“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’”
This selection from Job chapter one has some strong insights for us as parents. In part three of a three part series, I will discuss the parenting lessons and insights I’ve learned regarding suffering.
We quickly realize that it sucks to be Job. I am sure you have experienced the pleasures of being tasked with something without your consent or representation. That type of action led to a Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, whether it is war between two nations or your spouse, God orchestrates you being signed up for something you don’t like. The suck, the suffering, and/or the sorrow you may be experiencing right now is from God. To think about all the devastation in the world and potentially in your life, to realize God’s sovereignty in it all can mind-blowing, heart-wrenching, and gut-stomping all at the same time. Suffering is a reason people keep Christianity at a safe distance. The age-old question, “Why would a good God allow suffering?” If you want to explore that more, read the rest of the book of Job. There is an answer to your question; however, there is no guarantee you will like it. Much of it has to do with viewing humanity and God in proper respects. Nevertheless, Job’s response to all his suffering is what makes him a titan. Job 1:22, “Then Job rose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”
Suffering is probably the most underrated and under-appreciated calling of the Christian life. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). No one really explains all the suffering you are called to endure when you sign up for Christianity. Jesus Himself proclaims, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” The world includes people as well as possessions, finances, status, power, etc. You WILL (or should) struggle constantly between living in and being of the world. The world flows one direction, Christianity more often than not tacks and jibes against that current. If you are not experiencing that resistance there are at least two possible conclusions: 1) Your life as a Christian looks, feels, and is no different than a non-Christian 2) You are not engaged in the workmanship to which you are called. 1 Peter 5:10 says, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” Resisting sin every day is a struggle and the bar is set very high, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). It is a part of your sanctification process, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Suffering can manifest itself emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, etc… Yet one truth is clear, you WILL experience discomfort as a Christian.
I am not advocating sadomasochism. However, I am saying that as a Christian we approach suffering from a completely different worldview. We don’t like it, but we have an eternal perspective, with hope and joy in clear view. Oversimplifying it, Christians know it could be worse – hell; yet it will eventually be better – heaven. Job demonstrated such Christian resolve two-fold as observed from his initial responses to his devastating and unfathomable suffering: 1) Ending chapter 1, Job humbly and simply concludes, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 2) When tempted to curse God and die, Job replies at the end of chapter two, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” It is recorded that in all his suffering Job did not sin with his lips, Job did not sin, nor did he blame God. Wow!
Job’s standard is unattainable. Jesus Christ’s overshadows Job in that He knowingly and willingly suffered for the sake of you and I, the murderous, adulterous, liars, thieves, and wretched on this earth. God doesn’t lower the standard, ‘Be Holy as I am Holy.’ Yet, He makes a way for us where there is no way by sending His Son… to suffer. It is through suffering that we are saved, sanctified, and set free.
In conclusion, Job has wisdom for our prayer lives, our responsibility as a Christian, our sanctification, and also many positive impressions for our parenting. Through his suffering we see the necessity to pray without ceasing and to approach God in proper respect, with gratitude and from faith. Our suffering is not just about us, but the evangelism and encouragement that will be gleaned from it as we stay gospel-focused. As a Christian we are able to not only endure, but to thrive in hope and love when suffering, distractions, and frustrations come because of Jesus Christ. Let us be humbled by His calling, His authority, and His Way. Let us be courageous to Praise Him with the confident assurance that He has us right where He wants us, and it is for His glory (Romans 8:28).