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Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Message for the Suffering

My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You…  Job 42:5

These artful words have lingered in my soul for years.  Spoken by a man long ago, they tell of one who moved from one type of knowing to another…from hearing about to seeing…from knowing facts to experiencing. 

This is the reason I read the book of Job. 

From the beginning of the book, when God Himself describes Job as “a good man,” to the end where Job repents and acknowledges this new intimacy with the Lord, what was one thing that caused this deepening of faith?

Suffering.

Because in spite of the questions the book raises, in spite of my fears that God is preparing me for suffering if I read it, and in spite of my desire to only read joyful words from God, I can’t get over what happened inside of Job when everything outside of Job went to crap. 

The thing about suffering that we’re afraid to voice in some circles is suffering sucks.  In a world that chases comfort and thrill, talking about suffering and loss is avoided and seems extremely out of date.  Suffering is painful and inconvenient—it stops us in our tracks and often there is not one thing we can do about it. 

 Suffering is not relative.  When in distress or pain, I can’t look to someone in worse pain and think, “ok, nevermind, I feel ok now.”  Looking at fellow sufferers, I often commiserate: “yep, you and me both, sister” or I let the guilt-inducing “shoulds” take over: “I should be happy, I should have faith big enough to get over it…”   

The root word of suffering means “to bear from below.” So how do we “bear” what oftentimes feels like the world’s weight, what helps us bear the suffering?  

Knowing who God is and clinging to His truth that is still true even when the feelings are absent.

Knowing that it’s temporary.  This may mean that it is a short-lived burden or that it is only short-lived in light of eternity. 

Knowing that it’s purposeful—God uses suffering to draw us near, to humble, to expose, and to bring Himself glory.

Knowing that my struggle has an eternal significance and is an opportunity to glorify God.   
Knowing that my strength and peace will run out sooner than I expect but that the strength and peace that God supplies will not.  This is one of the beautiful and painful lessons of suffering: the practical “how to” of leaning on the Lord and not on ourselves. 

Knowing that it’s necessary—there are truths about God and about ourselves that we only learn when we suffer.  While we’re in physical or emotional pain or distress we may feel alone, but if we lean in, we’ll experience a nearness to God that satisfies even our deepest longing.  

And yet, we suffer on. And we love a God who allows suffering.  And we follow a Savior who suffered...not so we would never suffer, but so our suffering would be temporary and so we would know Him who redeems all things, yes even me.

Job’s intimacy with God was not the original purpose given at the beginning of the book.  The purpose of his suffering was the glory of God.  God’s honor was at stake and intimacy with Him was a result. 

When God’s glory is the goal and focus, intimacy follows.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

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