Facing Physical Affliction
Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:32-33)
God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to us. He does not delight in causing us to experience pain or heartache. He always has a purpose for the grief He brings or allows to come into our lives. Most often we do not know what that purpose is, but it is enough to know that His infinite wisdom and perfect love have determined that the particular sorrows is best for us. God never wastes pain. He always uses it to accomplish His purpose. And His purpose is for His glory and our good. Therefore, we can trust Him when our hearts are aching or our bodies are racked with pain.
Trusting God in the midst of our pain and heartache means that we accept it from Him. There is a vast difference between acceptance and either resignation or submission. We can resign ourselves to a difficult situation, simply because we see no other alternative. Many people do that all the time. Or we can submit to the sovereignty of God in our circumstances with a certain amount of reluctance. But to truly accept our pain and heartache has the connotation of willingness. An attitude of acceptance says that we trust God, that He loves us and knows what’s best for us.
Acceptance does not mean that we do not pray for physical healing, or for the conception and birth of a little one to our marriage. We should indeed pray for these things, but we should pray in a trusting way. We should realize that, though God can do all things, for infinitely wise and loving reasons, He may not do that which we pray that He will do. How do we know how long to pray? As long as we can pray trustingly, with an attitude of acceptance of His will, we should pray as long as the desire remains.
Our faith and trust in God always becomes visible and tested in the things of life. It is usually in our crisis that the question of faith and trust rise up in our souls. Can we trust God and if so what can we trust Him to do? We may say that we have prayed repeatedly about some matter and to this point nothing has changed. So when do we just resign ourselves to the circumstance and give up hope of it ever changing?
The Bible is literally filled with stories of those who trusted God; some who received miraculous answers and others who received sufficient grace. God will supply either one but He always supplies. I’m thankful for the times He supplies the miraculous answer but I am equally thankful when His grace overwhelms my soul and though things didn’t turn out as I had hoped or prayed, His peace, comfort and sustaining grace uplifts my spirit.
We read of Job who went through great trials and afflictions. We read that he lost literally everything; his possessions, his children, his health, and to some degree his wife. Side note here: we forget that not only Job but his wife lost everything as well. She lost all her possessions, her children, and with the sickness of her husband no doubt was facing the potential loss of him. At the very least, they lost their intimacy for Job was covered in boils. It is the contrast of response that I want us to see for they reflect our response to affliction and grief. The Bible presents a clear picture of their responses:
“Then Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head [in mourning for the children], and he fell to the ground and worshiped [God]. He said, “Naked (without possessions) I came [into this world] from my mother’s womb, And naked I will return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome boils and agonizingly painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And Job took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself, and he sat [down] among the ashes (rubbish heaps). Then his wife said to him, “Do you still cling to your integrity [and your faith and trust in God, without blaming Him]? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the [spiritually] foolish women speaks [ignorant and oblivious to God’s will]. Shall we indeed accept [only] good from God and not [also] accept adversity and disaster?” In [spite of] all this Job did not sin with [words from] his lips.
The lessons we are taught here are powerful. We learn from Job that everything we have comes from God. We don’t earn it, deserve it, and it’s not “our right” to possess it. It is literally a gift from God. Fully trusting God means to trust Him to know what we can handle and what if we possess it will lead to the stealing of our souls. Remember that Jesus asked the question, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Job understood that every blessing came from God and if God choose to remove that blessing he was no worse off for he came into the world with nothing and he would leave the world carrying nothing. O that we might find this liberty of knowing that all we strive to attain and achieve will be left behind when we die and only the treasure we store up in heaven will last. When I say this I often get the response, “But we need to secure our future and what you’re suggesting is frivolous and foolish. I need to hang on to my stuff for it gives me a sense of security.” So yes, we need to live frugal lives, yes we need to consider the future, but there’s a difference between us possessing things and them possessing us. Trusting God means that we trust Him as our source and the supply of our needs rather than trusting in human resource. So the Bible says that when Job lost it all he did not sin nor blame God. O how often God is blamed for suffering and loss. What a wonderful revelation this oldest book of the Bible makes known to us. God only has good things for us but God will use adversity and suffering and loss for His greater purpose in us and through us if we will accept His grace and sovereign will.
We turn now to Job’s wife. She too has been going through the trial but her response is quite different. As Job sits down among the ashes, covered with boils from head to toe, she reaches her breaking point. Noting is said of her reaction to the loss of her children. I can only imagine what grief she must have felt. I only know personally the grief of saying goodby to a grandson and I know parents who have lost a child but I have no idea what the loss of every child all at once must be like. I think before we judge the wife’s response, we ought at least consider the depths her tragedy. After suffering the loss of economic wellbeing, that is going from extremely wealthy to extremely poor; after burying all of her children, and now seeing her husband covered with painful boils, watching him suffer in pain day after day and she has no way to fix any of this, she responds, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” What’s she saying? I think she’s saying what we may feel when we’ve prayed and prayed and nothing has changed. I think she’s saying that faith and trust in God hasn’t brought any relief and that apparently it does no good to live right and do right for you get trouble anyway. I think she’s saying I’m just resigning myself to an empty life, my stuff is gone, my children are dead and I can’t stand to see my husband in constant pain. I think her words reflect someone who just want it all to be don and over with.
Pay attention carefully to Job’s words. Many quote his response but let’s look at the verbiage. Job says to his wife, “You speak as one of the spiritually foolish women speaks, ignorant and oblivious to God’s will.” There we have it. Job is saying to his wife, you have forgotten in your grief your knowledge of God. Job say to her, “Dig down into your faith and trust in God. Don’t be like those who don’t know Him. Don’t respond like those who are ignorant and unaware of His love. Remember how He has blessed us in the past, how He supplied our need, the children He gave us. Remember that all the good came from Him and though we are suffering and grieving now, He is still with us and for us.”
Job says to her and us that if we can accept that all good comes from a loving God, can we not accept that adversity and trouble will also be used by Him for some purpose to mold us and shape us into His plan for us? This is acceptance of God’s will. It is not resignation or giving up. As we continue to read the book of Job, we find Job continually making his case before God until God answers. We may not, as Job did, have everything restored but we can be certain that our Heavenly Father always has us in His heart surrounded by His love. In the eternal view, we will see how “that all things work together for the good of them who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
I sum up with a scripture from James:
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes].”
Dr. John Thompson