Week of October 29

Listening for the Sound of Hope When We Suffer

Read: Job 16; Acts 21-23

“Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
and he who testifies for me is on high.”
Job 16:19, ESV


Job fiercely draws the bow of anger across the taught strings of his suffering, but rather than hearing discordance, we are blessed by the melodious strains of hope. What does one do with his or her suffering?

Christians know that we do not suffer and grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14), but how may we embody such a testimony in our own travail? Let’s learn how to use our suffering to give witness to our hope in God.

The Meaning of the Text

The purpose in Job’s words
We may believe, upon a first reading, that Job cuts loose on a mindless rant in chapters 16-17, but read the focal passage again. A deeper reading reveals that two things are occurring. First, Job does vent his frustration, but it is fed with an abiding hope in God. Secondly, the structure of the chapter is not chaotic, like angrily slung paint against a canvas.

He uses a “careful chiasm,” meaning a pattern repeating in inverted order, that shows there is much more here than an angry outburst (cf. HCBC). Even though Job reaches forward, he could not see what we see clearly on this side of the cross. There is much in this passage that points centuries forward to the sufferings of our own Great Intercessor, Jesus Christ!
Blessings in the suffering
Suffering has sharpened Job’s spiritual eyesight, and he sees much clearer God’s ways. His suffering is not yet complete, and it will drive him deeper into the depths of God’s nature and ways with His creation. No sane person intentionally pursues pain and suffering, but there is benefit for the individuals who place their complete trust in the Heavenly Father (cf. Matthew 26:39; Romans 8:28).

Sadly, Job’s well-meaning friends compounded the heavy load he had to carry. Their limited understanding of God’s ways, and their abundant willingness to give Job a “piece of their minds,” served as a platform for Job’s comments (Matthew 16:22, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him”).

Eliphaz, for example, saw all men as “vile and corrupt” before God (15:14-16); however, Job believed that he would be vindicated (16:15-21). Eliphaz accused Job of assaulting God (15:12-13, 25-26); instead, Job asserted that the opposite was true—God had assailed him (16:8-9; 12-14) (EBC)!

My conclusion? Suffering is often isolating. You are thinking, “Well that is just great, Ashlock. Thanks for making my day so depressing.” Please read on!

Suffering for a believer gives birth to hope. Job, pure and simple, thinks he is going to die unjustly (cf. 16:18, 22). Despite all this sadness and suffering, he reaches out in hope (16:19). That’s what I am talking about! He knew that, while his blood would cry out even after his death, there was one in heaven who would hear (cf. Genesis 4:10, Abel’s innocent blood crying out).
The point
God hears your cries! Job firmly believed that he had a friend, an advocate, an intercessor on high who would plead his case (16:19-21; cf. Hebrews 7:25). New Testament believers know that Jesus is our worthy Intercessor.

He walked the exact same path of suffering that we walk, and He overcame it. He suffered at the hands of the ungodly (16:11-12; Luke 22:63-65; 23:11; 23:35-37). He endured horrible abuses (16:13; cf. John 19:34). And He was innocent of any wrongdoing (16:17; Luke 23:39-41). Jesus is not only your advocate, He is your Savior and Guide through all of life’s sufferings. Amen!

The Message for Our Lives

The tragic scenes of bombings and bloodshed that have emerged from Israel and the Gaza Strip in the last two-plus weeks have been more than a person can bear. The bullet-ridden bodies of infants, the charred remains of families locked in a final embrace, and the mutilated corpses of people lying along roadways leave nightmarish images that cannot be erased from our minds.

The moral implications of such atrocities reach to the roots of human existence as we all ponder the intrinsic value of human life. How on earth, we think, could anyone find hope in such circumstances?

Job’s name has become synonymous with excruciating suffering, and his pilgrimage in the aftermath of overwhelming loss helps to guide our steps. While it is too soon to answer the question of how we will reclaim our hope, Christians know the answer lies in God’s resurrection power and victory over the torture, crucifixion, and burial of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We presently will mourn in silence as we ponder the frailty and finitude of human life, but we will eagerly await the dawning of eternal hope through Christ.

For Thought and Action

1. God invites us to share our griefs with Him so that He may bear those burdens for us (1 Peter 6-7). Do you notice that a key to sharing the burdens with the Father begins in a most Job-like fashion of humbling ourselves before God? Write down ways your pride may be hindering God’s plan to bring hope into your suffering.

2. Go ahead! Write down your most agonizing grief in all its gory detail, then reach out to God for fresh hope.

3. For Families: Your children may not have experienced the horror of the atrocities shared above, but they do endure pain. Even small scrapes and bumps can be moments to share this wonderful hope that God sees us and invites us to share our anguish when we hurt.

A very small way to reinforce this truth to children is to remind them, when you are applying band-aids, or bandages, that God sees this wound, and that they can tell Him all about it. For example, give them a fine-tip marker, and let them write the word, “See?” on their band-aid.

Then pray with your child, thanking God for seeing our hurts, and comforting our hearts when we are in pain. Every time someone asks him or her about their band-aid, they can give a witness that God knows all about it, and heals us.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock