Suffering Well…

This is taken from a devotional thought distributed to our church body in regards to the sermon preached on 5/6/12.

Suppose you found yourself with everything you ever wanted. You’re wealthy, in good health and your family is exceedingly blessed. Money is never an issue. If you need something, you buy it…and you get to pay cash. No credit cards, no debt, no banks, no lenders, no collection agencies. Even more, your family is very tight-knit and all your children live nearby…and you get along with them. Suffice it to say, life is good.

Then, in the midst of this good life with everything going your way, there’s a knock at the door. It just so happens that all your children were visiting each other at one of their homes when a tornado struck. The house collapsed and they were killed in an instant. You’ve lost your children and, come to find out, all your wealth was taken in the storm. In a moment, your life is dramatically changed.

You sit, in mourning. What’s going on? Life was good. You were blessed. The people in your town knew you as a spiritual person, faithful and blessed. It was evident that you had favor with the Lord and then, in an instant, it’s all gone. What happened? Perhaps you recognize this story. It’s found in an Old Testament book in the Scriptures, the story of Job.

What’s interesting is the way Job responds to this tragedy. At first, he does what any normal human being would do. He grieves. In that culture, you shave your head. You clothe yourself in sackcloth (a modern-day burlap sack) and you cover yourself from head to toe in ashes. All of this would make it visible to those in your community that you were grieving.

Then, we read that Job begins to worship. “And he [Job] said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked will I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’” (Job 2:21) Over the next 40 chapters, we see Job experience the gamut of emotions. He also finds counsel through some friends who come to comfort him (read: we all need relationships, especially when we’re hurting, to help us find truth, wisdom and comfort. You’re not meant to navigate trials and trouble alone.) He asks questions like, “Where is God?” He yells, screams, whispers, questions and worships. Job walks over the emotional peaks and valleys of grief.

All of this is normal. We all experience it. Every one of us, at some point or another, has been on that high mountain where all is well and life is good. We’ve been there, only to have our world come crashing in around us. Trials and trouble are normal. If you don’t experience them, you must live in a vacuum. Life is not perfect (read: life CAN’T be perfect. Remember, you live in a fallen world. The consequences of sin, both general and individual are all around you.) If you’re not suffering now, you will be in some way or form.

At the end of Job’s suffering, God comes to him and asks about his faith and life. God calls Job on the carpet. He basically says, “Job, you didn’t create this world, I did. Who are you to tell Me how to order it? You don’t control it. These trials and tribulations are meant to make you focus on Me, not on creation. Don’t get caught up in the stuff you can’t control.” (My paraphrase – if you want to read it, check out Job 40-41)

Listen to how Job responds to the Lord,

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

Job says, “God, Your purposes are in everything, in every situation. Forgive me for questioning Your reasons. Your purposes are too high for me to understand. Forgive my unbelief, forgive my doubt.” Then Job says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” God, I thought I knew about you, but these trials have allowed me to see the real You – the One who preserves, comforts, heals and ultimately, the One who restores.

When was the last time you prayed like that? When was the last time you resolved yourself to endure a situation so that the Lord could be strong on your behalf or so He could restore you? God is at work in every situation. He desires to transform you from a person that depends on Creation to a person who depends on the Creator. In every trial, we confess that Christ is better. In every joy, we say that Jesus is far more precious!

Christ is better!

-sb

(Photo courtesy of cabinet magazine – http://www.cabinetmagazine.com)

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This entry was published on May 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm and is filed under experiences, failure, learning, resolve, rest, Scripture, suffering, theology, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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