I’ve spent this week writing a sermon on Job 1. I planned the series in Job at the beginning of the year and have been in preparation for it for years. Maybe you’re like me; at times it can feel as if our lives are all preparation for preaching a sermon on Job. We all suffer. We all hurt. But it is only after extended periods of pain, and a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit that we can say with Job “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b ESV).
Throughout my short life on this earth I have both known those who suffer and known suffering myself. I’ve spend time with people whose only thoughts have been pain and death. I’ve spent time with people who have constantly wanted to end their lives and their suffering. I’ve spent time with people who have lost loved ones. I’ve spent time with people who have suffered the loss of a loved one and feel the empty space in their hearts. Suffering is painful.
I’ve also known suffering in my own life. As a late teen I went through a period of dark depression and torment which resulted in regular self-harm and suicide attempts (read more here). Most recently I’ve been through the pain of physical illness which has inflicted my body for 8 years and, at points, led me to the brink of despair (read more here) . Suffering is not a stranger to me, nor is it a friend, but it certainly is a familiar and constant companion. And yet, suffering is always painful.
I almost don’t remember what it is like to be pain free. I can’t quite seem to remember how it felt like to be without agony every day. Suffering is always painful, and yet, suffering is not the end of the story.
There is a group of people who say that suffering is pointless and that it’s the sufferer’s fault. There’s a group of people who say that if you just believe enough, then you’ll be free from all pain. There are those who suffer and think that Satan has won and they are defeated. There are those who suffer and feel that they have been abandoned by God and are left to swim the depths of despair for the rest of their days. But there is a God who says that all of that is nonsense.
There is a God who uses our suffering to refine our faith. There is a God who does not deal in short and snappy answers to the pains of life. There is a God who does not tell you to ‘man up’. There is a God who can use suffering and pain to test the genuineness of our faith through suffering.
Suffering is not meaningless but it is working, in the life a believer, that we may glorify God as we suffer well. Suffering can wake us up to the reality that God’s glory is of greater importance than our comfort.
But most importantly, we serve a God who took on pain and suffering in our place so that ultimately our pain and suffering could be wiped away. God took on flesh and suffered, so that our bodies could be renewed and we could dwell with Him. That is a life-giving message that needs to be preached in the pulpit, in the pew, in the park, in the home, in the hospital and in every place under the sun. The Lord does not approach suffering as a stoic, but as one who knows pain and He knew it for you.
Friends, suffering is painful, but it has a point. Suffering is often the means that causes us to run to the Lord in utter dependance on Him. Suffering is painful but it can bring a humility that a healthy body might ignore. Suffering is painful, but with it comes the comfort that one day it will be no more.
Suffering is painful, but God is bigger.