Suffering October 16, 2011

One of the very first subjects I addressed as a newpastor was suffering, not because I want to ruin people’s joy but preciselybecause I want to strengthen it. Life shreds thin joy, and if yours isn’trooted in something stronger than your circumstances, it will be very thinindeed. So for three Sundays back in the summer of 2007, we tried to gain abiblical perspective on suffering, taking the ancient book of Job as our guide.For various reasons, I was reflecting on that study this week. Here’s a littlespillover…

As we come to the end of Job, we find an amazing andcomplete reversal of Job’s fortunes. The Lord gives him seven new sons andthree new daughters, plus twice the material assets he had before. What’s thelesson of this for us in our suffering? Should we conclude that this isnormative and that all of our sickness will give way to healing, all of ourloss will be regained, and all our hurt will be soothed in this life? Notquite. Job’s restoration in his lifetime is, I think, an accommodation to theera in which Job lived, before the Scriptures were given in their full form.Job’s restoration is God’s way of vindicating him and demonstrating what welearn from the rest of the Scriptures which Job and his friends did not have.

The rest of the Scriptures reveal that God is just,that He remembers every patiently endured trial, and that someday He will rightevery wrong and repay every hurt. How? Well, we’re not quite sure, but what wedo know is that He is the God who imagined and carried out the details of thegospel. The gospel tells us that God is so wise and so powerful, He redeemedthe world through suffering.

Oh, how glorious is the good news of the gospel forthose in suffering! In the gospel we see that our God wounds, but He also healsand will someday welcome us to His everlasting joy. The final answer to thequestions of Job and the ultimate consolation for all of the Jobs who havesuffered like him is that our Lord Himself embraced and absorbed all the sinand suffering of this wretched world! And someday, the first nanosecond afterwe cross over the river to heaven’s shore, in some mysterious, gospel-emulatingway, He will make it all worth it.