Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘patience’

When we can’t count on anything else

SOURCE:  Ray Ortlund

What do you have going for you when everything is against you?  What will not fail you when what you thought was true and solid and real collapses beneath you?  Who will stand by you when friends forsake you and enemies see their opportunity?  What works when everything is on the line but nothing else is working?

This experience is inevitable.

We don’t have to go looking for it.  It will come find us.

God himself wrote it into our scripts.  But when this happens, we are forced to ask the basic question: What can I count on when I can’t count on anything else?

Psalm 139 is where to go for the answer.  When David found himself in that catastrophic place, he dug down into the foundations of his very existence.  This is the unchanging bedrock he found there:

God, you know me (verses 1-6).

God, you are with me (verses 7-12).

God, you made me (verses 13-18).

The psalm then turns on the hinge of verse 18b: “I awake, and I am still with you.”  David wakes up from his contemplations, lost for a while in his thoughts, and he is still with God as he returns mentally to “the real world” where nothing has changed.  But he has changed.  He has been renewed by meditating on God’s intensely personal care for him.  His boldness returns:

God, I am wholeheartedly for you (verses 19-24).

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God” (Psalm 139:17).

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Waiting on God

SOURCE:  Andrew Murray/Discipleship Journal

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. . . . Those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the land.”  Psalm 37:7, 9

“In patience possess your souls.” “Ye have need of patience.” “Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire.”

Such words of the Holy Spirit show us what an important element in the Christian life and character patience is. And nowhere is there a better place for cultivating or displaying it than in waiting on God. There we discover how impatient we are, and what our impatience means.

We confess at times that we are impatient with men and circumstances that hinder us, or with ourselves and our slow progress in the Christian life. If we truly set ourselves to wait upon God, we shall find that it is with Him we are impatient, because He does not at once, or as soon as we could wish, do our bidding. It is in waiting upon God that our eyes are opened to believe in His wise and sovereign will, and to see that the sooner and the more completely we yield absolutely to it, the more surely His blessing can come to us.

“It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”

We have as little power to increase or strengthen our spiritual life, as we had to originate it. We “were born not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of the will of God.” Even so, our willing and running, our desire and effort, avail nought; all is “of God that showeth mercy.”

All the exercises of the spiritual life, our reading and prayer, our willing and doing, have their very great value. But they can go no farther than this, that they point the way and prepare us in humility to look to and depend upon God Himself, and in patience to wait His good time and mercy.

The waiting is to teach us our absolute dependence upon God’s mighty working, and to make us in perfect patience place ourselves at His disposal. They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the land; the promised land and its blessing. The heirs must wait; they can afford to wait.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”

The margin gives for “Rest in the Lord,” “Be silent to the Lord,” or “Be still before the Lord” (ASV ). It is resting in the Lord, in His will, His promise, His faithfulness, and His love, that makes patience easy. And the resting in Him is nothing but being silent unto Him, still before Him. Having our thoughts and wishes, our fears and hopes, hushed into calm and quiet in that great peace of God which passes all understanding. That peace keeps the heart and mind when we are anxious for anything, because we have made our request known to Him. The rest, the silence, the stillness, and the patient waiting, all find their strength and joy in God Himself.

The need for patience, and the reasonableness, and blessedness of patience will be opened up to the waiting soul. Our patience will be seen to be the counterpart of God’s patience. He longs far more to bless us fully than we can desire it. But as the husbandman has long patience till the fruit be ripe, so God bows Himself to our slowness and bears long with us. Let us remember this, and wait patiently.

Of each promise and every answer to prayer the Word is true: “I the Lord will hasten it in its time.”

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” Yes, for Him. Seek not only the help, the gift, seek Himself; wait for Him. Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, by waiting patiently for Him.

This patience honors Him greatly; it leaves Him, as God on the throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into His hands. It lets God be God. If your waiting be for some special request, wait patiently. If your waiting be more the exercise of the spiritual life seeking to know and have more of God, wait patiently. Whether it be in the shorter specific periods of waiting, or as the continuous habit of the soul, rest in the Lord, be still before the Lord, and wait patiently. “They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the land.”

My soul, wait thou only upon God.

Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction

SOURCE:  Wendy Horger Alsup/Practical Theology for Women

Fruitful in the land of my affliction. That phrase may sound poetic to some and archaic to others. Personally, I find it striking. I first wrote about it a few years ago when I was in a very dark place, and it is time for me to revisit it. The phrase comes from Genesis 41:52, where Joseph names his second son.

The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

I have heard a number of sermons over the years from the life of Joseph. He often becomes a moral lesson – be like Joseph when you are sexually tempted and unjustly accused, and God will exalt you as He did Joseph. I strongly resist that view of the life of Joseph. God’s not conforming me to the image of Joseph. He’s conforming me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Joseph’s story is powerful because it reveals God, not because it reveals Joseph. My circumstances will be distinctly different than Joseph’s, but my God is the same.

There is much to learn of God in Joseph’s story, and the naming of Joseph’s son is one such place. Many thoughts hit me as I meditate on why Joseph named his son Ephraim (which sounds like the Hebrew word for fruitful). First, it’s counterintuitive. Joseph was fruitful in the very place that should have sucked the life out of him. The paradox intrigues me. But, second, I resist the name, because I don’t want to be fruitful in the land of my affliction. I want God to END my affliction, and then I want to be fruitful in the beautiful land I imagined would be God’s best for His children.

However, like Joseph, I am powerless to end whatever troubles plague me, and I get impatient waiting for God to move. It is in those moments that I wrestle with God, “How can I do what You have called me to do in THESE circumstances?!”

Once I calm down and take an objective look at Scripture, it finally hits me that no one in Scripture seems to be very fruitful EXCEPT in the land of their affliction. In fact, you can argue from Scripture that suffering, affliction, and death to self are essential to God’s plan for fruitfulness in His children.

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

I have situations in my life that plague me, that I would desperately love to see changed. God tells me to pray for His will to be done, for His name to be hallowed, and for His kingdom to come. I long for those things to come about in my home, in my neighborhood, in my church, and in the larger Body of Christ. I talked about this in depth here. But in the midst of waiting for the affliction to end and God’s kingdom to come, I am blessed by God’s story in the life of Joseph, and I meditate on what it looks like to be fruitful in the very places from which I would most like to be delivered. And I receive hope that affliction doesn’t end the possibility of fruitfulness but may instead be the very thing that prepares the ground for “fruit that remains.”

John 15:16 NAS “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain … “

Being Patient Learning Patience With Challenging People

SOURCE:  Counseling Solutions

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. –1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)

The main part of this verse is the last part, which is no doubt the hardest part. While the idle, the fainthearted, and the weak cover three categories of people we could possibly struggle with, the phrase Paul puts on the end of his sentence is the real challenge.

The idle, fainthearted, and the weak do not particularly bother me all that much unless you’re asking me to be patient with them. Paul puts three difficult people-types into one big basket and then says that you and I are to be patient with all three of them.

And who are these people I am to be patient with?

The Idle – these are the people who are not living the way they should. They are unruly, out-of-order, not walking according to the clear teaching of God’s Word. They know better because they are Christians, but are choosing to do their own thing. Paul says we are to warn them.

The Fainthearted – these are the people with “small souls.” They have limitations that are not altogether character related. Everybody does not possess a 95 mile-per-hour fast ball. There are people in our relational sphere who have certain limitations. Paul asks us to encourage the small souled people in our world.

The Weak – These are the people who are easily tempted toward certain sins. While they may be strong in most areas, there are some temptations that are particularly acute to them. And though they are seeking to fight a good fight against these temptations, Paul’s hope is that we will be extra mindful of our co-laborers by seeking to help them.

And what should be my heart attitude toward these people?

Though there may be three categories of people in your world, there is one common thread that binds them together as far as your heart attitude and response to them. That there is only one common denominator is the good news. The bad news is that the common denominator is be patient with them all.

Here is a guiding truth that I try, though not always successfully, to apply to my heart when I am serving someone who is different than I am and needs to change:

The few things that I have learned in 50 years of living and have somewhat successfully applied to my life, I must not self-righteously expect, demand, or impose that others learn similar things in six days or six months.

A sober assessment of myself and how I have responded to God and eventually changed through years of trying, failing, trying, and succeeding helps me to moderate my heart down to the necessary levels of patience when it comes to working with other people.

Let’s face it: neither you nor I was quick to change in every area of sanctification. And if the truth were known, we’d have to admit that there are still areas of our lives that need to improve. Can we be honest on this one? Therefore, I want to be careful about how I think about someone who is not changing according to my expectations, preferences, or desires.

Being patient with the idle – as you examine the unruly areas of my life, please do not refrain from speaking into my life. I only ask that you be patient with me as you help me to grow into Christ-likeness.

Being patient with the fainthearted – I have certain limitations. However, I do not want to make excuses for sin, therefore I need you to help me discern the differences between God-given limitations that I can’t go beyond and character issues that I may be able to change. This process of discerning these differences will require much patience on your part.

Being patient with the weak – while there are many things in this world that are not tempting to me and I am grateful for the grace God has given to me in each of these areas, there are still areas where I am weak. I struggle with specific and real sin issues. I need your help. And how can you help me? Primarily by being patient with me when I fail and even more patient as you walk me through the reconciliation process with those I have offended because of my failure.

My Impatient Indicators

When I am losing patience with a person there are “indicators” that I feel in my heart and sometimes express through my actions that alert me that I am either sinning against someone or about to sin against someone. Here is my personal short list of sins that manifest in my heart and sometimes expressed through my behavior: impatience, frustration, anger, criticalness, gossip, slander, harshness, not thinking the best of, hopelessness, worry, angst, unkindness, not serving them, demanding, judgmental, and anxious.

It’s pretty straight forward:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. –1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)

Why Won’t YOU Bless Me?

Why does God sometimes withhold the one thing we long for so desperately?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Mark Littleton

All through the Church there are Christians who live in sorrow. They’re not necessarily poor. They don’t lack health or friends or pleasure. But there is something, perhaps just one thing, that they yearn for. It’s a blessing they can never obtain by their wits, schemes, perseverance, or charm. Only God can grant it. Nevertheless, for some reason God refuses to answer yes.

Though they pray, though they ask others to pray, though they listen to tapes, read books, and even slip into manipulation and threats on occasion, nothing changes.

I think of Judy. A vivacious, kind woman. She, sings, dances, and organizes special events at church that I all enjoy. She’s attractive and interesting. She has an excellent career. But unlike many women today who live happy and productive lives singly, she wants a husband. Yet, she is approaching her late thirties and has not found a man she feels would be right for her. She’s struggled with depression, anger, frustration, and simply learning to wait. She’s even “given it over to the Lord.” It would be easy to tell her, “He’ll come along,” or “Look at it as a blessing.” But I have also known that loneliness. It’s an ache.

I think of Doug. Converted several years ago, he is zealous, exuberant, excited about Jesus. But the shrill cry of his heart is, “Lord, bring my family to Jesus. Don’t let them perish.” His father is old. His mother is embedded in religious ritual. There isn’t much time left. But God seems not even to have moved, let alone converted.

I think of others. Chuck—out of work, yet nothing opens up. Don and Mary—strong Christians, but their teenaged children reject Christ and the faith. Brenda—her alcoholic husband shows no interest in the gospel, Jesus, or even her love.

And I think of Hannah, the woman “of a sorrowful spirit” (1 Sam. 1:15, KJV). She knew well what it was to cry for God’s blessing and to watch her prayers crash to the ground in resounding no’s from Heaven.

Have you been there?

Often, you’re obsessed with that one desire. You can’t shake it. Even though you tell yourself, “What’s it matter? It’s only a little thing,” it doesn’t work. It is the only thing that matters.

Hannah’s desire for a child built in her mind over the years to a gigantic crescendo. As she aged, she became deeply depressed. While some women would have gritted their teeth and plodded on, Hannah was ready to give up. The question seemed to screech through her mind daily: Will I die never having brought a child into the world? For her, life wasn’t worth living if she couldn’t become a mother.

If your happiness is marred by a deep longing, I have good news for you: The desire for and delay of God’s blessing—of any kind—can actually launch you into a deeper and greater fellowship with Him. Why does God sometimes delay, sometimes withhold, a legitimate blessing? Hannah’s story offers us much insight into the problem.

TO DEVELOP HOLINESS

God was more concerned about making Hannah a woman of God than a mother for God. Becoming a mother isn’t difficult. It’s turning mothers into the likeness of Jesus that takes work.

Scripture teaches that God is sovereign. Paul tells us in Eph. 1:11 that He “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” He is Lord of all. Nothing that comes to pass surprises Him, catches Him off guard, or stumps Him. He planned it all from beginning to end. Nothing escapes His scrutiny and control. He’s in charge.

Applied in Hannah’s circumstances, this means that not only was God aware and concerned about her problem, but He, in His perfect wisdom, had planned it this way for His own purpose: the development of holiness in her life.

We all tend to rebel against this truth. “You mean God made her barren?” “You mean He put her through all that pain?” “You mean God is the cause of all this trouble?”

Not the cause. But yes, it was part of His plan. In order to develop character in Hannah, God orchestrated the events of her life toward that end. To bring about true godlikeness in her life, He withheld the blessing.

Look at the byproducts of Hannah’s time of trial: patience, endurance, a fervent prayer life, intimate knowledge of God, a passion for holiness. Would these things have come apart from her pain? In order to produce a Samuel, God first had to produce a Hannah.

TO TEACH US PERSISTENCE

Hannah’s experience brought out a second truth about why God delays His blessing. Wanting a blessing teaches us to persist. Hannah soon discovered there was no one who could help her but God. The doctors offered nothing. Her friends had given up. Even her own husband, who was normally so supportive, finally came to the place where he said, “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1 Sam. 1:8). Hannah found there was only One who could do anything about her problem.

Yet, although God seemed to refuse to bless, to say no to her requests, Hannah kept coming back. Verse 3 says they came “year after year.” Same prayer. Same requests. Same hope. Same answer. She didn’t give up.

In this regard, many Christians fall prey to a Satanic ploy that says, “Well, I prayed about it. God didn’t answer. So I guess it’s not His will.” And they give up. But is that what God intends?

The lack of a speedy answer to prayer is no reason for laziness in prayer. Many times we see people in Scripture pleading with God, believing they could influence His decisions. It wasn’t that they thought they could change His eternal will. They didn’t know His will! No one knows God’s eternal will until it’s history. There is never a reason to think, Whatever He wants will be. So why pray? Rather, Hannah thought, This is what I want, Lord. You said, “Ask.” So I’m asking.

As a sophomore in college in 1970 I wanted to buy a car. My father and I talked about it at length. We considered an MG, but he reminded me that I’d only be able to take one passenger to and from school. We cruised around the used car lots looking for my dream machine.

One lot featured a 1959 Dodge. “A good family car,” the salesman told us. Dad liked it. I nixed it. We looked at another MG. “Too much money,” said Dad. I said, “I can get a loan.” “From who?” he asked. I gave him a long, mournful look, then gave up.

Then one day someone called and told Dad about a lady who was selling a 1965 white Ford Mustang. “Four on the floor, 289 four barrel, less than 40,000 miles. Creampuff condition. It’s for you.” He raced me over. We checked it out, drove it around. I had to have it. We bought it, and I screeched off into the sunset.

I often think of seeking God’s blessing as like that time with my dad. It’s a process of working together. There’s give and take. There’s discussion, examination, hope, despair, a crisis, a climax. Prayer is an earnest discussion between two persons who love one another. You work out a solution to a problem that both believe is the wisest course. Had Hannah not gone through a time without blessing, she might never have learned to pray with power.

TO GIVE US GOD’S BEST

That brings us to a third principle: Lacking God’s blessing for a time may lead to far greater blessing up ahead.

God loved Hannah so much that He wouldn’t give her second best. He could have landed six kids in her lap by the age of sixteen. But He made her wait, for a reason. He wanted her to bear a Samuel. Not just some nameless kid like Peninnah’s boys. Samuel, a prophet of God. Sometimes God’s best blessing is the one preceded by the greatest pain. God loves us too much to let us get the goods too easily.

My friend Bill Scott told me about a birthday he had as a child. For years he had begged his parents for a horse. But as time wore on, he gave up on it. Shortly before his twelfth birthday, his Dad asked him what he wanted. “Blue jeans,” he said.

When he pranced downstairs on the morning of his birthday, he was ready to tug on those blue jeans. But his father simply asked him to go out to the barn. Bill asked where his present was. “You’ll get it,” Dad said. “But go out to the barn first. Make sure there’s plenty of hay.”

Bill was upset. He wanted those blue jeans. He threw such a corker, his dad finally said to his mother, “We’d better get this guy some blue jeans.” She rushed him out and bought a pair.

Dressed in his Levi finery, he was ready for the barn. He ambled out and discovered a horse in the stall by the hay, saddled and ready to go. He ran back to the house and shouted, “There’s a horse out there.” “Right,” said Dad. “It’s yours, Bill. For your birthday.” Bill was astonished. He wanted blue jeans, and his father wanted to give him a horse.

You have to think about that. We fight God all the time about such things. We want what we want when we want it! And God doesn’t want to give us what we want. He wants to give us the things we can only dream about.

What blessing are you seeking now? How long have you waited? Two years? Five? Ten? Maybe you need to ask, “What is God trying to give me that I haven’t thought about?”

In the end, Hannah’s lack of a blessing became one of God’s greatest blessings. God withheld lesser blessings to give her the greatest of all: not just a son, but holiness, intimate knowledge of God, a sweet and gentle spirit.

So what blessing are you seeking that God simply refuses to give?

Perhaps the real question is, what do you see God doing in your life now that proves it’s worth the wait?

Thank YOU for NOT giving me what I want!

SOURCE:  Counseling Solutions

Sometimes God chooses, on purpose, not to give us all that we desire.

I parent similarly. Don’t you?

Through the years I have found it unwise to give my children everything they wanted.

For example, there have been times where I have purposely withheld information from them because it was not the right time to “bring them up to speed” on what I was thinking or planning.

Even the Savior said to those He was caring for, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” – John 16:12 (ESV)

In the OT we see God withholding His full blessing in the historical account of the Israelites re-taking their land. Notice how the Father described how they would get their land back and, thus, receive all that God had prepared for them:

I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. – Exodus 23:29-30 (ESV)

The Hebrew nation was not large enough to occupy the entire land. Therefore, God did not completely drive out the enemy, at least not until His nation grew in number. Interestingly, God was actually using the enemy to caretake the land until His people were able to take care of it. In time, He incrementally drove out the enemy in proportion to Israel’s numerical growth.

If God had given then all they wanted when they wanted it, it would have been a disaster. They would not have been able to steward all of God’s blessing due to their numerical weakness.

  • Have you ever experienced this kind of merciful wisdom from the Lord?
  • Have you ever appealed to the Father to give you something that you were not mature enough to handle?
  • Upon hindsight, did you see God’s mercy in not giving you what you wanted when you wanted it?

There have been times of personal suffering in my life where I pleaded with the Lord to remove the suffering from me. I have shared on this website how I would use “manipulative praying” to convince the Lord that I was okay and ready for the next blessing He had for me.

I felt as though I was okay and ready to move forward. I wanted to believe it was time to “inherit” the blessing God was withholding from me. But it did not matter how much I asked; God would not relent, not until it was His timing.

God knew that it would not be in my best interest to give me all that He had in store for me.

He was right.

I could not see it then, but I see it quite clearly now.

Father knows best

It is not unusual for my children to experience present discontentment as they eagerly anticipate the next good thing from their father. This is the way children are. This is the way I am!

I have to discern and decide if it is wise and right to give them what they want. Sometimes it is an easy choice, while at other times the things they are asking for are not necessarily bad.

For the good things they request, it’s not so much about the request as it is about the timing. Is it the right time to give them what they want? This is a very important question that all parents must wrestle with.

My prayer to God and my appeal to them is that they will trust me. I want them to trust my judgment while being assured that I have their best interests at heart.

Imagine this:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! – Luke 11:13 (ESV)

Do you believe this?

  • What would it take for you to trust God’s decision-making in your life?
  • Can you trust God…that He has your best interest at heart?
  • Do you really believe that God has not forsaken you in your trial?

Faith and Responsibility

My children have a responsibility to bring glory to God, even if they are not getting what they want. Their primary responsibility is to live in faith regarding their present circumstances while trusting God for their future provisions.

My regular appeal to them is to be responsible today with what they have.

The Hebrew nation also had a responsibility to abide in faith regarding God’s present provisions, while trusting Him for the future expansion of their borders.

It could be that some of your dreams are not being fulfilled today. Can you live responsibly today, while trusting that God is working on your behalf? Though you may not like the “little by little” progress that God is making in your life, will you humble yourself to the Master, knowing that He is and will always take care of you?

Your responsibility is not to whine about today or fret about tomorrow, but to seek to make God’s name great in your life regardless of your circumstance. I realize this can be daunting for you, depending on your trial or personal suffering.

Where Is God in the Midst of All My Troubles?

SOURCE:  an article by J. Budziszewski/Focus on the Family

Has God forgotten me? Does He hate me? Why does He seem to hide Himself?

If you hurt enough to ask such questions, you deserve an answer.Trouble suffocates me. Worry entangles me. By night I can’t sleep, by day I can’t rest. The burden of suffering is intolerable. Where is God? Does He know, or are my prayers heard only by the wall? Is He near, or somewhere distant, only watching?

Some people think that you don’t. You’re sick, you’re dying, you’ve been deserted, you’ve lost a child, you’re innocent but accused of wrongdoing — and they try to shush you. Their intentions may be good, but they are hard to bear. “Don’t question God’s ways; He might hear you.” In my cry of anguish, don’t I want Him to hear me? “It’s probably for your own good.” If I’m to be tormented for my own good, don’t I get a say in the matter? “I’m sure there’s a good reason.” No doubt there is, but did I ask for a philosophical explanation? What I asked is “Where is God?”

Some Comforters

Even worse are the people who say, “You’re being unfair to God. It isn’t His fault. If He could have kept your trouble from happening, He would have, but He couldn’t. God is just as helpless as you are, and He weeps to see your sorrow.” No. If God is really God, then He could have stopped it; if I’m suffering, then He could have stopped it but didn’t. I may be baffled by Him, I may be frustrated by Him, but the God I want to hear from is the God who rules the world. I’m not interested in a God who is “not responsible.”

Some Comforters, Some Religion

Has God forgotten me? Does He hate me? Why does He seem to hide Himself? I am weary of my comforters, tired of His defenders. I want God to answer me in person. If only I could state my case before Him and hear His answer!

There was once a man who did that. His name was Job. He too was plagued with so-called comforters and defenders of God, but he demanded a hearing from God Himself, and God answered him. The history of the incident is told in great detail in the Bible.

Job is blameless and upright, a man of such integrity that even God likes to show him off. If anyone deserves blessings, Job does. Yet one day God puts him to the test. Job”s life falls to pieces; calamity of every kind descends upon him. Raiders sweep his fields; his livestock are captured or destroyed; his servants are put to the sword; a house collapses on his sons and daughters and kills them all. Disease strikes him, and he is covered with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. In all this, he submits patiently to God, only to be mocked by his wife, who tells him to “curse God and die!”(Job 2:9) Friends arrive, and still he is patient. For days they sit with him in silence, seeing how greatly he suffers.

A Torrent of Grief

Finally Job can contain himself no longer. In a torrent of grief and protest, he cries, wishing that he had never lived. He doesn’t curse God, but he curses the day he was born. The terrible curse demeans all the previous good in his life; it implies that his joy, his home, his peace, and the lives of his children had never meant a thing, just because now they are gone.

This is too much for Job’s friends, and they rebuke him. On and on they lecture him; they cannot scold enough. Suffering, they say, is punishment for sin. The greater the sin, the greater the suffering. Since Job is in agony, he must have done something terrible to deserve it. Obviously, then, he is covering up. He only pretends to be just; he is really a hypocrite. If only he would confess and take his punishment, God would forgive him and relent — but instead, like a fool, he complains.

To hear these accusations is unbearable to Job. He rages in grief, defending himself and denouncing his friends. Against God, his complaints are even more bitter — and inconsistent. One moment he wants God to leave him alone, the next moment he wants Him to listen. One moment he declares himself guiltless, the next moment he admits that no man is. Yet through it all, he insists that his suffering is undeserved, and he demands that God give him a hearing.

Answer in a Whirlwind

In the end, Job gets his hearing. God answers from the heart of the whirlwind. He doesn’t pull His punches, and the encounter is overpowering. Meeting God turns out to be nothing like just hearing about Him. But Job is satisfied.

There are two amazing things about this face-off. The first is that God never explains to Job the reason for his suffering. In other words, it isn’t because God answers Job’s questions that Job is finally satisfied. In fact God asks questions of His own: Where was Job when God laid the foundations of the earth? Can he bind the stars of the constellations? Job has challenged the Creator of the mind, but does he comprehend even the mind of the ostrich? Job confesses, “I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know”(Job 42:3).

The second amazing thing is that God does not side with Job’s friends. He sides with Job. It seems impossible. Wasn’t Job God’s accuser? Weren”t his friends God’s defenders? But there cannot be any mistake. Even though God humbles Job, not once does He express anger toward him. Yet toward his friends, God declares that His anger blazes out. He says that He will not forgive them until Job has prayed for them. And why? Because they have not spoken the truth about Him, “as my servant Job has”! (Job 42:7-8)

What truth could Job have spoken? Didn’t he just admit that he hadn’t known what he was talking about?

Not All Suffering Is Our Fault

Yes, but about one thing Job was right: He didn’t deserve what was happening. Not all suffering is our fault. We do bring some suffering upon ourselves: Adulterers destroy their homes, drunks their livers, wasters their wealth. Yet the innocent suffer too. Dreadful things happen, things we don’t deserve, things that seem to be senseless. This is why God sides with the sufferer, even in preference to those so-called defenders who merely “explain away” the pain.

In His justice, God understands that this will seem unjust to us. He does not even try to give us “answers” that we could not understand. Instead, He visits us, as He visited Job. Is He not God? He is a better answer than the “answers” would have been. Indeed, He is the only possible answer. Though we find ourselves buried in a deeper dark than night, from the midst of the whirlwind, He speaks.

You may object, “What good is it for God to visit me? He’s not the one drowning in troubles; I am. You say God sides with the sufferer,” but these words are meaningless. God can’t suffer with me. He only watches.”

But there is more. The story of Job is not God’s last word. Nor is it His last deed.

Human Wrecks

Let’s face it. In all our thoughts about suffering, we have sidestepped the main issue and focused on the secondary issue. To be frank, we human beings are wrecks. The external troubles that we blame on God are the least of our suffering. Something worse is wrong with us, and it is wrong with us inside.

One writer describes the problem as a “deep interior dislocation in the very center of human personality.” What we want to do, we don’t. What we don’t want to do, we do. We not only do wrong, but call it right. Even the good things in us become polluted. We may long to love purely, but our desires turn into idols that control us. We may long to be “blameless” like Job, but our righteousness turns into a self-righteousness that rules us. We may long to be reconciled with God, but we can’t stop wanting to be the center of the universe ourselves.

Can’t Repair Ourselves

Not only are we broken, but we can’t repair ourselves. Could you perform surgery on your own eyes? How could you see to do it? Suppose you tore off both hands; could you sew them back on? Without hands, how could you hold the instruments? Our sin-sickness is something like that. Many philosophies teach about right and wrong with pretty fair accuracy. What they can’t do is heal the sin-sickness. However true, no mere philosophy can do that. Our cancer requires more than a philosophy. What it requires is the divine surgeon, God Himself, and the name of His surgery is Jesus Christ.

Jesus was God Himself in human flesh — fully God, but fully man. Most people have heard that He taught, performed miracles, healed the sick. Most people have heard that He was executed on a Cross and rose again. What is less well known is what this was all about.

Did someone say God doesn’t suffer? In Jesus, God suffered. That was why He became one of us — to suffer for us.

Even though He had no sin of His own, Jesus identified with us so completely that He took the burden of our inward brokenness — our sin and sin-sickness — upon Himself. He understands it all, because He bore it all — the whole weight of it, all for us. By dying, He took it to death; by rising, He opened for us a way, through Him, to life.

There was no other way for God to help us. He bore real agony, bled real blood, died real death. On the Cross, even He felt alone. When He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” it was for us (Matthew 27:46). All this He saw coming from afar, and He accepted it on our behalf. He paid the price that we cannot pay, He bore the burden that we cannot bear. “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened,” He says, “and I will give you rest”(Matthew 11:28).

This is not a fable; it actually happened, and it is really true. If we trust Him as our price-payer, as our sin-bearer, then through Him we give up our broken life and receive His own life in its place. Then no suffering can be meaningless, because it is lifted up into His own suffering and redeemed.

Did you read the catch? “If we trust Him.” Can you do that? Can you do it utterly, without reserve? Can you give up the ownership of yourself, and transfer the title to Him? If something in your heart is an obstacle — some fear, some pain, some pride — can you at least ask Him to remove it?

Though He had 77 questions for Job, for you He has only one. Will you come?

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