The Real Purpose for Suffering

by Feb 23, 2010

Ray Ortlund writes this:

I used to think the book of Job is in the Bible because it presents a rare and extreme case of human suffering.  “Look at this worst case scenario.  If you can see the truth here, then surely in your comparatively small problems . . . .”

Now I think the book of Job is in the Bible because the story is so common.  Many are thinking, “What on earth has happened to me?  I can’t see what I’ve done that explains this devastation.  Where is God in this?”

Enter Job’s three friends.  They were cautious at first.  But with their tidy notions threatened by his untidy realities, the moralism started pouring out of them: “Come on, Job, get real with us.  You must have some dirty secret that explains all this.  Admit it, and this misery will start going away.”  Their finger-pointing oversimplifications intensified Job’s sufferings, and this too is a common experience.

I don’t think the book of Job is about suffering as a theoretical problem — why do the righteous suffer?  I think it’s about suffering as a practical problem — when (not if) the righteous suffer, what does God expect of them?  And what he expects is trust.  When the righteous cannot connect the realities of their experience with the truths of God, then God is calling them to trust him that there is more to it than they can see.  As with Job, there is a battle being fought in the heavenlies.

Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway through suffering.

What a great perspective. In addition to that, I think one of God’s purposes for Job’s suffering had nothing to do with Job at all. It was God’s unforgettable way of proving to us that once he calls someone into his family, there’s no person, situation, or circumstance that can snatch that person away:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

If you’re a child of God who’s going through suffering right now, it’s not only meant to build your trust, it’s also meant to show the world (like Job showed his friends) that God’s saving power is complete.

The world is watching. How will you respond when things go wrong?