Now that winter with its “firm, business-like cold”1 has arrived here in Maine, bare branches open up the landscape for a good view of the horizon, but the sun does little to mitigate the monotonous gray or the hard-as-iron ground under my feet. I’ll admit that most days I take to the basement exercise bike for my morning “walk.” Sometimes our souls do the same, descending into hopelessness, barren as trees in wintertime.
We imagine that nothing is happening and assume God has forgotten us. Job experienced the silence of God in a way that few of us will ever endure, and he railed against God’s wintry silence with ragged protests:
Why is life given to men who find it so bitter?”Job 3:20
Whatever you may be enduring at this moment may tempt you to ask the same question of God. We know, too, that while Job’s story came with a happy ending and the restoration of his losses, there are no such guarantees for the here and now. Given this, how can we take heart from Job’s suffering, and how can we be sure that any of our suffering on this planet has meaning and purpose?
We need look no further than God’s Word for God’s reasons behind the suffering we endure.
There is a Reason for Your Suffering
Elisabeth Elliot searched through her Bible for the answer to Job’s (and our own) questions about God’s purpose behind the hardships we all endure, and has grouped them into four categories2:
- First, we suffer for our own sake that we may learn who God is, to trust, and to obey.
- Second, we suffer for the sake of God’s people to give them courage and to bless others.
- Third, we suffer for the world’s sake that it may be shown what love and obedience mean.
- Fourth, we suffer for Christ’s sake that we may be identified with him in his crucifixion, sharing in his suffering and, ultimately, in his glory.
God is purposeful in his loving intention toward his children, and our suffering reflects that purpose–even when it is not apparent to us. Elisabeth summarizes her four points with a call to take this long view of our present troubles:
Our very suffering may become the substance of sacrifice–a love offering to God and a sacrifice of praise…”A Path Through Suffering, 196
We demonstrate our trust as we allow God to transform our suffering into glory and our doubts into trusting acceptance of his plan for our days.
Do you ever wonder if God has a reason for your suffering? “Our very suffering may become the substance of sacrifice–a love offering to God and a sacrifice of praise…” ~ #ElisabethElliotTweet
And Now a New Resource on Job’s Suffering…
Bill Kynes and Will Kynes are a father/son team who bring to their collaboration the long-game and boots-on-the-ground wisdom of pastoral ministry (Bill) as well as scholarly insights and commentary from the academic world (Will). The book of Job has been a conundrum to Bible readers of every era. Questions abound over authorship and date, but there’s no question about the book’s central message: “We will suffer. You can be sure of it.”
More specifically, Job’s story affirms the uncomfortable truth that there is such a thing as innocent suffering. News reporters and off-the-mark theologians rush either to blame or exonerate God when tragedy hits our newsfeed, but God refuses to explain himself. He even dismisses the meanderings of Job’s friends (self-proclaimed experts on God’s behavior) as insufficient and inaccurate.
In Wrestling with Job, there are no pat answers offered for the thorny questions the book raises. Instead, the reader is encouraged to embrace paradox and submit to God’s sovereignty without cynicism or fatalism. As with Job, our own seasons of suffering reveal what’s in our hearts and serve to clarify the content of our questions. May we, too, find grace to leave behind our own version of “Why” and receive God’s self-revelation as the answer our hearts had been longing for all along.
Holding you in the Light,
In Wrestling with Job, @WillKynes and @BillKynes offer no pat answers for the thorny questions Job raises. May we find grace to leave behind our own “Why” and receive God’s self-revelation as the answer our hearts all long for.Tweet
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Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
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