Is Suffering Bad?
“Shall we receive good from God,
and shall we not receive evil?”
(Job 2:10 ESV)
Lord Jesus Christ, I know that true Christian faith and hearty confidence in Your Name is the pure and noble gift of God to those that are obedient to Your word. I thank You that You have also kindled this light in my soul, and granted that even I, though yet in great weakness, with such weak faith, may rest all my trust in You alone. Savior, maintain and increase my faith within me. I do believe: help my unbelief at all times. Let not the bruised reed be broken nor the smoking flax be quenched so long as I live; that I may always embrace You with my whole heart’s confidence, delighting always in the heavenly treasure of Your grace, toward my own peace and comfort, and daily find my joy in You, even to the end. Amen
It’s hard to imagine what Job went through. First his kids and property were taken away from him, then his health. In this pandemic, we are highly concerned with health issues. Some would say overly concerned. Others would say not concerned enough. As parents and teachers wrangle over the issue of sending kids to school in-person or not, it is helpful to have perspective. Statistically there is a greater chance that kids would get hurt in a car accident on the way to school than catching COVID in an in-person classroom. Fear is often bigger than reality! Certainly our prayers and thoughts are with administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students as they prepare for this next school year whatever it may be.
In the case of Job, his health challenge was excruciating. God protects his life so that he does not die, but Job experiences open, infected sores from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. He was already suffering terrible grief, mourning his losses and sitting in ashes (as ancient customs go), and now his body is suffering terrible pain and agony. We are told that “he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.” I can’t imagine. His friends didn’t recognize him. They saw that his grief and pain was so great they said nothing as they sat with him for seven days. When Job finally speaks, he curses the day he was born!
Prior to this, when his infection first broke out, his wife (prompted by Satan) encouraged Job to curse God and die. Yet Job maintained his integrity. He told her she was being foolish. He said strange words to our ears, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
Now before we take a step further, we have to note that God is not capricious, that is, he is not unstable, suddenly and unexpectedly changing his mood or behavior on a whim. Secondly, we must point out that though God was not the one causing Job his pain directly (Satan was Job’s torturer), God did allow it. Job was correct in pointing this out.
But here is where we trip ourselves up. Isn’t God good all the time? Doesn’t God want the best for us? How can God let something like this happen? Or a bigger question that really trips people up…”How can a good God let evil exist in the world?” Are atheists right in saying that God’s silence in areas of justice proves that he doesn’t really exist, or worse, that he isn’t all that good?
Such thoughts betray a very short-sighted and self-centered reality. Judging things on the basis of “What’s in it for me right now?” is one of the great maladies that is infecting the world today; it’s twin sister is “How does this make me feel?” For example, such “it seems right and feels good now” thinking can lead people to become shattered and enslaved to drug and alcohol addictions and many other terrible vices; such thoughts lead us into a trap.
No, God is not interested in short-term feelings. He is interested in what is good and lasts for eternity. Job learned more through his terrible experiences, than what he learned when things were going good. He learned powerful lessons about who God is and what He is up to. God was reshaping Job and deepening his knowledge of greater things, including the nature of God. Such insights have helped guide millions of people since then.
God himself is not averse to suffering pain. The story of Job points forward to the story of Jesus. After all, God allowed his one and only beloved and righteous Son to go through terrible suffering. Why? For very long-term cosmic reasons: that broken, shattered, and sick people would be rescued from sin, death, and the terrors of suffering an eternity in hell.
There are reasons for pain and suffering that are much deeper than what we see on the surface. God is looking at the bigger eternal picture…for our good!
Whatever you are going through right now, I would encourage you to have the attitude of Job. Be willing to accept from God both good and bad; God’s looking at deeper and bigger things than how this makes us feel in the moment. Hang on to him and he will see you through. The cross of Christ is your unfading hope and glory.
Living by the grace of God,
Pastor Langdon Reinke
A thought from C.S. Lewis from God in the Dock:
“All right, Christianity will do you good—a great deal more good than you ever wanted or expected. And the first bit of good it will do you is to hammer into your head (you won’t enjoy that!) the fact that what you have hitherto called “good”—all that about “leading a decent life” and “being kind”—isn’t quite the magnificent and all-important affair you supposed. It will teach you that in fact you can’t be “good” (not for twenty-four hours) on your own moral efforts. And then it will teach you that even if you were, you still wouldn’t have achieved the purpose for which you were created. Mere morality is not the end of life. You were made for something quite different from that. J.S. Mill and Confucius (Socrates was much nearer the reality) simply didn’t know what life is about. The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without Christ, don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that “a decent life” is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable, but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out, and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful and drenched in joy.