Saturday, November 27, 2004

Why we suffer: Job 5:17

"Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. " I have learned many times in my own life that this statement is true. While I can say that I do not always enjoy being reproved by the Lord, the fruit of it in my life is always good. Many times we suffer as a result of our own sins. Often, the pain we bare is self inflicted. But there are many other reasons why we suffer. Eliphaz assumed that, if a person is suffering, it must be the reproof of God for something they did, but this is not always the case.

Sometimes we suffer because of other people's sins. I think of Joshua and Caleb, who had to endure the forty years in the wilderness because of the unfaithfulness of the other ten spies. They had faith, but because the rest of Israel lacked faith, it was forty years of wandering for everyone. There is also the case where one parent in a family is an alcoholic and the whole family suffers. The innocent along with the guilty. Sometimes out pain is caused by others.

Sometimes we suffer for the sake of others. Paul said, "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen." (2 Timothy 2:10) Sometimes, our suffering is not for our own direct benefit, but for the benefit of others. Paul often suffered many things, not because of his own sins and not because of the sins of others, but simply so that others may be benefited. Paul suffered so that others may come to know the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Paul goes on to say, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Colossians 1:24) There are suffering and afflictions that remains for the sake of Christ's church.

Finally, we sometimes suffer that God's power may be made known. Remember the story of the blind man, when the disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" (John 9:2) It is interesting that the disciples first thought, upon seeing the man born blind, was that his blindness had to be due to someone's sin. This is the same assumption Eliphaz made regarding Job's suffering. Jesus responds that it was not because of anyone's sin that the man was born blind, but rather, "it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3) What an incredible privilege that our suffering may be used to show the mighty works of God! I have heard many reasons why God brought this suffering upon Job. The truth is that God never tells us why. But the more I study the book of Job, the more I an convinced, that Job suffered that God's grace, mercy, and power may be seen in him. And, through his story, we might also find hope and faith.

We must learn not to be quick to judge others, especially those going through rough times. We must not assume that the root cause of their pain has to be sin. It may be that God is about to show His mighty power in and through their lives. What a privilege!

David Robison

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