How to respond to pain & suffering
Have you ever experienced what seems like inexplicable pain and suffering? Sadly, we see it all the time. Job’s story in the Bible is one that is filled with epic suffering. When we meet Job, he seems to have it all. (Job 1:1-3). By all accounts, Job was on top of the world! He was a well-liked, genuinely good, God-fearing man, with a beautiful, large family, and a thriving business. All seemed to be right in his world,… until it wasn’t.
Maybe you are in a very dark season of your life… Maybe there is someone close to you who is walking through a tunnel of chaos… Maybe you’ve experienced tremendous pain and suffering in your life and are asking why? To be clear, the last thing we want to do is offer trite, simple answers for a complex question. But, the Bible offers us a tremendous amount of insight and vital life lessons from Job’s story.
Lesson #1 - No matter what suffering we experience in this life, it would be hard to argue ours is greater than Job’s. Now, I know that doesn’t offer much solace when you’re suffering; but Job endured truly epic heartache and loss. The Bible tells us that Satan presented himself before God one day and God asked him what he thought of Job. Satan essentially told God that Job only honored God because God had blessed him. So God gave Satan permission to have his way with Job. (Job 1:9-12).
In a series of tragic events, Job lost nearly everything he had… his business, his livestock, his workers, even his own children, who were all tragically killed. (Job 1:13-19). Job went from seeming to have it all to literally losing it all. What would you have done in that situation?
Lesson #2 - When we experience suffering, we can turn from God and blame Him or we can turn toward God and worship Him. Amazingly, Job did not sin by blaming God for his suffering; instead he worshiped Him! (Job 1:20-22) Many would turn from God in that situation; in fact, many do. That’s not to say, you can’t cry, hurt and grieve when you suffer; but we can do all those things without blaming God or suggesting that God has done anything wrong. Job models for us a resilient, committed faith that is not dependent on circumstances. Satan was wrong about Job. Job loved the Lord and would worship Him in good times and in bad.
Satan was not done with Job; he still hoped to make Job stumble, so he afflicted Job with painful sores from head to toe. Job’s wife wasn’t very supportive or encouraging either, advising him to 9 “…Curse God and die!” Job 2:9. But despite his wife’s terrible advice, Job remained faithful. 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:10. That’s a great question. How do you answer it?
Job’s so-called friends told Job that his suffering was due to his sin, though we were told in Job 1:1 that he was “blameless.” Even in the depths of his epic misery and suffering, Job firmly believed that God would vindicate him.
Lesson #3 - We can trust that God sees and honors our commitment to Him when we are tested. (Job 23:10-12). I am inspired by Job’s faithfulness; how ‘bout you? I think Job was able to stand strong and praise God, even in his darkest days, because he believed God would honor his faithfulness. This is a vital lesson for us!
Lesson #4 - Unless we presume to be greater, more powerful, and more knowing than God, we would be wise to stay quiet and trust Him. As Job walked through his suffering, he asked plenty of questions; but finally God had heard enough and began asking his own questions design to remind Job who he is and Who God is. 2 “Who is this that obscures my plans. with words without knowledge? Job 38:2
Bottom line is, who is Job to question God? And who are we to question God? Do we know more or better than He? (Isaiah 55:8). Finally after dozens of questions from God, Job concludes …
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know. Job 42:2-3
The truth is, we may never know the reason for our suffering. But we do know there is very real evil at work in this world. Satan is real and he wants to cause us to give up on God, to turn from Him, to think God doesn’t love us. That was his goal with Job and that is his goal with us. No one is immune from suffering, Christian or not. (John 16:33). God will redeem our suffering in this life or the next in His heaven.
Lesson #5 - When we endure pain and suffering, we must believe that God can bring good from it. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28. When we are in the darkness of pain and suffering, we can’t see the good; we may even think nothing good could possibly come from it. But we can know and believe that God works for good in all things, including that which causes us pain and suffering. (Job 42:5)
Amazingly, God redeemed Job during his lifetime. 12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. Job 42:12.
How can we respond to what may seem like unexplainable, unfair and unreasonable suffering? Apply these lessons we learn from Job:
Know that there are many, including Job, who have suffered, survived, and later thrived.
Turn toward God and honor Him, even when you may be tempted to blame Him and run from Him.
Trust that God sees your faith when tested and that He will honor that faith.
Believe that God knows what He is doing, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.
Count on God bringing good from even the worst situations.
For much more, including four benefits to suffering, please click here to listen to: Heroes: Job - the Heart Broken Believer. This is a sermon link you may want to share with a friend or family member.