Trials and Suffering

We need not deny the sorrow accompanying these.

Good Grief (5)

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job 3.1

Very great suffering
Job’s cursing the day of his birth is certainly understandable. He had lost his children and all his property. He was stricken in his body with a horrible, wasting disease. His wife denounced and condemned him. And his prospects for redress and restoration were slim to none. Yes, he overstated his grief by invoking a curse on the day of his birth, but I rather suspect the Lord would not have rebuked him for that.

Job’s suffering was, indeed, very great (Job 2.13). Probably few of us have ever experienced so much hardship at one time. His was a grief occasioned by loss and disappointment, and enveloped in a kind of hopelessness that would grow as his trial continued.

We have all known various kinds of trials and sufferings, and all trials and sufferings bring pain and sorrow. What we don’t need on such occasions are friends like Job’s, who have our “problem” all figured out and are determined to forestall our grieving by getting us to see things their way. What we need instead is space to grieve and time to wait on the God of all comfort to renew our strength and our hope.

Sovereignty and suffering
A common mistake that people make when they come to various trials is to think that somehow God is out to get them. Either He wasn’t watching and so couldn’t keep us from our suffering, or He had it in for us somehow. And so we cry out, “Why, Lord!”

This is where Job was, and his grief would grow deeper the longer his confusion persisted, ultimately rising to indignation and anger at God for refusing to answer his cries. Job’s cry, “Why, Lord!” was never answered, at least, not as he demanded.

But there is some truth to that cry, because nothing happens to us outside the scope of God’s sovereign power and will. Paul reminds us that God works all things according to the counsel of His will, and this includes the trials and sufferings we occasionally endure (Eph. 1.11). Job understood that, but rather than rest in God’s sovereign power and infinite wisdom, and wait for the Lord to restore, if not his prosperity and progeny, at least his peace, Job let the grief of his suffering and his disappointment with his friends get the best of him. He demanded that God explain the reason for this pain. He insisted that he would stand before the Lord of heaven and earth and hold Him to account for causing a good man to suffer.

When trials or suffering befall us, we must surely grieve. But we must not allow our grieving to lead us to presume. We cannot know the mind of God in such matters, any more than Job could. But though we cannot penetrate the mysteries of the eternal will of God, we can know God and rest in Him, so that we find in Him the comfort, assurance, and loving kindness that we need in the midst of our trials and suffering.

Responding to suffering and trials
The way to do this is to receive all our trials and suffering with thanksgiving and praise to God. Remembering that the God we fear and love, loves us with an everlasting and unchanging love, we can always find reasons to give thanks, as we fix our hope again, not on our fickle circumstances, but on our unchanging God.

When the pain and sorrow of suffering descend upon us, we may certainly expect to grieve for our situation. However, even in the midst of grieving, if we give thanks to God and persist in praising and waiting on Him, we will find strength from God to bear up under our trials in a way that transforms and renews us through them (cf. Jms. 1.2-4; Rom. 5.3-5).

Through thanksgiving and praise, even in the midst of sorrow and pain, we may renew hope and all the power of hope to realign our thoughts, renew our hearts, strengthen our resolve, and keep us on a course of seeking God’s glory and living to that glory in every aspect of our lives.

The grief and sorrow that come with trials and suffering are good grief, but we must guard against our grief leading us to bitterness, presumption, and rebellion against God. Grief of any kind should signal us to seek the Lord in praise and thanksgiving, so that even as we grieve, we are renewing hope and increasing the likelihood that God Himself, the Father of all comforts (2 Cor. 1.3, 4), will meet us in the midst of our good grief and enfold us with His glory.

For reflection
1.  Is it true that trials and suffering can be good for us? In what ways? Share from your own experience.

2.  God did not answer Job’s demand, but Job ended up being at peace (Job 42). What did God do for Job in the midst of his sufferings?

3.  Meditate on Psalm 22. How can you see rejoicing and thanksgiving in the midst of suffering here? Compare this with Hebrews 12.1, 2. What should we learn from the example of Jesus?

Next steps – Preparation: Talk with some of your friends about the best ways to comfort those who are experiencing trials and suffering. Share your own thoughts and see what they think. How can we lead those who suffer to give thanks and praise to God, without, at the same time, negating the importance of their grieving?

T. M. Moore

This is part 7 of a multi-part series on Keeping the Heart. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.

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Experience the Celtic Revival at first hand. Join Fellowship of Ailbe Brother Dr. Glenn Sunshine for a teaching tour of Irish and Scottish Celtic Christian sites, June 14-17, 2017. For more information, click here.

Where do the heart, mind, and conscience – which together comprise the soul – fit in our Christian worldview? Our free online course,
One in Twelve: Introduction to Christian Worldview, shows you how to understand the workings of your soul in relation to all other aspects of your life in Christ. For more information and to register, click here.

Join the Conversations! Our newest feature invites you to listen in as T. M. talks with Christian leaders about books, culture, faith, and much more. His conversation with Dr. Stan Gale on the role of forgiveness in the life of faith can be found by clicking here. His discussion of works by C. S. Lewis  with The Fellowship of Ailbe Board Chairman Charlie Hammett can be found by clicking here for
The Great Divorce and here for The Abolition of Man. Discover Christian still life artist Philip R. Jackson, by clicking here. Or click the Resources tab, then scroll down and click on Conversations to watch all three.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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