Monday, December 19, 2016

The Thing About Job -- And His Company of "Though-he-slay-me,-yet-will-I-hope-in-him" Sufferers

When we experience deep and protracted suffering, or compounded suffering, we are often plagued by questions and complaints:
  • God, how can you love me and allow this to happen?
  • Why am I suffering like this, while so many others are going along just swimmingly?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • This is too much. You must be cruel. How can you be good, and sovereign, and let this go on? 
  • Why don't you hear my cry? 
  • Why are you silent? 
  • Why don't you do something?! 
  • What good does it do to pray?
Others, who are no better or worse than we, know nothing of this kind of pain. Self-pity, jealousy, doubt, fear, bitterness, anger, and resentment gnaw at the nerves of our soul.

There are no easy answers. But what if God does want us to look around? Not at those for whom things are going swimmingly. Rather, to those who have suffered in like kind, or worse, and who have, by faith, endured. This is certainly the logic of Hebrews 11-12. It also seems to be a primary reason why the book of Job is in the canon.

Job suffered more deeply than most every human who has ever lived. He walked through this deep, dark valley with raw honesty. He wrestled deeply with God's silence and purposes. But he didn't curse God. He trusted God - "though he slay me" (Job 13:15).

The thing about Job is that his example both crushes and lifts up. It crushes our cynicism. God CAN lead a person through more significant suffering than ours AND be good and do good and bring about good. His story cuts our complaints off at the knees.

We tend to compare ourselves to others (who, undoubtedly, are less righteous than we!) and we feel we deserve better. Well, why don't we compare ourselves to one who was more righteous than we (see Job 1:1), who suffered more than we, and yet...God was FOR him and WITH him and ultimately saw him through? Stories like Job's take away our excuses, but they can give us hope. And I believe the former is necessary for us to experience the latter.

Vaneetha Rendall Risner's life is a story like Job's.

If you're in a deep, deep valley, are you willing to look at someone who has suffered more than you, yet who testifies to the sufficiency of God's sustaining grace, even when he repeatedly withholds delivering grace?

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