The Mess of Suffering

Whitney Capps

Day: 4 | Plan: Suffering and Sovereignty

Today’s Reading: Job 4

Job 4:7-8 (NIV) “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.”

It’s dangerous to pull Scripture verses out of context and present them as the Truth of God. And the book of Job is a perfect example of this. This is a helpful principle especially as we move into the next section of the book of Job. Though Scripture records his friends’ speeches, it can be difficult to assess their truthfulness and motives. They are his friends, but they don’t always seem to act with wisdom, care or compassion.

Eliphaz is the first friend to speak, but his argument is similar to Bildad’s and Zophar’s, which we’ll read later. The three friends’ speeches all feature four basic assertions. First, they affirm God is sovereign, meaning God is in complete control of everything. Second, they assert God is just and good. Third, they argue that God blesses those who are good and punishes those who are disobedient. Fourth and finally, the “comforters” claim that if one experiences blessings, it’s the result of good behavior. Conversely, if one experiences hardship or tragedy, something bad has been done to justify that kind of judgment.

On the surface, this might seem logical, but it fails to take into account God’s complete character. Eliphaz misses a full understanding of God’s goodness and how He demonstrates His goodness toward His people. God’s goodness or grace toward us is unmerited, meaning we don’t deserve or earn it. He isn’t kind toward us because we are worthy; He is kind to us because He is worthy.

This matters because if blessing isn’t about us, then suffering isn’t either. For the people of God, suffering has a higher purpose than how it impacts our lives. Suffering reveals something about God to the world. Job didn’t suffer perfectly, but he did suffer well. When we suffer well it is evidence that God is more valuable and trustworthy than wealth, health and even family.

The living of suffering isn’t nearly as tidy as the teaching of it. I sincerely believe that suffering serves a higher purpose, but suffering is still suffering. And it’s messy. The book of Job gives us a glimpse of what it’s like when we wrestle through the wreckage of heartache. Suffering is inevitable and hard. But it’s not forever or hopeless. And this is where God’s truth found in His Word comes in. Let’s cling to His Word with hope – may His truth be our respite during life’s hard places.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to be a person who can bring comfort into the hardest and most heart-breaking circumstances. Your Word has so much hope for a hurting world. Work in me so that You can speak through me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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