The message preached at our service last week by Rev Michael Raiter (click here to download) was on wisdom in suffering. He spoke on Job 1. It’s been a little while since I have gone over this passage and it hit me like a train. Here we have a man called Job who was blameless and upright. He feared God and turned from evil. God Himself acknowledged Job as blameless and upright, none comparing to him in all the earth… what a compliment from God! He was a blessed materialistically with much livestock as well as having a large family with seven sons and three daughters.
Yet as we read through this passage, we discover Job was to be inflicted much pain and loss which few have endured. Satan queried Job’s sincerity in honuring God… “Why wouldn’t Job serve you?? You have given him everything from a healthy and big family to much material wealth. I bet if you would allow me to inflict a bit of pain into his life, Job’s devotion to you would come crumbling down.” (my paraphrasing) God knowing Job’s heart decided to allow Satan to inflict harm on Job. He gave Satan full reign apart from taking Job’s life. What was to follow was horrific… all his livestock was destroyed, his sons and daughters killed, he was covered in sores and boils and his wife turned on him saying curse God! In all this Job responded with the following:
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) and “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job 2:10. It goes on to say Job did not sin with his lips despite the hardship he was allowed by God to endure.
What faith! What a heart Job had for God. I struggle to believe I would react that way. I found myself quite nervous and challenged about what I had and whether I would still be content if God chose to take it all away. A very tough thought! This story though raises some challenging, reflective points that may not be consistent with how many Christians view suffering. God in His infinite wisdom and sovereignty effectively determined whether Job suffered or not. Satan needed God’s permission to harm Job. In a sense Satan was God’s instrument of inflicting pain on Job. How can a loving God act like this or allow this to happen??? Surely that is not the God we worship.
There are many challenging sections in the Bible, sections that from our perspective seem like the furthest thing from reflecting a ‘loving’ God. A couple that spring to mind are 1) God commanding and empowering Joshua and the Israelites to storm the land of Canaan, killing the inhabitants and seizing the land for themselves and 2) in Romans 9 where it effectively teaches that God decides who will be saved based on His good will. Both these teachings have created huge obstacles for many Christians who understandably struggle to reconcile this in their minds with their perception of a ‘loving’ God. However, tragically this leads many to not approving of God and according to their own moral values conclude God is unjust and unloving. They then go on to focus on the aspects of God that suits their ‘idea’ of a loving God, thus starting the distorting process of God as depicted in the Bible. What is biblical love… that for another time!
However Job would not have a bar of that. When faced with incredible obstacles and suffering, he simply acknowledged that God can give and God can take away. He is God. That’s His right. It doesn’t matter what we think. We are not God. He is our creator and our Lord. We need to, like Job, trust in God despite the circumstances and suffering that may come our way and rest on the truth that God is good and working in all things to bring glory to His name. We will glorify God most when we are most satisfied in Him. God deserves our praise despite our circumstances.
To finish I want to share a recent tragic time in my life which lead to much suffering. My wife and I last year lost our baby girl, Grace. We found out at 12 weeks that she was significantly deformed and probably would not survive. We chose to trust in God with this situation despite our fear, pain, anguish, anger and confusion and ‘let nature take it’s course’. For the next 7 weeks Grace’s heart continued to beat away – what a soldier! However at week 19 it stopped. Our hearts were broken. The roller coaster of emotions we had experienced had been traumatic! Yet we felt peace and joy from the fact that Grace is with the Lord in His protection care. It would not be ‘goodbye’, but ‘see you later’. For whatever reason God has decided to allow this to happen to Chris, Grace and I, yet we we simply chose to trust in Him knowing that his hand is on our lives. He is our Lord not matter what.
Suffering will come our way, as we live in a fallen and broken world. Instead of getting angry at God, let’s draw close to Him in these times and trust in His sovereign hand. We may not understand why things happen… in fact we don’t have to. Instead let’s like Job have the attitude of “The Lord gave, and the Lord take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” May you always find rest in our Lord’s hand.