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Learning Through Suffering

Photo Credit: Mark Shutt Images

February 8, 2023

Praying Friends,

Thank you for praying for our prodigals and for revival. Trials drive us to pray, to turn to God with our needs, our hurts, and our suffering. Not only is He able to meet these needs, but He understands you and has promised to be with you through them.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “The deep meaning of the cross of Christ is that there is no suffering on earth that is not borne by God.”

The next 5 books we’re looking at belong to the poetry genre. We’ll begin with the book of Job, whose events are traditionally understood to be among the first to happen in our Bible.

The book named after the character Job deals with the subject of suffering. Apart from the Son of God, there is no one presently or in history that I know who suffered as much as Job did.

The subject of human suffering and pain has been a mystery and is the subject of endless debate and concern. We ask, why is there suffering? Or, if God is good why does He allow pain and heartache to continue in our world? Or, why do good and innocent people suffer? And, is there a purpose to suffering?

I don’t expect to answer all these deep questions of the human heart, and if anything, the book of Job raises more questions than it answers, but it gives a framework for us to understand some of the reasons there is suffering.

In a general sense, suffering is a result of sin. There was no suffering until sin entered the human family (Romans 5:12). Having said that, God allows suffering to continue in our lives for a variety of reasons.

Suffering produces growth in character. The book opens with an outstanding and glowing review of who Job was. The text says that he is blameless, upright, God-fearing, and avoids evil.

Yet as his suffering increases, you are made aware that Job is far from perfect. After all, he is a human being like ourselves, a man of like passions, and when he is pushed to the limit, his own words betray him. He, too, is a man in progress. And suffering provided that opportunity.

When you come to the New Testament, there are a number of Scriptures that help us understand this. When Paul writes to the Roman believers, he says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:3-5).

The suffering, the trials, the difficulties of our lives are all designed to mold us into women and men more like Jesus.

Suffering reveals what is on the inside. When a silversmith turns up the fire, and the precious metal in the crucible heats up, the impurities float to the surface for removal. The heat allows the dross to be taken away.

One cannot imagine the extent of Job’s suffering. The loss of wealth, health, and family were incredibly tragic. By the time he suffers all this loss, and then the unkind words of his so-called friends, life became unbearable. In his extremity he says, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

In this chapter, he is in the presence of his God. While it is easy to compare and justify ourselves with our peers, when we are with God, we realize how needy we really are. Suffering makes us aware of our inadequacies, our weaknesses, and our sinful tendencies. It exposes reality.

Suffering enables us to see God for who He really is. Job prayed to God. He prayed for his family in Chapter 1. Job talked about God. When you read through his book, you find out all the things he knew about who God is. He even heard from God, but still something was missing.

It took suffering to open Job’s eyes to see God for who He really is. In speaking to God, Job said, “I had heard you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you” (Job 42:5).

He may have seen God in a number of new ways. His holiness, His greatness, His power, His sovereignty, His tenderness, His compassion, and His awesomeness are attributes that Job’s suffering might very well have revealed to him.

He got to know God in a way he never would have without the trial. This, too, was Paul’s great ambition, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).

Lastly, suffering gives us the capacity to help others. Being more compassionate and more understanding are qualities that develop through suffering. After Job was vindicated and exonerated by God, he ended up praying for those who knocked him down.

“Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:8).

We see this in the experience of Christ. In Hebrews 4, the one who sits at God’s right hand is Jesus, the Son of God, who relates to us as a real man. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).

In the same way, Paul 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” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

May God encourage us in our trials to learn from the difficult things God allows us to pass through, and allow them to further the work that God is doing.

Love in Christ,

Bryan and Rachel


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