Suffering gives and suffering takes away. It can be a great friend, giving us the perspective on life, God and ourselves which we so badly need. It can also rob us of the truest perspective, as well.
Firstly, it puts you under few illusions. Once you may have been smug and a little full of yourself, but now you’re different. In your suffering, God, that reality you were managing to hold at arm’s length, has come terrifyingly close, and you catch glimpses of Him for who He really is, majestic and awesome. Job knows that noone is righteous before a holy God (v.2). He knows that God is magnificent, powerful, and utterly sovereign (vv.2-13). “Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God”, as Jonathan Edwards said.
Suffering can also skew our perspective. Suffering can lead us to mistrust God, to distort our view of Him, when we most need the correct picture of Him. Job is filled with dismay at the thought that God is the Lord. He felt little love for His absolute sovereignty. He feels far from Him, unable to speak, unconvinced that God would even listen (vv.14-16). He is fearful that God would crush and condemn him (vv.17-20). These are the words of despair before a sovereign God, not of devotion. And, as we all know, suffering breeds despair.
Job’s anguish before his friends and his God goes on (vv.21-35). For all of his faith in God’s power and goodness, the praise freezes on his lips. The God who had blessed Job was the one, Job maintains, who was always planning to strike him (10.12-13). God to him is a punisher, a devouring lion, an accuser, an attacker (vv.14-17). He doesn’t want to live, not in this world, not in any world where God is the Lord (vv.18-22).
Is Job right? What do you think? Yes, God is the Lord, the Sovereign, the Lion. Yes, His wrath breaks out against sin and sinners. But what does the Gospel say to us? And what did the Gospel, though he knew so little of the full display of saving grace in Jesus, say to Job? It says that we are safe, safe in God’s grace. His covenant love saves and protects us. His love is always for us, His plans are always good. And His sovereignty, sometimes overwhelming as it is, is good, and it is sweet.
Spurgeon, one of the Kingdom’s best-known chronic depressives, knew where to place his trust when life was miserable. “When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head.” This is true, because He is true, and He is sovereign. In Jesus you really can trust Him. So do.
A Prayer to Pray
Safe in the shadow of the Lord. Lord I do trust You, help my mistrust. In a world of stress, may Your sovereignty in Your dear Son be my pillow. Make it so, Lord. Amen.