I have recently been broken over a friend that is going through some tough times, right now. A godly friend, who has given wise counsel to many and a great leader in their home. My heart went out to them. I can say honestly that I've 'been there, done that.' Sometimes, we all suffer hardships in life. These sufferings and trials come in many ways-financially, with relations to others, and physically, to name just a few. As Christians, we are told, warned, and even promised, that suffering will come in this life on earth. To compound these hardships, is another issue that many of us suffer-how to deal with our suffering when others are not. A lot of Christians have struggled with this. This article is long and will take some time to read, but I do hope and pray that if you are suffering, please take the time to read it fully. All scripture quoted is taken from the New American Standard Bible.
"Lord, I have worked so hard to follow You and do Your Will. I have worked hard to lead and guide my family and my children in Your ways. Yet, I can't seem to get ahead. I always seem to be 2 steps back. I struggle all the time." "Then look over there-they profess to be Christians and won't even get out of bed once a week to worship with others as you told us to, much less seek to do Your will every day-yet they never struggle financially or physically, and seem to have a wonderful life. And then look at them-they openly mock the name of God and of Christ, and seem to have everything handed to them on a silver platter and never have a problem." "IT"S NOT FAIR!"
My dear friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, first of all, know that you are not alone in your struggles. Suffering and trials are not even new to our generations, nor are the questions and emotions they bring. I'm going to the only place I know to draw encouragement from to share with you-the Word of God. If He didn't understand and know our trials, He would not have addressed it-and more than once, at that. So, get your favorite Bible, and read along with me as we learn to deal with these issues, together.
First, I'm drawn to look at the life of Job. You know his story-he had everything. God gave permission to Satan to take away everything but his life and it caused great suffering of all kinds. Eventually, God prospered him, once again. But, during his times of struggle, he asked a lot of questions and was given lots of bad advice. His friends told him that his suffering was 'obviously' because of sin. I've heard others tell those suffering that they just 'aren't praying enough' or 'don't have enough faith.' If that is always true and the only answer-then the disciples, Paul, and other great 'heroes' of the faith should have prospered, had great health, and would never have been prosecuted and possibly even put to death for their faith. My own suffering has yet to even compare. Let me say this, God's Sovereignty does not revolve around our happiness. God is Sovereign, Almighty, The Truth, and even Just-whether we are suffering or not. Let us worship Him because of who He is-not what He can do for us.
Now to get back to Job. Job 21:7-13 says, "Why do the wicked still live, continue on, also become very powerful? Their descendants are established with them in their sight, And their offspring before their eyes, their houses are safe from fear, and the rod of God is not on them. His ox mates without fail; his cow calves and does not abort. They send forth their little ones like the flock, and their children skip about. They sing to the timbrel and harp and rejoice at the sound of the flute. They spend their days in prosperity, and suddenly they go down to Sheol."
These are words that Job, himself, spoke. He saw how the ungodly prosper and strive and seem to "live happily ever after." But, the words that make me shudder, are the very last in this passage-"...and suddenly they go down to Sheol." Sheol is otherwise known as Hell.
I'm going to leave Job for just a minute, and turn to Psalm 73:2-17, "Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning. If I had said, "I will speak thus," behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I pereceived their end."
The writer of this psalm really seemed to be struggling with the prosperity of the wicked, and his own sufferings. He even feels that his efforts to stay pure and innocent before God are in vain. Do you think he feels 'hung out to dry' or what? Have you felt that way-hung out to dry? That everything you do for the Lord is in vain, when compared to the accomplishments of others, especially those who don't try to serve God very hard, or not at all? This psalmist was very troubled-until he entered the sanctuary of God. Only then, did he realize the truth and the very sad ending of the ungodly. The same thing that Job came to understand.
Friends, go to the sanctuary of God. Do not be jealous of those that prosper more, especially if they do not have the salvation of Christ. We should be praying hard for them-for God to open their eyes and let them receive the gift of eternal life through Christ. And if they never do, then don't begrudge them any prosperity, health, or wealth they have on this earth, because this is as close to paradise as they will ever come, and their end is a forever separation from the love of God, to spend eternity in damnation. We should be praising God for calling us out of that, and praying for their souls.
I turn back to Job now. He called out to God several times, complaining of his afflictions and of the accusations and ill advice from his well-meaning friends. Yes, Job was complaining! God, in His infinite wisdom, makes sure to put all of this in the book of Job. Our heavenly Father wants us to know that He hears our complaints! Even in our sin of complaining, (and yes, it is a sin now and was for Job-who later repented-42:6), He does hear us!! But, God didn't answer Job right away, or every time he complained. God was silent for quite a while before He answered. Sometimes, I have felt that my thoughts and prayers to God have just bounced right off the ceiling, know what I mean? We suffer and struggle and long to hear just a word-and yet there is nothing, for what seems like forever. Silence from God can be deafening, painful. But, there is a lesson to be learned-we need to stop complaining of our suffering and look for God in our suffering. Sometimes, he allows us to suffer just so we will know what it is like to be comforted, healed, or reconciled by Him. Sometimes, He is silent because maybe we need to learn patience. I don't have any idea why God is silent sometimes. I do know that He does hear us and He will answer us-in His time, which is always the perfect time. If He always answered us right away, we would no doubt miss out on a lesson and a blessing we can receive during the silence.
God did speak, though. Job chapter 38 and 39 is a full account of when God first speaks to Job regarding the situation he is in. "...The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind" is how chapter 38 starts out. Friends, I like that. Sometimes He speaks to us in a whisper, but sometimes, He speaks to us out of the whirlwind. God never tells Job the reasons for his sufferings and afflictions-never. Instead, God starts asking the questions. In 38:4 and following, God asks Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it?" Verses 12 and 13 go on to say, "Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked shall be shaken out of it?"
Brothers and sisters, sometimes we just have to deal with the fact that we don't get to know why. God is the Creator and Commander of all things. He doesn't owe us anything, much less an answer every time we think we deserve one. Sometimes, the reasons for our suffering are deep in heavenly places and for God's purpose only. This reminds me of the answer I give to my children at times, "Because I told you so." I, as their parent, shouldn't have to give them a reason to obey every time I tell them to. They need to do it because I'm their parent and I told them so. Young children can't or don't need to always know our reasons. The reasons might be too much for them to bear at the time, but the obedience isn't. Our Father won't give us more than we can handle, but we might not be able to handle the reasons for it. I worked with a godly lady one time, who said, "Sometimes, it's best not to know." She was talking about suffering and heartaches. She lost a daughter in a tragic auto accident. Don't you think she asked God a thousand times, "Why?" Her pain ran deeper than I hope to ever understand. But, she went to the sanctuary of God. He didn't tell her why, but He comforted her and felt her pain with her. He will do the same for you. Take time to read the whole of chapters 38-42. In fact, read the whole story of Job.
Dear friends, I can only hope and pray that the truth from the Word of God Himself, can set things in a new light and become an encouragement to you. You might even be angry with God right now-take it to Him, He can handle it. Be honest with Him, then let the anger go as quickly as possible. As a child of God, our treasures on not to be stored on earth-where they will eventually be destroyed and ruined, but our real treasures should be stored in Heaven. Galatians 6:9 says, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Paul says this after he teaches that we will all reap what we sow-whether it be sown from the flesh or from the Spirit. Those who sow from the flesh will reap corruption, while those who sow from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
On last scripture I share-Philippians 3:17-4:1. "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that he has even to subject all things to Himself. Therefore,...stand firm in the Lord, my beloved."
Weep for those who reject God, don't compare your life to theirs. Child of God-you will have eternal riches in glory-they will have eternal hell. Go to the sanctuary of God. Find God in your suffering and wait for Him-knowing that He has not forgot you, He hears every word you utter and those you don't, and your work for the Lord will not be in vain. Take care, for He who is in you, has overcome the world!!