Suffering is one of the most consistent themes in the Bible, but the Bible doesn’t provide slick, simplistic answers to human suffering. It points us repeatedly to the One who was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3). We don’t have to look far to become aware that we live in a broken, suffering world, where countless people are desperate to find a solution to what is happening. This has come home to me recently because people I know well are really suffering, and because my Bible readings are currently in the Book of Job.
I have called this seed ‘Living life in the Big Picture’, after going through the book of Job and considering the statements he made. His life was overwhelmed with sorrow and suffering. When he needed comfort after devastating loss he suffered criticism, false accusations, and wounding words from self-righteous, hypocritical false friends.
He came through his long trial because he lived life in the big picture, in the light of eternity. Job had no understanding of what God was doing, and yet he trusted Him. In reality, and without self-pity rising in his heart, he said, ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised’ (Job 1:21).
This side of the cross, we have a highlighted understanding of the love and compassion of God, as seen in the cross. Consequently, we can confess the words of today’s text and be assured that God really does work for the good of those who love Him, even when life seems to be a mystery.
In all his ups and downs, Job cries out to the only One who can help him, alternating between cries of hope and despair, strength, and weakness. In hope and strength, he declares, ‘I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!’ (Job 19:25-27).
Job has a revelation of the New Testament hope which we have through the death of Jesus. It is the hope of life beyond the grave and eternity spent worshipping God.
In despair and weakness Job looks back to what life used to be. He longed for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over him (Job 29:1). Did he now feel that God was neglecting him? There is a longing in His heart to know the depth of relationship he had with God when life was going well. In desperation he cries out, “O for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (Job 29:4).
Of course, he hadn’t lost intimate friendship with God because God is stable, enduring, and unchanging. However, he had lost the sense of it, the joy of when he could feel it. In his dreadful suffering it seemed that God was absent – no longer with him.
If you are going through a difficult time, a time which you can’t understand or find answers to, remember that you have not been forsaken, because ‘The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’ (Deuteronomy 31:8). Live life in the big picture knowing that, one day, the One who died for you will return, and you will be with Him for ever in that eternal place, where there will no longer be sin, sorrow, sickness or suffering. What a day of rejoicing that will be!
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