Friday, September 25, 2009


Usually when I think of the word "suffering" I think of someone who is going through horrible health issues, a loss of a family member, or some other equally life altering situation. I often feel like the frustrations I go through don't really qualify as suffering. But no matter what you call the trials you are going through, it's still hard to bear at times. As most Christians do when they face a period of suffering, I decided to start reading Job along with a psalm this morning. I really liked the passage I found in the introduction to the book of Job in my NIV study bible.

This is how it summarizes the presentation of suffering in the story of Job as a whole:
"In Summary, the author's [the author of the book of Job] pastoral word to godly sufferers is that God treasures their righteousness above all else. And Satan knows that if he is to thwart the all-encompassing purpose of God, he must assail the godly righteousness of human beings (see Job 1:21-22, 2:9-10, 23:8, 10; cf. Ge 15:6). At stake in the suffering of the truly godly is the outcome of the titanic struggle between the great adversary and God. At the same time the author gently reminds the godly sufferer that true godly wisdom is to reverently love God more than all his gifts and to trust the wise goodness of God even though his ways are at times past the power of human wisdom to fathom. So here is presented a profound, but painfully practical, drama that wrestles with the wisdom and justice of the Great King's rule. Righteous sufferers must trust in, acknowledge, serve, and submit to the omniscient and omnipotent Sovereign, realizing that some suffering is the result of unseen, spiritual conflicts between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan - between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness (cf. Eph. 6:10-18)."

I don't necessarily think we should always assume that the suffering we are going through is solely due to circumstances beyond our control. Sometimes we do allow ourselves to get so far away from God that we inevitably suffer because we have lost sight of the One true source of goodness and fulfillment in our lives but spiritual warfare is definitely a part of every person's suffering in one way or another. Whether we are giving into Satan's lies on the little things or the big things, inevitably these things draw us away. BUT if like Job, we are following God with all our heart, soul, and mind but are still in a place of suffering where all our earthly blessings seem to be stripped away from us, we must remain true to the one thing that we know - God exists. And because he exists we know that he loves us and knows what's best for us even if it might hurt us physically, mentally, emotionally - whatever way it affects us, he is doing it to refine us and remind us that He is in control and is refining us to be more like him.

In light of all this, we will learn how to separate personal blessings from our motivation for pursuing righteousness. In other words, we are often motivated to be righteous because we believe we will be rewarded with personal blessings because of our efforts. And maybe we will be rewarded in some way but God doesn't always work like this. In our times of suffering, instead of focusing on the question, "how will God reward me or fulfill me as a result of this suffering?" we should remain true to the foundation, that God is our one and only help in times of trouble. Instead of wanting to turn away from Him and give up we can do what Job did and remain true to the belief that God loves us and is our constant. We may not always feel like he loves us, we might get angry with him, he may not even save us from our suffering/trials when we want him to, and like Job, he may even do the horrible thing of taking the feeling of his presence away from us, BUT through all of this, we can choose to wait for God and believe that he will never leave us nor forsake us.

I know I sound preachy but I don't want to come across as if I have somehow conquered this. I really wrote this post not because I have come out of a situation like this but because I am in one right now. I feel led to write these truths not just to remind me of how I should deal with my trials in a godly way, but to remind you as well. I don't know where you are at in your life right now, maybe you are at a place of contentment and are praising Christ for his deliverance and blessings but if you are in a period of trials know that God is our constant. He will never change, leave or forsake us in our time of need or pain. Think of it this way, if you are in a period of suffering and EVERY earthly thing was stripped away from you - like it was for Job - your health, your entire family, and even the feeling of God's presence - what would be the most important thing to get back? Would it be your family? Would it be your looks and health? Would it be your possessions? Would it be people's regard for you (aka your popularity/likability)? Or would you desire above all else to feel that God has not left you? I know faith isn't about feelings but sometimes when we are stripped of everything and are even doing all the right things to try and stay close to God, we often expect to feel him changing us or moving us toward something but sometimes we still might not feel his presence. It's so much harder to remain faithful to him and continue to pursue godliness when we feel like he has deserted us. We might even want to just throw up our hands and say, "This Christianity thing is not working. I give up!" Even at our weakest moments - no matter what we feel - we can know that God IS there - even if we don't feel him.

I pray that wherever you are today, you would take comfort in the simple truth that we have the hope of God's consistency in our lives. Whether we feel him or not, he is there. That's what Job believed on and that's a hope worth fighting for.

Psalm 73 (NIV)

BOOK III : Psalms 73-89
A psalm of Asaph.
1Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.

3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.

5 They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, "How can God know?
Does the Most High have knowledge?"

12 This is what the wicked are like—
always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.

15 If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have betrayed your children.

16 When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.

19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!

20 As a dream when one awakes,
so when you arise, O Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

(bolded emphasis added by me)

Psalm 27 (NIV)

Of David.
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.


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