image source: -Qualisiasi @ flickr
confession: i am a terrible sufferer. not only am i not long-suffering, i’m not even short-suffering. i’m more like “notonesecond-suffering.”
i’m sure you are all shocked. 😉 i hate suffering. and i am honestly like a 2 year old being denied some desire when i do it. i am petulant and tend to throw a hissy fit, if not on the outside, surely on the inside and definitely to God.
we went to church on sunday for the first time since we moved back to texas. the Lord really spoke to my heart during the worship about how pouty i had been about moving back here, and how he has so wonderfully worked everything out. this move is so clearly his will and he’s so obviously gone before us making provision for us the whole way. and i had been reluctant and disappointed, even though he’s never been anything but faithful to me and has proven himself a loving father time and time again. i so gladly repented and praised him for his goodness.
then it’s time for the message and what book is the pastor teaching out of? job. i can’t even suffer a move well (ask my parents, i really can’t) and here’s poor job losing every earthly thing. kinda put things into perspective.
the focus was on our need for God in our suffering. that above all we don’t need relief from suffering as much as we need God. relief without God would be a loss.
one of the great tensions of job’s story is that the book tells us that job’s suffering was not because of sin in his life, but it doesn’t really tell us why he suffered either. from the start, job tells us that God and his will are good and right, whether we suffer or not:
Job 1:21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
great theologians for millenia have studied this book and no one to my knowledge has come up with a definitive answer to the question of why job suffered. i would be foolish to think i could do more.
but, the Lord did speak to my heart about job’s story in a new (to me) way. at the end, job tells the Lord:
Job 42:5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.”
job suffered terribly, and i don’t want to minimize that with some pithy churchism. in all sincerity i say: perhaps all of job’s suffering was worth it, because through it he knew God more. he went from hearing about God, to seeing God for himself.
we don’t need more money or more love or fewer problems: we need God. is there any price too high to pay if it means knowing Him more, being closer to His heart, being more like Him, reveling more in His grace? what price could be put on those things? i could not buy them if i had all the money in the world and i would not sell them for anything!
i have suffered more than i ever could have imagined when i first read philippians 3:10 as a new believer and was drawn to paul’s desire to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. even then, i knew that was a scary desire. but paul said there was fellowship in knowing Christ’s sufferings. i know for me there are some things i just won’t learn without suffering. as christians, we are supposed to be dying every day to self; how can i expect that won’t be painful and messy?
but what glory to fellowship with my Jesus in suffering! to be drawn deeper into His presence. to hear His whispers through my tears. to hold His hand as i walk through things i am terrified of.
i can say honestly that though the miseries of the past few years have been tremendous, God has used them to teach me about His grace, His love for me, and how He wants to walk with me. i had no idea how big He was, how vast His love and how mighty His grace.
Indeed these [are] the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand? Job 26:14
my path has not been easy, but it would have been so much worse to have never suffered those things and to have stayed so ignorant. knowing what i know now, i would have paid more.
the suffering this far has all been worth it to know Him more. and i know whatever comes in the future will be worth it too. i just hope i can remember this in the midst of it and that by His strength i can suffer well.