Bringing Light to Our Suffering
In the Biblical story of Job, Job is faced with the common human question of why innocent people suffer. Job discusses the matter with his three friends, who feel certain that Job has done something wrong to deserve the kind of suffering he is experiencing. Job, on the other hand, is sure of his innocence and desires to plead his case before God.
When God enters the story to speak on his own behalf (Job 38-42), we learn that our world is much more complicated than a simple retributive system where good begets good and bad begets bad. There is such a thing as innocent suffering in our world, and we have to figure out how to live faithful lives that honor the mystery of suffering.
Peace comes for Job, but not because he understands suffering any better than he did before. What Job does understand better is God’s loving, wise nature and the power of God’s presence. Job is able to rest in God in the midst of his pain. He encounters God in a way he never had before, and he finds peace there.
Lessons from Job on suffering:
1. It is good to cry out to God during suffering.
It is good to express our pain and anger to God. Even after confronting Job for the self-righteous way he defended himself, God declares that Job is the only one who spoke accurately and insisted that God is just. God responded to Job’s cries, and Job’s trust in God was strengthened.
2. We may not get the answers we’re seeking.
We often won’t receive an answer for why we are suffering. It is helpful to consider what questions we are asking and shift our focus from questions of why me to questions like: “How can I cling to God during this time? What can I learn about God through my suffering?”
3. You can come out of this knowing God better.
Though there is no assurance that we will ever know why suffering happens, we do know from Scripture and the testimonies of Christians throughout history that times of suffering are often fertile ground for spiritual growth and deeper communion with God as we pour our hearts out to God and receive comfort and strength to sustain us.
4. There is such thing as innocent suffering.
You can have peace knowing that God has acknowledged the fact that innocent people suffer (as Jesus also says in John 9). You do not need to fret about whether you are being punished. God has not turned away from you. God loves you the same today as when life was easy, and God’s arms of love are open to you today.
May God’s glorious, gentle presence bring you comfort today.