Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Vocation of Suffering

"So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" (1 Peter 4:19).

We think of a vocation or calling as a job that we are appointed to do. We speak of a call to the ministry, but we could just as easily speak of a call to run a gas station or to be a homemaker or anything else. We don’t generally think of being called to suffer, but we should. Some people, for some parts of their lives at least, are simply called to suffer.

Of course, the man who was preeminently set aside to suffer and die was our Lord Jesus Christ. Christians, in union with Him, are frequently called to “participate in the sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 4:13). The great example of this in the Bible is Job.

Satan, you remember, asked to be allowed to put Job to the test. With God’s permission, Satan arranged for all of Job’s children to be killed and all of Job’s property to be destroyed. Then he afflicted Job with a horribly painful and incurable disease. Then Job’s wife encouraged him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9), which was surely no comfort. To top it off, three of Job’s friends came to accuse Job of sins of which he was not guilty.

Throughout all of this, Job did not renounce the Lord, but instead cried out for an explanation. When God did finally come to speak with Job, He first of all told Job that he would have to answer His questions. He asks Job who created the world, and who orders day and night, feeds the lion, and gives the horse his strength. It almost seems as if God was bullying Job.

But that was not God’s purpose. God never answered Job’s question. God never gave Job an explanation. But God gave Job a Friend! God overwhelmed Job with an awareness of who He really is, and the certainty of His divine presence was enough.

Often when we try to comfort someone we find we have nothing to say that does not seem trite. But simply being there for someone, silently holding his or her hand, means more than words. Just so, even if God does not give us an explanation for our pain, He is there to be our Friend. If you are suffering, read Job 38–42 and let God overwhelm you with who He really is.