Questions about suffering often come up during times of tragedy and grief. When we are distressed, we want to know that our suffering matters to God. We also want to know that God cares about the pain we’re experiencing. When we are suffering, we wonder how God relates to our pain as well. How does God respond to suffering? The best place to go for the answer is scripture.
You are probably familiar with the biblical figure, Job. He was a man who knew what depression and suffering felt like. He suffered many personal losses, including his material possessions, followed by his children. Following this, he was devastated by a severe physical affliction. Job’s story reminds us to seek God and not man, especially during periods of suffering. Scripture points out that as soon as Job received the devastating news about his children and His wealth, he reacted by turning to God in worship. Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). God reveals that it is ok to seek and cast your care on Him. There are many times that we forget to shares our suffering with Him. We spend so much time worrying, we forget that there is peace through God. We must call on God to open our minds through His Word. When we are suffering, we call on God to erase our afflictions and replace our worries with wisdom.
Another thing that the book of Job reminds us is that all counsel isn’t wise counsel. One of Job’s friends implied that his hardship happened because he sinned. He told Job that this was a form of discipline and reproof by God. God, on the other hand, proclaimed that Job was “blameless and upright.” We must be mindful of the people we are turning to for counsel. The people we ask for advice from during a period of suffering don’t always have our best interest in mind.
Job was aware that God saw his calamity and resolved it through His rescue plan. Job said, “I know my redeemer lives.” When we’re suffering, we have to know that God is concerned about what we’re going through. Too often, we spend all our time thinking about the things that are going wrong in our lives. This may be surrounding issues with your family, job, finances and relationships to name some. It can feel like the entire world is crashing down around you. Another thing that causes many people to worry is fear of the future. The truth is God’s Will is not that we are distressed about what is occurring in our lives. Though God is telling us not to fear, that is easier said than done. This is why we should call on God to free you from all fear, anxiety and worry. Call on Him to release all pain in your body and distress from your heart.
When we look at the life of Job, we can see how suffering creates intimacy with God. Job 42:5 says, “My ears had heard you, but now my eyes have seen you.” In this passage, we see that intimacy with God can come from affliction. During times of great stress and suffering, our soul opens up to God, and we can feel him more profoundly than we imagined. When life is difficult, we often forget that God is present, not only listening and addressing our needs. Often, it’s our circumstances that can pull us away from God. We’re unsure if we can trust that God’s plan is right for us. However, God really knows and understands the suffering in our hearts.
God is aware of our hearts. Therefore, when satan challenged the Lord surrounding Job’s character, God was clear about what Job would withstand. Always remember that God is listening and is aware of what we can handle. There isn’t a time when we’re speaking that God isn’t listening. There are times when you may doubt that God is listening and hears you calling out to Him about your suffering. The beautiful thing about God is that even when we doubt He hears you, He proves that He is. There isn’t a dial that He turns to turn your prayers up and down. This may be a period where God is calling on your to turn down the voice of the world and turn up His. If you are going through a difficult season in your life and are suffering from pain, allow God to speak over those fears.
Often, trials are an opportunity to grow in our faith walk with God. He will carry us through any storm we face. Job 38:1-6 says, “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with word without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand? Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone.’” Every situation we go through is preparing us to be stronger. God uses our trials to push our faith further. It can also strengthen us if we allow it to. God will use your suffering and the trials you face to reveal your greater purpose. There will be times when you don’t understand your suffering and later learn that God was using us for something greater.
Thankfully, God is a wonderful listener. We don’t have to cry out loud for God to hear us. He can hear the silent prayers, the ones that are sitting in our hearts, especially during our dark periods. If you are going through a season of suffering, you can be encouraged by Job’s story to build your faith. Job reminds us that God has an ultimate say in our lives.