Why the Righteous Suffer
When we come face-to-face with suffering, whether in our own lives or in the lives of others, we often wonder why those of us who profess belief in God still suffer. Doesn’t God love us? What could His purpose be in our suffering?
When the Bible addresses the issue of pain and suffering, it does so within the framework that God is good and all-powerful and has an eternal plan to create a people who are His very own, to make them into the image of His Son, and to bring them safely to glory (Titus 2:14; Romans 8:29; 2 Timothy 4:18). He will do whatever it takes to achieve those objectives—even if it means permitting temporary sorrows.
Here are some examples of what suffering can achieve:
• Suffering brings commonality. Most suffering is actually just the reality of living in a fallen, imperfect world. We all experience pain, sickness, and grief. The righteous and the unrighteous alike see the sun and feel the rain (Matthew 5:45). The righteous and the unrighteous alike live with the effects of suffering.
• Suffering is corrective. As a father disciplines his children in order for them to know and do the right thing, so God sometimes uses suffering to get us back on the right path when we are going astray (Hebrews 12:5-13).
• Suffering is constructive. Not only can suffering correct us, but it can also build character within us (James 1:2-5). Have you ever looked at people and wondered, “How did she become so hopeful? How is he so empathetic with my brokenness?” It’s likely because they’ve gone through suffering, grown from it, and learned to care for others through it.
• Suffering is glorifying. God always works through suffering to bring Himself glory, even years, decades, or generations later. As with the blind man in John 9, God can use a life of pain or disappointment to eventually display a miraculous example of His own power. We may question why we are going through a difficult experience, but somewhere along the journey of our days, we may realize, “Oh, that’s why I went through such pain; it is for this exact moment, that God may be glorified.”
• Suffering is cosmic. While not all suffering is part of a great spiritual drama, some suffering certainly is. Job is perhaps the most profound example of this, as God used him to demonstrate before Satan that a person can love and trust God for who He is and not merely for what someone can get out of Him (Job 1).
The truth is, you will suffer in life. But you do not have to suffer without hope. You can remember God’s greater purposes through suffering. The question you and I ultimately need to ask ourselves is not “Why?” but “Will I…?” Will I believe God’s promises? Will I cling to God’s purposes? Will I trust Him?
Job's Character and Wealth
1There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed1 God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Satan Allowed to Test Job
6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan2 also came among them. 7The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Satan Takes Job's Property and Children
13Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 14and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants3 with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
20Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
22In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
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