Handling Suffering With The Right Attitude
February 14, 2019
The Bible teaches that God uses the suffering of this life to teach us about the value of the inheritance He has awaiting His people in eternity. Jesus taught that eternal life is the knowledge of God through Him. Thus, the more we know of Jesus, the more we get to enjoy the benefits of eternal life, even while suffering in this one. This means that, as God’s people, our lives shouldn’t be spent trying to indulge in futile attempts to make this life seem different than it really is. Likewise, we shouldn’t spend our time in this life complaining about the truth of this life. It is not just a matter of knowing the truth about this life and the temporary nature of it, but also that we should use that knowledge to make the most of this life according to God’s purposes, rather than squandering the short time we have in complaints and sulking.
The testimony of Job reveals that Job had a hard time with this. Job had a clear understanding of the nature of this life, and that understanding was amplified by the suffering that he endured. However, Job’s suffering caused him to complain much more than the scriptures show we ought to. Job was as human as anyone else, and like any natural person, found it easier to wallow in difficulties rather than rejoice at the temporary nature of them in anticipation for God’s ultimate deliverance. To Job, death was a release from His suffering, but his error was in that he felt death was the only means by which God can address suffering. So, while Job had some good things to say that were true of this life and of death, the tone of his address shows that the devil had robbed Job of the joy of his salvation even though he couldn’t rid Job of his salvation itself.
In Job 7:7-16 the Bible testifies that Job shifted his complaints directly to the Lord. It is possible that, while he complained to his friends, that hearing the magnitude of his complaints, ignored or belittled Job’s venting, at which point Job spoke directly to God. It is also possible that Job sought to speak directly to God to voice his opinions about the manner of God’s work. Either way, there were some things that Job said that were true, but others that were not good. Since God didn’t directly chasten Job in the moment of his misspeaking, it is important to recognize God’s mercy, understanding that Job is made from the same weak and pitiful dirt as the next person, and will have moments of failure through emotional outbursts.
Job first remarked to God that his life was like a breath or a vapor. Not that God needs a reminder about the nature of our life, but Job’s hope was to see that God would remember Job’s weakened position and put an end to the visible part of Job’s life. Understanding that life is like a vapor – here one moment and then gone the next – Job understood the nature of death when it inevitably comes. Job mentioned that his eyes would never again see good, and the eyes of others would not see him either. In other words, when we die, the things we consider “good” of this life are no longer accessible to us. The “good” things of this life become darkness in death. Whether these things are only good by our perception, or whether they meet the righteous standards of God’s goodness, when we die, we are totally separated from the things of this world. Job desired death to be separated from the bad and corrupted things of this world, but he knew that death also brings separation to the “good” things of this world.
This point is a good reminder about how we should treat those things that are actually “good;” the things that measure up to the righteous standards of God’s goodness. We all only have access to them for a limited time. When that time is complete, we no longer have access to them and will never see them again in the same light as while alive now. Likewise, those who see us today, will never see us again in this life. Some suppose that they have seen manifestations of dead loved ones and such, but the Bible is clear about this. The eyes of those on this earth will not see those who leave this earth to enter into eternity – either unto condemnation or life. As a result, people are soon forgotten.
Job compared our existence to a cloud that vanishes away. A cloud might be so great as to cover the whole sun and offer shade for a moment, but in the end, the cloud dissipates, and never returns to form again. That cloud will never come back. It served its purpose for a moment, and vanishes from existence. Job was correct to compare the clouds to death. When we die and go to the grave, no one comes up from the grave to continue living here again. The children of God will be raised in the first resurrection, and those appointed for judgment will be resurrected later, but no one will be raised up to return to this manner of living. Jesus only raised a few from the dead during His ministry here to validate His claim as the author, distributor, and essence of eternal life. The point has been proved, so God is not in the business of sending people back into this life to continue living as before.
Job was right to make these claims. There are many things that God inflicts and permits to happen in this life to remind us of the temporary and futile nature of this life. It ends and we end with it. Therefore, it is wise to make good use of this life while we have the short time that we do, preparing to live in the realm where time is not a factor. If we spend our lives now indulging in the temporary affections of this life, then we forfeit the opportunity to prepare for eternal life and will suffer condemning consequences for it. Even if we have eternal life and spend our short time here complaining about the difficulties of this life like Job, we squander the joy of our salvation and opportunities God has given to receive that which is good about this life; and those opportunities never return. Remembering these things should cause us to remember the Lord. To know what is truly good by His righteous standards, and seek to be good stewards of the goodness He provides. Trusting that God’s goodness only increases to immeasurable glory in eternity, anticipating the fulfillment of that promise.
Job had a hard time with this on account of the physical pain and mental anguish he dealt with. Job knew that death would take him from the pain of this life, but spoke in such a morbid way that the benefits of his blamelessness and uprightness were hard to see. In Job 7:7-17, Job flat out tells God that he has the desire to complain and to speak without restraint about his dissatisfaction with his life. Here, Job is wrong. No matter how bad things seem to be, his physical position had not changed his spiritual position with the Lord. His suffering was tough, but not so much as to lash out at God for causing or allowing pain. Job felt that his suffering was the greatest of all time, which was not true. In his complaining, Job began to think more highly of himself, as if not deserving of suffering of any kind. He referred to himself as “a sea, or a sea serpent.” Job’s issues were not as great as the seas of the world. Job’s nature was not as great as a sea serpent. Here, Job felt that he was more than he actually was. Speaking in this tone to God is never a good idea. When approaching the Lord, even in pain, it is important to remember that we are just dust. We are replaceable as God’s servants. Though Job had not sinned in a specific way to provoke God to anger as the cause of his pain, Job was a sinner like anyone else, and therefore not exempt from pain and suffering. It is important to make note that complaining causes people to talk crazy, risking speaking heresies to God.
Lastly, Job again described the intense nature of his suffering, and the physical issues that compounded it. He elaborated as to why he was unable to sleep at night. Job hoped that he could sleep at night to try and find some moment of relief and refreshment from his pain, but he couldn’t. The reason Job couldn’t’ sleep was because he was having bad nightmares. The nightmares could have been the simple effects of a tired mind on account of fevers and physical issues, or could have been continued attacks from the devil. Likewise, when Job hoped to find rest and peace in the comfort of his couch, he was unable, having terrifying visions like the dreams. Regardless of the cause, it is clear to see that God permitted continual discomfort. In fact, Job even considered God to be the cause. He accused God Himself of producing fear with terrifying dreams and visions. Whether God was the real cause or the devil was is unclear. It is more likely the devil, but remember that the devil could only inflict suffering that God permitted. This point shows that God is able to remove comfort from that which we had once been comforted by. Regardless of what it is, if we find comfort in something besides the Lord, He can make that thing something we despise. A good night’s sleep is often the suggested remedy for a bad day or suffering of any kind. Rest in a quiet place is often a good idea for those who are vexed in their minds. However, these comforts should NEVER be intended to take the place of the Lord as Comforter. When our hearts seek worldly comforts more than God, the Lord has a way of making those worldly comforts despised in our eyes until we realize that He is the cause of comfort, not our things.
Since Job could not find that circumstantial comfort he sought, he preferred death by any means. He even states that he would accept death by strangling just to get away from the pain he had. To Job, the slow miserable death of strangling was better than the slow miserable death he was already suffering. Strangling would have brought a quicker end for Job than his current condition. Though this might have been true, it was not a good perspective or a good use of the time he had. For example, the Psalms show that David suffered too, but rather than seek an immediate escape from the suffering, David rejoiced in the hope of eternal life while seeking to make the most of the circumstances of this life. The Apostle Paul confessed that it would certainly be better to be in the presence of the Lord in heaven, but it was better for the sake of the church at that time for Paul to continue living here. This shows that, while our hope should be in eternal life, that hope should not be at the expense of our responsibility and opportunity to glorify God in this life. Job was willing to forsake both his opportunity and responsibility to glorify God in this life to escape the pain of this life. That attitude isn’t consistent with the attitude that God reveres in other scriptures. Yet, God was patient with Job, understanding the weakness of his frame, the pitiful nature of his mind, and true intentions of his heart. Though Job spoke like a fool sometimes, God suffered with Job through Job’s suffering, providing mercy until the end of the season of Job’s pain until He was ready to bring in a new season of restoration.