With this being the very first day of February when our attention turns to boxed gifts of chocolate candy, jewelry, flowers and perhaps a nice dinner date, I have been studying the subject of suffering. Yep, suffering. It has brought up quite a few interesting points of study and I thought I might as well share them since perhaps this month isn't quite the celebration of chocolate candy you might like to be experiencing.
I am co-leading a class that deals with a variety of subject areas in order to introduce the Bible to those who might believe it to be a difficult book to understand. To be perfectly honest, I've been a Christian for a long time and I still get stumped and scratch my head as I ask God to reveal hard answers on a child-like level so that I might get the picture. Do I get all the answers I desire? Nope, but when you think of it, God is the Supreme Being, the Creator of All so how can I, with the finite mind I have been graciously given, explain the infinite ways of the Almighty?
I like to deduce it like this...when our little ones were babies and we tried to communicate on their level, we didn't usher in concepts and dialogue they would not understand. We simply smiled and used soothing sounds often reading to them and telling them about the colors, shapes or animals on the pages. Even then they didn't have the conceptual wisdom to comprehend. They just loved being held and given attention.
Likewise, we are babes in Christ. He can't explain all of creation because his knowledge is far beyond anything we can perceive. He reveals life in bite-sized pieces according to our spiritual growth. As we grow in our knowledge of him, we are given more insight. But we continuously question God's intentions as if he owes us any explanation at all. Honestly, it reminds me of children who demand, "I can do it myself!" Shouldn't we at least stop and thank God for what we have been given?
Okay, I'm off point....suffering. I came across the Job story this week. It's a hard one to understand. (In fact all suffering, regardless of who it is, is difficult to understand.) Here's my take on the story. Believe it or not, scripture tells us that God doesn't allow us to be tested or tempted beyond what we can endure. Of course, I believe that pertains to believers and that's what Job was....he loved, served and believed in God. But if you look at the story, Job was living a great life. Satan believed the only reason Job was giving any time or allegiance to God was because he was living a "charmed" life...if you will. God knew that wasn't true, so he allowed Satan to test Job.
You can call it unfair, totally out of the realm of reasonableness, but Job withstood the terrible things that happened to him and in the end was doubly blessed. Why do I still believe in a God that would do this? Because I, too, have felt suffering. Not like Job, of course, and I would never equate anything I have faced in life thus far with Job's ordeal. But here's a truth I've come to acknowledge, God can remove every pebble in the path of my journey. He can make my life one of total Cinderella adventures and zip lining blessings. But instead of being a Cinderella, I often feel as though I'm walking barefoot on a rocky road that has no smooth places for my feet to rest. Every time I feel as though I'm getting a break from the cuts and bruises of those stones, another one shows up. However, this I know...God has His eye on me. He knows where I am at all times and what is happening in my little corner of the world. He is Omnipresent, he's in all places at all times. That in itself is an awesome thought far beyond anything I can understand. If I was never desperate for God's presence, would I give him more than a passing thought?
If you read through the book of Job, you will discover, as we all do who are tested through sufferings, Job's faith increased and his spiritual resolve grew even greater. And that, my friend, is the goal. Greater faith, greater perseverance and a greater witness for the Lord. Why? Because we often learn through the hardships God is greater than our circumstances.
Is suffering something we need to experience so spiritual growth can occur? No, it's not. But I will share that when the hard things of life happen and I have no other place to turn, God has always been there and the result is a greater trust in who he is and what he can do. God is Omnipotent....all powerful and he's Omniscient....all knowing. We need to realize there are just things in life we will never fully grasp....so for now, we pray that God will help us face whatever each day brings and that he will be given all the glory! There is coming a day when suffering will be over!