Dealing With Pain And Suffering
February 11, 2019
The Bible is helpful to provide a candid perspective about the flaws of human thinking. The Bible teaches that there are issues that we all have with our natural way of thinking. We are emotional creatures, and often times, those emotions can cloud our understand of what it true. The Bible teaches that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We are unable to detect the ways that our souls convince our minds of improper thinking. Therefore, we are prone to respond to life’s circumstances with flawed perspectives of truth. In other words, we tend to react to the circumstances of life in ways that show our ignorance of what God is actually doing. This is especially true when life brings challenging circumstances. We can become easily overwhelmed so that we forget who God is and lose sight of His eternal purposes and promises.
The Bible uses the testimony of Job to expose this human flaw. In Job 6:1-13 the Bible shows how Job responded to the words of his friend Eliphaz. Eliphaz had some good things to say about God even though the application of his counsel was wrong. Eliphaz had the sense to know the truth about God, but didn’t have the wisdom to know the truth about what God was doing with Job. Still, the things that Eliphaz said about God were true, and Eliphaz hoped to bring encouragement to Job by reminding him of who God is. Job’s response shows that Job was too far consumed by the weight of his circumstances. In fact, the first thing that Job said in response to Eliphaz was explaining how heavy his burden was. Job likened the weight of his suffering to the weight of all the sand of the sea!
Clearly Job was being dramatic, but his point was clear. The suffering that he had to endure was too great for him in his mind. In Job’s mind, he was dealing with the worse suffering ever known to mankind. Here, it is important to recognize the tendency to overreact to our personal issues. The scriptures teach that all things are common. Job’s suffering was severe and the cause of his suffering was unique to some degree. However, the Bible is clear to explain that God NEVER puts His people in positions that He hasn’t also equipped them to deal with. Job had not reached his threshold even though it might have felt like he had exceeded his threshold. The way that Job described his suffering suggested that he felt his suffering was exceptionally excessive, such as no human being should have to suffer.
Since God was the chief administrator and regulator of Job’s suffering, his description of his pain was exaggerated. God did not call for Job to bear all of the weight of the sands of the sea in his suffering. Recall that Jesus offered to carry the weight of our burdens by commanding us to cast our yokes upon Him for His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. While the weight of our suffering might seem exceptionally great beyond all other suffering, it isn’t true. It might have been true that Job was enduring suffering in a way that was unique to him, and the worse of his personal experience, but that doesn’t mean that his suffering was the worst of all time. When our minds want to make more of what is true of our circumstances, it is important to remember the suffering of our Lord. Until our suffering matches the weight of all the sins that Jesus bore, our suffering and pain is not the worst of all time. This means that the pain is still manageable when we recognize that the burden is not ours to carry. When we try to carry it, the weight always seems like too much, no matter how much it actually is.
The extent of Job’s suffering and his focus on the difficulty of his pain caused him to have a flawed understanding of his relationship to God. The testimony of Job 6:1-13 explains that Job felt like he was an enemy of God. He explained that he felt like God has shot arrows at him that were releasing poison from within him. Job felt like the terror of the Lord God Almighty was directed at him. This was not true. Though God permitted Job’s suffering, and offered Job as a subject for suffering, it was the devil that caused Job’s pain. God restrained the devil from committing worse evils in Job’s life. Job was still revered in the eyes of God because of the ways God was using him. Job was still God’s child. Job was still considered faithful, blameless, and an man of integrity. This is another important truth to recognize about human weakness. It is common for people to interpret the suffering we experience in life as a sign that God is mad at us.
This is not always true. It was not true for Job. Job had not suddenly become God’s chief enemy so that his pain was reflective of God’s wrath against him. It doesn’t work that way. Since God’s perspective and opinion about Job had not changed, the Bible shows that we need to be careful about our emotional impulses. The way we feel is seldom an indication about the truth of our position with God. Feelings can be deceiving. Since feelings stem from the heart, and the heart is deceitful above all things, then sometimes our initial feelings about things can be a lie. Job “felt” like an enemy of God, but the truth was that his position in the Lord had not changed, regardless of the suffering he experienced. Job’s “feelings” were wrong. Pain has a way of causing these types of issues. We need to be careful about how we respond to “feeling” when life gets hard lest we consider God to be our enemy when He is really our Teacher, Healer, Redeemer, Protector, and Savior.
As a result, Job still wanted God to show mercy by taking his life. Job wanted God to kill him. Job’s emotional response to the difficulties in his life caused him to figure death to be the only way of escaping his issues. Job’s emotions clouded his understanding of God. He forgot that God is transcendent. He forgot that God is sovereign. He forgot that God is almighty. He forgot that God is compassionate. He forgot that God is able to restore. He forgot that God is able to heal. He forgot that God is able to make new. To Job, the only way of escape was death. In one sense, Job was right. The only way to truly escape the suffering of this life is to enter into the full glory of God’s majesty in His kingdom. Until then, there will always be some issue that keeps us laboring with issues that sin causes. Still, God is not so weak that He is unable to provide restoration, peace, joy, and rest while in this life. The Lord is God and there is no other. There is nothing that is too difficult for Him. With mankind, nothing is possible, but with God, all things are possible. Death was not Job’s only way to cope with his difficulties.
One of the main reasons that Job wanted to die was because he had not cursed God up to that point, but felt like if the suffering continued, he might break. Once again, the Bible exposes the issues that human thinking and emotional capacity causes. Job felt that since he had somehow become an enemy of God, his faith was based on his own personal ability and strength from within. This is not how it works. The Bible plainly teaches that all of God’s people are given the measure of faith that is required of them from God as the Provider. The Lord does not put His people in positions that threaten their spiritual integrity with Him. Things might seem like they are going in a contrary direction from our perspective, but from God’s perspective, things are never out of control and our salvation never compromised. Job’s faith was never determined by the strength he had within himself to summon it. Job’s faith was great because God provided great faith. Since God is eternally self-existing, self-sustaining, almighty, and transcendent, Job’s circumstances would NEVER affect God’s ability to provide the sufficient faith to preserve Job’s soul. Recall that the devil’s chief aim was to cause Job to curse God. The Lord was NEVER going to let that happen. No matter the extent of pain we’re going through, our faith is NEVER dependent on our own ability to maintain. We are not saved by our effort, nor are we sustained in salvation by our effort. Job’s emotional response to his pain caused him to forget that God is in charge of our faith and is faithful to provide the faith we need to endure, regardless of the extent of endurance that is required. When things get hard, it is easy to forget that.
The testimony of Job 6:1-13 shows that our internal grief can have a profound effect on our thinking, and even our physical response to things. Job didn’t want to eat because the quality of his pain caused him to despise food that tasted good. Job had lost sense of what was good because he was consumed by darkness. That darkness clouded his mind to forget who God is, the essence of His promises, and the faithfulness of God. Though these are common human responses, they are not acceptable in the eyes of God. The heart will cause the mind to forget God. As believers, we must see the candid testimony of scripture, confess that this weakness is true of us too, and seek the Lord for the strength required to overcome our natural human response with the supernatural power of His Spirit. Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light to assure us of His ability and willingness to sustain us through the pain of our salvation. His aim might not be to take the pain away, but prove the extent of His power and mercy to enable us in the midst of it. If we remember the extent of God’s power, faithfulness, and eternal purposes, then our minds will be fixed on the truth, and not the lies that our hearts try to spew from within. It is then that our attitudes are changed so as to persevere with contentment, looking forward to the hope of eternity, but not at the expense of our purpose in this life at this time.