Why Suffering?

Through my daily Bible study, I am spending time in the Old Testament book of Job and I’m about one-third of the way through the book. Today, I have some observations from that study to share. The book is challenging, and at times somewhat frustrating, especially since we, the readers, know that there’s things going on in the spiritual realm to which Job and his friends are not privy. 

In the course of one day, Job, the richest of the rich in his time, loses all of his possessions, his herd, and his 10 children. Then Job’s health is taken from him. The rest of the book deals with Job and Job’s friends trying to make sense of this calamity. 

At first Job’s friends get it right. When their friend faces unthinkable calamity and devastation, they drop what they are doing and they run to Job. They spend seven days with Job, they cry, they lament, and they sit by his side in silence. Can you imagine someone sitting with you for seven straight days in silence? I couldn’t last seven hours in silence with my suffering friend, probably not even seven minutes! 

But then Job’s three friends open their mouths to offer their wisdom and understanding. And, with these actions, these speeches, on their part they pretty much wipe out all the good that they did with Job for seven straight days. Their wisdom and understanding come from their worldview and from what we as humans see, feel, touch, and experience. Their overarching wrong conclusions over simplifies a situation about which they know nothing. They wrongly concluded that God punishes the wicked, Job must therefore be wicked, and if Job would simply confess his sins, it would all go away. Job’s friends believed that to earn the favor of God, you have to do things. Confess, repent and it will all go away. And, Job because you haven’t repented for what must be a rather big, obvious sin, God is punishing you. Their human view is based upon our world, but there’s another whole world out there that we cannot see, let alone understand. We as Christians know that you cannot earn God’s favor. Job’s friends are indicating that you get into a relationship, and maintain that relationship, with God through works. We know that God is pure and holy, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that we can ever do that even begins to approach God’s purity and holiness. We can’t because each of us are flawed and each of us sin. 

Krista Williams, Proverbs 31 Ministry, reminds us that there are other reasons why suffering can happen:

– 1. Spiritual Warfare – Satan prowls the earth like a hungry lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan loves to put a target on our backs so that our actions will discredit Christians and reflect poorly on God. Fortunately God knows this about Satan, and Jesus tells Peter that he’s prayed for Peter to have strength (Luke 22:31-32). In the midst of someone’s suffering, pause and pray right there, take their suffering to Christ. Jesus identifies with our human suffering as he suffered more than most any other people would never experience. 
– 2. Waiting Time – It takes time to work through a situation, I don’t know anyone that has experienced some sort of calamity and it is over right away. Every time I’ve had a problem situation, upon emerging from the wilderness experience, I can see God’s hand orchestrating things in place. Reflection causes me significant understanding, and growth in my relationship with God. Since we don’t know what God is teaching us through our experience, we will never know God’s timing for bringing us through our problem. 
– 3. Innocent People Do Suffer – It’s probably the hardest thing for us to understand when we see truly innocent people who are suffering. It’s especially so when those who are suffering are children. Based on what we see going on in the world, we all see that at times it appears as if evil people are rewarded for their behavior, and good people face problems. Bad things happen to good people, through no fault of their own, including God’s children. 

One thing that I’ve learned, is that with any calamity that I’ve been in, my suffering will end. And, when I suffer I may get comfort from others that God sends my way, but my utmost comfort always comes from the ultimate source of comfort – God. I know in my mind that I should never ever, turn away from God during the trials. While it’s always important to be connected with God, it’s even more important when I’m going through times of trouble. I just hope that I can remember these things the next time I face a difficult situation!

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, ESV)

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