Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Good Side of Pain #3

I have been talking about how pain can be a benefit to us. God uses our suffering to mold us into the people He desires us to be. Remember, one of the things God is doing in this world is creating a people fit for heaven, and so that means He isn’t concerned about our happiness right now as He is concerned about our holiness.

While we can understand that pain has a purpose in our lives and that God is able to redeem our suffering for good purposes many times the reason for our pain will be mysterious to us. There won’t be an answer to the question why. Though I think it is important for us to ask that question. In the book of Psalms we find 64 Psalms of lament. These psalms are poems in which the author begins by crying out to God for understanding. King David begins Psalm 13 with these words; O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?How long will you look the other way? (NLT). We will not always understand the reasons for the pain and suffering in our lives.

Take for example Job. As we read the book of Job it seems that he is a righteous man who gets used as a pawn in a game against Satan and God. Satan believes that Job only worships God because God blesses and protects Job. God says that Job is a man of character and would serve Him regardless of what happens to Job. God allows Satan to test Job. First, God allows Satan to test Job by taking away everything he has, including his sons and daughters. The second test God allows is for Satan to attack Job’s health by covering Job in boils and sores.

The pain that Job suffers does not seem to fit the two reasons why pain is valuable that I mentioned in the first two parts (God uses pain to make us holy and God uses pain to teach us to trust Him). Job’s friends try to explain Job’s suffering by insisting that Job had done something sinful. His suffering, Job’s friends tell him, is God’s punishment for some great secret sin. Through all their accusations Job maintains his innocence, he has done nothing wrong.

Job is as confused as anyone about what is happening. His friends tell him his pain is his fault. Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die. He doesn’t know what to make of the situation. Much of the book of Job deals with Job’s discussion with a few of his friends. It goes back an forth between the friends trying to get Job to confess some great sin and Job insisting that he is being treated unfairly

I think the young arrogant Elihu summarizes Job’s position nicely when he says, You have said it in my hearing. I have heard your very words. You said, “I am pure; I am innocent; I have not sinned. God is picking a quarrel with me, and he considers me to be his enemy” (Job 33:8-10, NLT). While Elihu gives us some insight into what Job was feeling it is interesting to note that it is after his arrogant rant that God reveals Himself.

Here is part of what God says Job:
“Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. “Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right? Are you as strong as God? Can you thunder with a voice like his? All right, put on your glory and splendor, your honor and majesty” (Job 40:7-10, NLT).

The lesson we learn from Job is that we can never understand everything that happens. God has His reasons, and because He is God and we are not, we will never always understand all of the whys.

I know this isn’t intellectually satisfying at times, but it is at this time when faith becomes very important. Sooner or later your world is going to be rocked with pain, if it hasn’t been already. During the suffering and the struggle you will not understand why it is happening. It will seem unfair and unnecessary. You will want to cry out to God and question Him. Those feelings are normal. If we never faced a crisis, a trial, or a doubt then faith would not matter. It is during these critical times in our lives that is essential to know why we can trust God with our future.

We need to trust God, even when the world around us is crumbling. We need to believe in God, even when it would seem easier to believe in no God than a loving Creator who allows pain into the lives of His children. Faith helps us to make the right choices even when we don’t want to. It helps us to live holy lives, even when we want to do anything to numb the pain. It gives us light to push out the darkness. It gives us hope in the face of a bleak future. Faith gives us the reason to worship God when the world tells us to curse God and die.

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