a real estate investor. By the late 1800s, he owned much of Chicago’s most valuable real estate. But then tragedy struck. Horatio and Anna’s son contracted scarlet fever and died. I have never lost a child, and I can’t even imagine the grief that would come with it. Horatio, Anna and the girls were devastated. Then, just a couple of years later, on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire swept through the city. Horatio and Anna and the girls watched nearly everything they had go up in smoke. Still devastated by the loss of their son, the fire sent them into an emotional tailspin. Horatio was frantically working to rebuild his family’s income and Anna and the girls were working to keep things together at home. They were all depressed and overworked on top of it. After two years of that kind of emotional deterioration, Horatio’s good friend D.L. Moody noticed and suggested that they take a vacation. Of course, Moody was a great evangelist and was preaching a series of meetings in England. He suggested that the Spafford family come and join him while he was over there. Horatio had a few loose ends to tie up before he could go, so he sent his wife and daughters on ahead—he would catch up with them in a few days. 136 years ago last Sunday, while crossing the Atlantic, the steamship Ville du Havre was struck by an iron sailing vessel. 226 people drowned, including Little Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tannetta Spafford. Anna was one of the few survivors. When she arrived in England, she sent Horatio a telegram with only two words—“saved alone”. He immediately booked passage on the next available ship to England. That ship followed the exact same route as the Ville du Havre. The ship’s captain told Horatio as it passed over the scene where his four daughters had died. At that moment, he went back to his cabin and wrote the words you will find on page 410 in your hymn book. Take out your hymn book and turn to page 410. Follow along as I read.
We would hope that things would have gotten better for the Spaffords, but they didn’t. In the years following the tragedy of the shipwreck, they had three more children—two girls and a boy. In 1880, little Horatio died of pneumonia at the age of four. But through all of that, the Spaffords never lost their faith. They struggled. They questioned. But they held fast to the belief that, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” Just a year and a half after little Horatio died, the family moved from Chicago to Jerusalem and started a Christian community there. It grew into a tremendous mercy ministry that helped the local people through difficult times of famine and even up through WWI. Hundreds of thousands of lives were saved and I’m sure that countless souls were saved through their ministry. Let alone the countless lives that are touched by that wonderful hymn. All of which were born out of the terrible womb of suffering. Over the past three weeks we have been looking at suffering. First, we looked at some of the foundational, doctrinal issues as we looked at the Source of Suffering and the Purpose in Suffering. Then Sunday before last, we looked at how to apply those things when we see others around us suffering. Tonight, we’re going to get personal. Tonight we’re going to bring it all home. Tonight we’re going to talk about how to deal with it when we are the ones who are suffering. And we’re going to do that by talking about five things you need to see when you are suffering. The first thing you need to see is your Savior. You need to see your Savior for who He is. Look back at verses 1-2:
You need to see your Savior for who He is. Notice that I didn’t say, for what He’s done. Because when you’re in the middle of terrible suffering, sometimes that can be hard to see. After Job lost all of his financial well-being, it would be hard to count his blessings. After he lost all of his children, it would be hard to count his blessings. After he lost his health and the emotional support of his wife and friends, it would be hard to count his blessings. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar gave some really bad counsel, but at least they never told Job to overlook his situation and count his blessings. The Bible spends a lot of time talking about the things that God does. But it spends a whole lot more time talking about who He is. And even when the Bible talks about the things God does, the focus is always pointing to who He is. And how wonderful that is. Because, when we are suffering, most of the time, we can’t see beyond our immediate circumstances. They block our view to other blessings we have in our lives. But when we truly understand the Gospel, no matter how big our suffering might be, it can never block our view of WHO Jesus is. Job had just gotten four chapter’s worth of earful from God about who He is. He spoke of His hand in all of the things that Job could see and couldn’t understand. He spoke of His creation and guidance of everything from stars and galaxies to crazy ostriches that nobody can really understand their behavior. And as God was reviewing all of that stuff before Job, Job came to one conclusion—you’re God. Verse 2: You can do everything. And you know everything. God you are in control. I don’t have to understand it. I just have to trust it. And I can trust it, because I can trust You. Remember that Job had done that early on before he got off track. In 1:21, he cast himself on the sovereignty of God. He said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” And then later on in 2:10, he did the same thing. He told his wife, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” We’ve talked about this before, but I want you to notice something again. In both those cases, who is Job saying caused His suffering? He’s saying that God did. He said, “the Lord gave and the Lord took away.” He said, “shall we receive good things from God and not bad things from Him.” And in both of those cases, Scripture makes it clear that Job didn’t sin in the words that he said. In other words, he didn’t falsely accuse God of being in complete control. He got that right. When you are going through a time of suffering, see your Savior for who He is. He is in control. Don’t try to “rescue” Him by blaming your suffering on something else. He is in control. Your suffering hasn’t caught Him by surprise. Somehow, someway, it is all part of His infinite plan. And because God is in complete control, you can know that somehow, someway He will work it all together for good. Because that’s what He’s promised. When you are suffering, you need to see your Savior for who He is. You also need to see your suffering for what it is. Look at verse 3: