A mother went to nurse her three-week old baby in the middle of the night, and she found that he had stopped breathing. He had his whole life ahead of him, and she had planned her life around his arrival. Her world was turned upside down, and she couldn’t fathom how she would make it. Parents received a phone call on July 4th that their 14-year-old son had been in an ATV accident. He didn’t make it. He was bright, athletic, and full of potential. His earthly life was cut short. It wasn’t fair. She was in a life-taking wreck right before her 21st birthday. She was about to graduate and had her future all planned out. She left family and friends grieving like they never had before. She found out her husband had been unfaithful. Her life seemed like it had been nothing but a lie, and she didn’t know how she would love or trust anyone ever again. She laid her husband of 65 years in the ground. She didn’t know how to be alone anymore. She turned around to talk to him, only to remember that he wasn’t there.
Suffering: it is everywhere we look. We can’t get away from it. Forgive me for the silly illustration after such serious words, but I am an elementary school teacher and can’t help but compare life to a good children’s book. Life is like the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” Every time they get to an obstacle, they realize that, “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We have to go through it!” Sadly, this book is far too close to real life than we would like. We can’t go over the suffering. We can’t go under the suffering. We have to go through it. It is a guarantee that at some point in life we will have to suffer, so how can we find contentment in suffering?
Job is the man who usually pops into mind when suffering is mentioned. If anyone knew suffering, it was Job. He lost all of his children and possessions in the same day. Every bit of it was gone in the blink of an eye. It is through his reaction to loss and suffering that we can learn how to be content when we are going through a storm of our own. In Job 1:13-19, messenger after messenger came to report to Job that his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and his children had all died in different ways during the same day. Right after verse 19, it says, “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:20-22). My jaw drops every time I read verses 20-22. Job’s response is unheard of, and it teaches us two important things about being content during suffering.
Contentment in Suffering Requires Us to Continue Worshipping God
Right after he received the most horrendous news that he had ever gotten, “he fell to the ground and worshiped.” What?! Am I missing something here? His ten children all died at the same time, and he worshiped. How in the world did Job have that kind of reaction to the greatest calamity of his life? Verse 1 of this same chapter says that Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Job was blameless: innocent of wrongdoing, upright: strictly honorable or honest, he feared God, and he turned away from evil. It is obvious that he had such an intimate walk with God that it drove him to his knees in worship even after the worst day of his life.
Job had an anchor that the world could not see and a faith as sure as the sun. He knew that God had given him all of his possessions and children anyways, and they were all God’s to do with as He pleased. Job knew that as long as Satan roamed the earth (Job 1:7) he would experience suffering. Job had the secret that can calm the most frantic of hearts in the worst situations – He knew that God was still on the throne. Job could look in the face of death and proclaim, “It is well.” He could withstand Satan’s attack on his family and declare, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” He lifted his eyes from his circumstances to His Savior. Job raised his voice in worship, and that is how he kept his sanity and found contentment during the nastiest suffering imaginable.
Contentment in Suffering Requires Us Not to Blame God
When we read Job 1:8-12, we realize that God didn’t inflict this evil on Job. God allowed the suffering to test Job. Satan wanted God to put forth His hand and touch all that Job had, but God put all that Job had under Satan’s power instead. It was Satan who caused the catastrophe to fall on Job’s household that day. Job had the same enemy who we face today. Satan loves to cause disaster and then tempt us to blame God for it. Satan loves to save face and make God look like the bad guy. As soon as suffering happens in our own life, Satan hits us with fiery darts like, “Well, God could’ve stopped this. Why would God allow a teenage boy to pass away? Why didn’t God save that precious baby boy who died in his sleep? Why didn’t God save that marriage from heartbreak?” Or my favorite, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
My mom said it best when she said, “The question is not why do bad things happen to good people. It is why do good things ever happen to bad people?” We are all wicked apart from Christ. It is a wonder that anything good ever happens to us. We live in a fallen world, so we should not be surprised when suffering comes along. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and Satan is going to rule this earth until Jesus defeats him once and for all. Therefore, we will experience suffering until Satan is thrown into the lake of fire. This might sound depressing, but fear not. We have great hope! This enemy has already been defeated, and we as believers are headed to an eternity with no more suffering. When life gets tough, we can blame God, or we can be like Job and realize who the real enemy is. When we realize who the real enemy is, we run to our Savior like Job did to keep us in the cleft of the rock until the storm passes by. When we are content in suffering, we realize that it is actually not about us at all. Our life is playing a role in God’s plan of redemption. The whole story is so much bigger than our circumstances.
Are you hurting? Are you in a time of suffering? Turn your eyes from the storm and to your Savior. Suffering is a sure part of life, but if we continue to worship God instead of blaming Him, we can be content in our suffering. A.W. Tozer says, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” God is using your suffering for His glory and turning your suffering into your good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The sweet missionary to India, Amy Carmichael, explained suffering best in her poem entitled “Hast Thou No Scar?”. It is a poem that calls Christians to consider whether we are really following our crucified Savior if we have no scar to prove it:
“No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?”
Almighty Father, I need Your strength during this time of suffering. Thank You that You are not a God who comforts something that You don’t understand. Isaiah 53:3 tells us that You were “a man of suffering and familiar with pain.” Please help me to be content in my suffering by worshiping You, even when it’s hard.
1 Peter 5:10
1 Peter 4:12-19
“Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane