As most of you know, I am a pastor at a church which means I study the Bible and teach it on a regular basis. Currently, I am teaching through the book of Hebrews with my Wednesday night Young Adult Ministry, Transit, and I am teaching through the book of Job in my Sunday morning Life Group. I’ve had a traumatic and painful week which has caused me to reflect more on Job, and to dive deeper into its application for me and for you as New Covenant believers on the other side of the cross from Job.
If you haven’t read Job then allow me to give you a brief summary for you to have a basis of understanding for my applications. Job was a wealthy, flourishing, and powerful man; he was also declared by God to be “upright and blameless.” Satan accused Job of only being so “upright and blameless,” because of the gifts God had given to Job, and so Satan asks God for permission to attack Job, and God allowed Satan to do so. Notice from this how it is that Satan is not an equal to God, because Satan had to be granted permission by God to raise a finger against Job; anything that happens in our world is “allowed” by God who is sovereign over any and all things, even if God Himself is not the one who caused what occurs. Sin and its effects have caused our world to be a hopelessly lost and broken place, and even though God does not cause sin or brokenness since he is perfect and holy, God is still sovereign over all the affairs of our world– whether good or bad.
In Job, we find a man who has been attacked in a miserable way, and is wrestling with his trauma as a true worshiper of God. We learn that Job experiences a terrible amount of loss. He loses his wealth, his kids, his notoriety, and even his health. His friends come to “comfort” him, and they bring even more pain to the situation as they thrust their own worldly understanding of suffering onto Job’s situation, even though their worldview didn’t fit! They had no room for innocent suffering, and so therefore, they had no room for the suffering Job was experiencing; I mean it was God Himself who declared Job righteous, and so as readers we know Job’s suffering and pain did not come about as a result of his own sinful choices. The reason this is such a huge problem is of course because Jesus himself experienced terrible suffering and pain as an innocent sufferer. If Job’s friends were right that there was no such thing as suffering innocently, then that means the Gospel can’t be right either! This would mean God is not a gracious and merciful and loving God as defined by the Bible, so Job’s friends were way off.
As I’ve already told you all in my blog post from February 5th, I’m currently experiencing my own relatively fair amount of pain and suffering. I’ve had a really hard week if I’m being completely honest. I don’t write this as a pity party or as a means to make any readers feel sorry for me, I simply admit that my Achilles rupture has left me, not only in a lot of pain, but also in a wrestling match emotionally with what I’m experiencing and what I know to be true of God. So, here are three things I’m learning this week as I study Job and as I experience my own pain and trauma. I hope this helps you all as you experience your own pain and trauma in your own lives.
- I’m learning that only the Gospel can make sense of suffering in our world. Suffering is arbitrary if not brought under the Sovereign Control of God. Also, suffering is merciless and grace-less if understood as Job’s friends understood it, and that is problematic, because then that would not allow for the grace of the Gospel in the lives of believers. If a perfectly holy God is ever going to have grace and mercy on an imperfect sinner then there must be room for innocent suffering, otherwise, you and I could never be in a relationship with God, and we could never enter into heaven, because we are tarnished by original sin. It should be very encouraging to us to know that God chose in His Infinite Wisdom to use what was weak in our world to bring about strength. Christ “humbled himself to the point of death; even death on a cross,” and this is hardly what you would expect from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and yet it is through Christ’s bloodshed, pain, and receiving of God’s wrath against all sin of all time that we are offered the free gift of a relationship with God. Apart from the Gospel of Jesus none of the crap of our world makes any sense at all.
- Our sufferings and even Job’s are rightly understood at the cross. Justice and love meet perfectly at the cross where Jesus shed his blood on behalf of sinners, because “At the cross as Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied. For every sin on Him was laid (to quote the Getty’s).” The only way you and I can have a proper perspective on our present sufferings is to have a proper perspective on the past sufferings of the Son of God.
- A gospel view of suffering then actually sees suffering as an advantage rather than a disadvantage. This is much harder for me in the immediacy of suffering than when things are going well, but this truth is reinforced in me in this past week when things aren’t going well. We grow in being convinced that what the world sees as a disadvantage-suffering and pain-is actually an advantage, because suffering and pain show us how fallen and fallible we truly are, and yet how great and good, and gracious, and merciful, and loving our God truly is. John piper says it like this “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him in the midst of LOSS NOT prosperity.” And I leave you with that thought.