In this first cycle in the book of Job, we see conversations between Job, Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz. We begin with Eliphaz suggesting that Job has some great sin in him for which he is suffering, that the innocent prosper and the guilty are brought low and destroyed. It is a reminder of God’s justice and a call to repent of whatever sin he has done. Job rebuffs him, saying that his complaint before the Lord is just, that he has done no wrong to incur this divine wrath, then goes on to lament his utter lack of hope.
Bildad steps up next, saying that God does not pervert justice and that Job should repent. He reminds Job that God is quick to forgive and will restore him if he only repents, but Job goes on to insist that he is being treated unfairly and pleads with God to consider his frail humanity.
Zophar then takes his turn to insist that, assured of some great sin on Job’s part, Job deserves far worse than what has already befallen him, but Job insists that this is an act of the Lord that is undeserved based on his deeds. The final two chapters of this section conclude with Job vacillating wildly between hope and despair.
The question of suffering and the problem of evil – both are serious topics that are felt and considered deeply in almost everyone. Job grappled with this in no uncertain terms and epitomizes the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” The entire book of Job shows him grappling with a just God on one hand and injustice in the other. How do we put these two things together? A Friday morning blog is far too small a space in which to explore all these thoughts fully, but I believe we can make some headway.
I am not unfamiliar with suffering in my own life, and the more one grows older in a world such as ours, the more we see the suffering, injustice, and pain of one another, near and far. The truth of the matter is that we have a sovereign God of love, justice, and mercy, yet we live in a world of hate, violence, and fear. These facts exist side by side. However, it is not God who perpetuates evil or does evil things, but sinners with evil in their hearts. The truth of the matter is that God does not just work with the righteous and ignore the evil; He gets right in our messy world and works His mighty hand to bring about His good and perfect will. He can work with anyone and anything in His masterpiece to bring about His good will - and thank God that he does! And remember, He does all things according to His infinite, sovereign love. This means we can have such joy, even in our greatest suffering and darkest nights that He knows what He is doing and has not forgotten you or is unable to save.
A good leader never asks their employees to do something they themselves have not done or would not do. I have vivid memories from my previous profession when my Chef would be right there with us on his hands and knees, cleaning and repairing and prepping and sweating, and it increased our respect and loyalty for him immensely.
And we find the perfect leader in Jesus Christ! He did not sit comfortably in heaven as we struggle and toil in a broken world – no! He stepped down into the muck and the grime of earth, taking on the form of a lowly craftsman, accustomed to grief, tempted and tried, acquainted with sorrow, to love and lead and save, only to be brutally nailed to a tree. This is a comfort to us in so many ways, knowing that anything we face, the Lord has walked there too. It is a comfort especially in this – Not even Jesus was spared pain or suffering or sorrow, yet it was through such agony that we were given the greatest gift of all: peace with God! Through His death on the cross, Jesus glorified the Father and then the Father glorified the Son. If it was not for the Son of God suffering unjustly and being raised, we would not be saved. He does not excuse us from the trials of this life, yet like the perfect leader, He has come along side us, made Himself a refuge, and will teach us how to bear them.
In summation, it is therefore true to say that pain and suffering is a part of our life on earth, yet never outside the bounds of God’s sovereignty. It is true to say that God, this master craftsman, works all things to the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). And it is true to say that His power is made perfect in weakness, and that those who suffer walk in the footsteps of Him who has gone before us.
How do you interpret the presence of evil and suffering alongside the reality of a perfect, just, and loving God? How might God use even your worst pain to bring about good in your life while also glorifying Him? What examples can we learn from Jesus? Does it comfort you, knowing that Jesus did not exempt Himself from even the worst the world could throw at Him?
Lord, there is no shortage of suffering in our world. I pray that you use all of the pain felt through this pandemic to glorify yourself, and make in me an example like Christ who obediently followed where you directed. I commit my own struggles to you and ask that you teach me to bear them, so that in all things I might be a testament to your goodness. Please teach me to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart, and teach me to make your joy my strength. Amen!
Song: Psalm 46 by Shane and Shane
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.