Life is hard.
I have a friend who started her second round of chemo treatments last week. An adolescent from our church was hit by a truck over the weekend and is in the hospital for the foreseeable future. One of my friends was abused as a child and still carries those scars. People struggle with addiction, health problems, persecution, accidents, natural disasters, financial troubles, relationship problems… The list goes on and on. And the natural inclination when trouble strikes is to ask God, Why me?
Why indeed? This question had plagued mankind since the beginning. Job is a fine example of this. Yes, he’s held up as a righteous example of perseverance. Yes, he keeps his faith. But in his lowest moments, he pictures God as his enemy; he sees God as a wrathful tyrant seeking to punish. “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me,” he says in Job 6:4, “the terrors of God are arrayed against me.” In 9:17, he argues, “For [God] crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause.” These are words spoken in distress and anguish. Elsewhere in the book, Job does speak words of confidence and hope. But not now. The pain is too raw.
When talking about suffering, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who suffered more than Job. He lost all his livestock and wealth, his children all died, and he was covered in nasty, blistering sores from head to foot. All this happened within a very short time frame. This poor guy just coudn’t catch a break. But here’s the interesting plot twist: While Satan is the one to afflict Job, God is actually the one to suggest Job to Satan in the first place.
Are you uncomfortable with that thought? I am! To think that God would offer one of His children to be tested in such a terrible way is disconcerting. I can’t help but wonder if similar “bargains” between God and Satan still take place today, such as took place in Job 1-2. I’d like to think not, but I can neither confirm nor deny it from Scripture. Regardless, while the reader of Job is aware of this background, Job himself is not. The footnote on Job 6:4 in The Lutheran Study Bible says, “Job is unaware of the conversation between God and Satan in chs 1-2 and cannot pervceive God’s love and confidence in him” (emphasis added). It’s paradoxical to human reason, but can it be that God allows trials and difficulties to come our way because He loves us?
Like Job’s friends, we are often tempted to think that when things are going well, God is happy with us. Too often we fall for the lie that if we live in a way that honors God, He will bless us with prosperity, peace, and good health. But the book of Job (and countless other places in the Bible) show us differently.
Although it might make us bristle, the Bible often commends suffering. Romans 5:3-5 says, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Later in the book, we read, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Life on this earth is hard, yes. Sin has ruined the perfect creation God made. But take heart, dear friend. You aren’t made for this earth. You are made for heaven. We are “strangers and exiles” on this earth, as Hebrews 11:13 reminds us. Or, as Romans 8:22-23 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
Whatever you are struggling with or suffering today, remember that God is with you and for you. This side of heaven, you may never understand why He allows your suffering, but He is working in you to prepare you for something far better: eternal life with Him, where “He will wipe away every tear from [your] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.