Monday, April 22, 2013

Asking better questions in Suffering.

There is no book in the Bible that deals with the subject of suffering like the Book of Job. Among many benefits, Job helps us to avoid a shallow response to suffering. We typically have one of two shallow responses to suffering. Either we respond with Moralism; you suffered because you are not good or Cynicism; you suffered because God is not God or good.

Job suffered because of his righteousness not because of his sin, which confronts our Moralism. God shows His "Godness" in suffering, permitting Job to suffer and limiting how much Satan could cause him to suffer. God also shows His goodness, by sustaining Job in suffering, so that He worships instead of cursing God, as Satan would have wanted. God works through suffering for the exact opposite of Satan's purposes. He gives Satan enough rope to hang Himself. God shows that He is God and He is good. This confronts our Cynicism.

Essentially Job's testing is around his love for God. Satan claims that Job loves God because of the things God has blessed him with. God claims that Job loves God for God. So God allows Satan to remove the things Job has been blessed with, to see whether he will curse or bless God.

I cannot imagine the intense anguish of Job's grief, having lost his sons and daughters, livestock and property all in one day. His lament comes with torn robe and shaved head, lying prostrate on the floor. But it is a lament of blessing not cursing.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall return.
The Lord gave the Lord has taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord."

When the blessing was stripped away, Job is still found loving God for God.
I have been freshly convicted by this song. Am I loving God for God, or for His blessing?
How often do I come to God with no agenda other than to love Him for Himself?
How much do I feel entitled to the things he has blessed me with, forgetting that they are on loan to me by grace?

Too often, in the pain of suffering, we question God's character. Is God really loving? we ask. What happens in Job's life serves to provide another question for us to answer, and that is, Am I really loving? The Bible says that Job, although he lamented, Did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. He did not understand the why of his suffering, just like many of us, but he understood the what. What God was doing was testing Job's love for God. It was not God in the dock. It was Job. And by God's grace, Job was tried and found true. By God's grace, we can be tried and found true too.