Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Mystery of Suffering

"'You asked, ‘who is this that obscures My counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3).

Peter tells us to rejoice when we participate in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13)—particularly when we suffer because of our faithful witness to the truth of Christianity. But in a mysterious way, every Christian’s suffering exists “in union with Christ,” and thus participates in the sufferings of Christ. Our suffering is never in vain, even though we may never know why God called us to suffer, or how our suffering counts for the advancement of His kingdom.

Job was called to suffer. Job had committed no specific sin that brought God’s displeasure upon him. Job was afflicted in many ways, as we see in chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Job, but though we as readers know why he was called to suffer, Job himself was never told. As far as we know, God never let Job know about Satan’s challenge. We know, however, that Satan experienced a defeat and that this was the reason for Job’s mysterious call to suffering.

When God spoke to Job, He told him He is absolutely sovereign. When Job cried out, what he received was not an answer but a person. Job’s friends had many words to say, but God simply gave Himself to Job.

We may be confident that everything that comes into our lives comes from the hand of God and is designed ultimately for our good. Because of this we can be certain that when we experience suffering, it is because God has called us to it. This calling may be temporary or it may be permanent. Whichever it is, it comes from God and has as much dignity as any other calling in life. Indeed, when we consider that it was the sufferings of Jesus Christ that established the kingdom in the first place, we realize that a call to suffering is a high calling indeed.

In the book of James (5:14–15) we find that the church can put a seal upon a person called to suffer. When we are afflicted, we should call for the elders of the church. They anoint us with oil, and we have the promise that this will raise us up. It may raise us up to new health, or it may raise us up to a full sense of our calling as sufferers. Either way, it is God’s way of transforming our consciousness, so that we realize that our experience is a special calling from Him and has His blessing.

A person undergoing suffering often experiences a loss of dignity. It does not help when hospitals provide skimpy gowns for patients, gowns that humiliate those who are already fearful. When you visit the sick, be sure to accord them special honor as those with a high calling from God.