Suffering has its own adrenalin. When terrible things happen, most of us know a great energy surging through us, helping us to cope with the immediate trauma. Ever noticed how strong a bereaved person is at a funeral? And how upset many of those outside the immediate family circle are? God is good. He cares for the broken-hearted, and gives them strength to face loss. Energy given at a time of trauma is a gift of grace.
It’s the next six months which are the worst. Or the next six years, or twenty. With time grief sinks in, and works its way into every thought, feeling and memory. This is where we find Job in chapter 3. He opens his mouth, and his heart-grief pours out. Experience the power in his lament, a torrent of misery and anger. This is very raw grief. Job would rather die than live – and rather not have been born at all (vv.3-12). Death is the great leveller, where rich and poor lie side by side, the slave and the free sleeping (vv.13-19) – but even that peace eludes Job. The light of life which he is forced to endure now is only filled with misery and turmoil (vv.20-26).
This is a believer’s grief. Maybe you’ve seen it in others, or felt it yourself. Does it scare you, that grief brings feelings which are so intense, and which look so much at odds with the submission which faith is supposed to bring? Do you need to rush to bring comfort, or maybe rush to bring defense to God, when a Christian grieves like this? Or do you feel that your own feelings of angry desolation when you grieve are wrong?
One of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, speaks up. We’ll hear his views many times in the following chapters. Here, the essence of his counsel is this: “look at yourself – and work out why you’re suffering”. He notes that Job has been godly and kind to others, and so there should be no reason why suffers under a just God, unless he is deep-down at fault (v.11). He even claims supernatural revelation for his beliefs (vv.12-21). Job is getting what he deserves. Surely he’s right, then?
Not so fast, Eliphaz. This friend’s views have been repeated through culture and history, and they still lurk in the church of Christ. Yes, the Bible does tells us to watch our steps, as God’s punishment for our sins does sometimes comes to us in this life. But far more of the Bible’s teaching warns us that only a fool draws a straight line between our actions and the consequences of them this side of God’s judgment. Many suffer through no apparent fault of their own. Then there are others who are thoroughly rotten, and they have the most charmed lives. Trying to work out what God is doing in our lives, and how our hearts stand before Him by measuring our joys or our sorrows, is a dangerous game.
Are you suffering at the moment? Are you tormented by things in your life you can’t change, and many that seem to be beyond justice? Look at another righteous Sufferer, One who suffered at the Cross. See the way He submitted to God’s good and perfect will, and drank that bitter cup. Know afresh that nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ. Pour out your anguish to Him, knowing that His love is poured out without condition to you. Keep believing: Jesus did.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, You did not ordain an easy life for Your Son, You’ve not ordained one for any of Your blood-bought children. Keep my heart both soft and honest before You. May my sufferings be my sanctification. Amen.