“How long will you torture me? How long will you try to crush me with your words?…”
If I had to write a short synopsis of today’s reading it would sound something like: Job complains, Zophar responds with self-righteousness and then Job complains again. I must admit that I have a difficult time with the Book of Job and no matter how many commentaries I read or how hard I try to “wrap my head” around the verses there are times that my thoughts become cold. Why do my thoughts become cold? Could it possibly be because I get exhasuted listening to the back and forth banter and want all the parties to hear what the other is saying? Or is it because suffering strikes a nerve in me, a nerve that touches those deep-rooted feelings of ‘what if’ this happens to me? As Christians we can all embrace the spirit of Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” Those are powerful words with a powerful meaning but when we are in the “thick” of being tested or suffering sometimes our human emotions override the trust that we should have in God’s truths. Am I like Job who complains or do I suffer in silence accepting that although it may not occur overnight that there will be lessons and joy gained from our sufferings.
John MacArthur, Jr. wrote a book entitled The Power of Suffering in 1995 that I read several years ago which challenged my thoughts on suffering and I thought that I would share his concepts on joy as it relates to suffering.
- Suffering produces fresh joy – When we suffer we crave our eternal inheritance which is joy. Sometimes during our periods of darkness we choose to focus only on the negatives of the circumstances and the dark moments that surround them. In 1 Peter 1:3-7 Peter says, it is”reserved” in heaven for us, so instead of choosing darkness we can choose to remind ourselves of the reservation made by God, “purchased by Jesus Christ, and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.”
- Trials and suffering prove our faith – Just as in Job, when we persevere through periods of suffering, God affirms to us “the strength of our saving faith.”
- Spiritual growth is enhanced in our suffering – I can say it no better than what is promised us in James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
- Suffering produces true comfort – Because of our suffering we experience the supreme comfort that can only be provided by our Heavenly Father. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” It is only through our suffering that we can comfort others.
- Suffering brings about greater wisdom – In our suffering we seek out God for wisdom bringing about a greater dependence on God. This dependence is synonymous with prayer.
- Suffering brings with it great humility – Suffering knows no bounds, it does not discriminate based on wealth or status in life. “The humiliation of suffering and trials will also remind us that earthly riches are temporary; they fade away like grass.”
I leave you with the words of William Cowper (1774) as he ministered to John Newton:
God Moves in a Mysterious Way
1 God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm
4 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
5 His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r
6 Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.