Week of November 21

The Great Breakthrough When We Suffer

Read: Job 41-42; 2 Corinthians 1-2
“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’”
Job 42:1-2, ESV


Suffering makes God “appear to be absent.” So what are we to do when we suffer and when God does not answer the question, “Why am I suffering?” Job teaches us that we should use our God-given minds and hearts to respond to Him in faith. God has demonstrated the vastness of His person and the scope of His reach into areas well beyond anything that Job can comprehend. The contrite, suffering man clearly grasped the implications of God’s divine words. So, he worships God. Let’s learn how to live with such faith in our own sufferings.

Let's See What the Bible Says

The Climax to Trials of Suffering
We are finite beings. Job embraces his own finitude in chapter 42 where he comes face-to-face with God’s infinite person. We should notice that Job repents of having challenged God’s justice in his speeches; however, he did not confess that he had done something to deserve his sufferings (42:6). His sufferings provided him with a deeper and richer awareness of God’s nature, purposes, and activity in the world. You and I also can gain new insight into God and His ways when we walk through suffering.
Big Lessons Learned
God is all-powerful (v. 2a). He alone exercises might, especially over the moral sphere where “he puts down evil and brings to pass his holy will” (EBC). You and I may find such a confession difficult in an age that limits God’s knowledge, power, and, in some cases, goodness. Our first confession that truly makes sense in this world of evil and suffering is: “He is God, and I am not!”

God’s purposes are never thwarted (v. 2b). Job opens his mouth to tell God that he received His message loud and clear. The short version is that God’s purpose is all that counts. Job states that there is nothing else that he needs to know except, perhaps, that this Lord of the universe was his friend (42:7-8; cf. John 15:13, 15; “. . .that someone lay down his life for his friends” and “I have called you friends”). If you are like me, then you often need the closeness of God when you suffer.
God’s Care is Assured
So, does God ever draw near to Job? To us? Job answers these questions (cf. vv. 5-6). He claims that he had heard about God, but now his oft-requested prayer to come into his presence had been answered! Interestingly, once Job finds himself there, he senses the need to withdraw his rash statements about God. He was the one who had pulled back from God. Job rejects what he had said about God (v. 6).

Secondly, he “repents,” not of sin that caused his suffering but of the wrong assertion about God’s justice (cf. 38:2, 40:3). Job rids himself of the comic-book-character God and, as a result, finds his comfort in an encounter with the real Lord (v. 5b). Job ultimately finds consolation and comfort even though he still suffered. Wow! We need this God.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

I have often said that the coldest winter that I ever spent was one summer in Oxford, England. Seemingly unending days of cold rain and wind had chilled me to the bone. My mantra became “Give me Galveston!” OK, that is an exaggeration, but I found myself buying a sweatshirt and a heavy sweater to warm myself. The real cold, however, was the isolation that I felt. My doctoral studies were extraordinarily rigorous which led to physical and mental weariness and emotional exhaustion. I felt every inch of the 4936 miles of separation between my home in Midland, Texas, and that city!

It was then that I began to feel the separation from God. My prayers as to why it was so challenging there were left unanswered. I began to imagine all sorts of things about God’s concern for me until I realized, in my daily Bible readings, that I was withdrawing from Him! In Ashlock speak, “He was all around me, but I was all within me.” Let me explain.

Paul David Tripp writes, “our lives are shaped not just by what we suffer but what we bring to our suffering. What you think about yourself, life, God, and others will profoundly affect the way you think about, interact with, and respond to the difficulty that comes your way” (Tripp, Suffering, 27). I discovered that I was consumed by my own pride and inner feeling of self-pity. Something had to die in Oxford, and it was, as Paul Tripp writes, my own “delusion of invincibility!” Well, I am here writing this devotional, so I survived. How are you faring? You will survive, too, with God in control of your existence (John 17:12).

Here are several thoughts for our spiritual growth. The first obvious lesson learned is that Job never received, in the book, a complete answer to the question of “why” he suffered. Sometimes, a similar question mark will hover over our own sufferings. Secondly, the book reveals a significant motif, mystery, as a reason why people suffer. Mystery is a key Biblical theme when bad things happen to good people. Thirdly, we know from the opening verses of the book that Satan is a key cause of suffering (Job 1:6-12). We may begin to search for the scent of Satan anytime evil occurs. Fourthly, God’s revelation also becomes apparent to Job when his experience introduces him to a fuller knowledge of God (42:1-6). We come to realize that God is sufficient in our hour of trial and that He cares for us. This result of suffering provides us with a glorious gift from the Father.

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Jot down the trials that you face presently. Have you felt isolated from God? Have you begun to doubt Him in some way? Turn your face fully toward Him in trust. He will comfort and guide you.

2. For Families: Today’s reading contains a splendid verse for our families to memorize together. When times are difficult, or suffering comes unannounced, this is a verse to speak to each other. It encourages and reminds us of God’s comfort, presence, and power over evil. “I'm convinced. You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans” (Job 42:2, The Message).

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock