Job was nearly crushed by the pain of suffering. He tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell to the ground when he heard that his children had died (Job 1:20). And yet in the midst of such pain and heartache, Job cried out.
“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21)
His physical ailments were so painful, he used broken pottery as the instruments in his homemade surgery (Job 2:7).
“So the satan went forth from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with severe boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. He took a potsherd to scrape himself, as he sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die!’
Again he responds in faith.
But he said to her, ‘You speak as foolish women do. We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?’ Through all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:7-10)
How is it that someone can choose such great faith, and still feel such great pain? Is the risk we take in loving those around us. The grief is tremendous if those we love are taken from us. The alternative to grief is to never love at all, and Job made another choice: faith. Choosing faith in the midst of suffering will not stop the pain or the questions. In the book of Job, two chapters of great faith are followed immediately by 35 chapters of non-stop questions.
Job wasn’t alone with his questions. Jeremiah couldn’t preach without weeping, questioning how God could have allowed such despair. David wrestled with questions for years, especially while hiding from Saul and wondering if he’d even live to see the reign the prophet had said would be his. Paul wasted two years in a prison cell in Caesarea, right in the middle of his best evangelical days. The questions about suffering even reached the heart of Jesus, as he genuinely wrestled with the internal agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and all the way to Calvary.
What is common is that all chose faith in the midst of suffering. Their choice did not make suffering logical or reasonable, but it did bring them closer to God, reminded them that God is in control, and ultimately they all found a true treasure. St. Paul learned to pray even as the suffering continued.
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” (Romans 8:25-27)
May suffering not come our way, but it does (and it will) may we learn the lessons of Job, St. Paul, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Image Credit: “Job and his friends” (1869) by Ilya Repin, Wikipedia, Public Domain