If we want to know the purpose of the pain and suffering in our lives, we might look to the story of Job, who was a devout believer in God, also a wealthy man with a great family and property and friends. As the story goes, God boasted to Satan that Job was a devout man, but Satan replies that Job was that way because of all the blessings God had bestowed on him.
In the Book of Job, Job loses everything—flocks, family, health—and still he praises God and remains faithful. He refuses to listen to his friends who try to justify their views of God. In the end God does rebuke Job for not being God and humbles him to the point where Job says this:
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
God rebuked Job’s friends for not telling the truth about Him. Then He restored Job’s “fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before…The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part…After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years:’ he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.”
So what was the point of all that Job suffered? Metaphorically, we can say that Job lost his attachment to all his worldly goods and his own self-image and still held onto God, which proved God’s point to Satan that Job was a devout man.
It is our attachment to what we “own” and to our families, livelihood, our own expectations and everything in our lives that has to go. God is to be the sole focus of our lives. Everything else belongs to Him, not us, and we are to follow Him no matter what happens to us.
Job was humbled by God, brought down to his lowly status as just another man, and certainly not God. As the Lord said to him, “Have you ever given orders to the morning/ or shown the dawn its place…Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? It takes two chapters for God to truly humble Job. But after Job ate his “humble pie,” God restored all that had been taken from him and more.
Everyone in this life suffers—pain and suffering, trauma as well as good things are happening to us all. We are not to be attached to anything other than to God. That is the lesson in Job’s story: can we be faithful to God no matter what happens to us? If our family is taken away from us? If we lose our livelihood? If we lose our health? Of what value to us is any of that if we don’t also have God as primary in our lives. There is no satisfaction, no fulfillment in any of that. Only God gives us what we need; only God fulfills our lives. Only God can cope with anything that happens to us. And only God retains ownership of all that we “own.”
Pain and suffering not only remind us of what is most important, they often provide us a way to be really helpful to others, after we have resolved all that the suffering is meant to teach us. Isn’t that why ex-alcoholics are so helpful to other alcoholics? Or ex-drug addicts or ex-cons so helpful to others who are suffering like they did? And who really understands the ways of dealing with chronic diseases or children with certain conditions like epilepsy or autism, than the parents of those who had had children like that, too? In fact, I believe that the places where we have suffered the most are the places where we can give the most, once God has healed us of that condition.
In this way pain and suffering become part of our learning what it is to be a human being who puts God first in their lives. It can define our purpose for us, help us and others to cope with what we know to be true. And who is most likely to be listened to in any situation? Someone who has been through it all and come out on the other side.
All of us suffer in this world. And all of us need to learn the lessons the suffering offers us by letting God heal the pain so that we can be truly useful to others. We don’t suffer because we need to be punished; we suffer because we are isolated from God by our human cultures and by our own attachments. We need to come back into full relationship with Him and let Him heal our pain. In fact, the only way we can reduce our own suffering and pain is by simply not resisting its existence and purpose in our lives. Any resistance simply makes the pain worse And then God restores to us all His blessings. And more. And these are the lessons that the story of Job teaches us.
Questions to ponder over the week: What in my life do I still cling to? To my expectations and opinions and judgments? To my possessions? To status? To the world’s way of doing things? What is more important to me than God?
Blessing of the week: May we be the people of God who put God first above all else. May we be truly humble. May we cling to our faith in God no matter what.
I am collecting conversion stories—How did it happen to you to give your life over to Christ? And what was that like? If you’d like to contribute yours, please click Message in the Comments, to add yours. I will not be using your name, only initials. I am not yet sure of what purpose I am collecting these for—my blog or another book, but I am always inspired like this for a purpose. Thank you so much in advance for joining in this project. Pat
An Invitation to All of Us to Pray for our nation: for mercy and compassion for all, for community values and a deep sense of caring for each other. For peace. For love to reign. For a return to the love of God. For us to have one nation under God” as our motto again. If many of us would pray these things for our country, we could change the world. Invite your friends and neighbors to pray with us. in love and faith, Pat
 Job 42:1-6
 Job 42: 7-17
 Job 38:12-16
 Job 38 and 39