Sunday, February 5, 2012

When suffering visits...

I was reflecting today on the difference between how Job handled his suffering versus how Jesus handled His.  Job was wealthy, a man who owned a great deal of land, a lot of livestock, many slaves, and he had many wives and children.  He was comfortable in his life.  He worshiped God faithfully, and he was a good man.  The Bible tells us that God considered him to be blameless in His sight.  Yet look what Job does the minute that he is given some suffering to endure.  He doesn't turn away from God, but he certainly doesn't accept the suffering quietly.  No, Job spends most of the book stating how unfair it is that God should allow him to suffer at all.  Why should he have to undergo trials and tribulations? Isn't he faithful to what God wants?  Job goes so far as to whine about his "hard service upon earth" and his days being "like a hireling", moaning that "nights of misery are apportioned to him" and saying he shall "never see happiness again". This, mind you, from the man who less than a year before owned 7,000 sheep; 3,000 camels; 500 yoke of oxen; 500 she asses. 

Now, I am not belittling Job's suffering.  In less than a year he lost every possession he had as well as all 7 of his sons and his three daughters.  His remaining wife suggested that he curse God and die, the few friends that remained suggested that all of this was happening to him because he deserved it, and to top everything off he developed boils all over his skin so painful that lying down and sitting were agonizing.  His grief was real, and he had suffered tremendously. Weaker men with less faith might well have taken their own lives at this point.  

However, when I contrast Christ's handling of suffering to Job's, I am amazed by the differences.  Christ was never wealthy. He never owned property, or livestock, or servants.  There was never a time in his life when he was comfortable.  Unlike Job, all that Jesus had was his life and his dignity to his name. Yet when God demanded that He give up even that, Jesus' simple words were, "not my will but yours be done". He wept, but his weeping was not in self-pity, but in pity for all those who would reject the graces that would come from His willingness to suffer and die for love of them.  The mystics say that Jesus endured over 5,500 different wounds to his body, not including the nails that were driven into his hands and feet.  Yet in all of that suffering, not once did Jesus complain.  Jesus surrendered everything and accepted the Father's plan without reservation. 

Jesus knew that He wasn't being made to suffer for His own sins; He was being given a mission to suffer for the sins of others.  He trusted in the Father's supreme love enough to know that God would never do anything sadistic, never punish one who was undeserving, and never allow suffering unless it was the only means of bring about some greater good.  Job, unlike Jesus, didn't see the bigger picture.  Job didn't understand how his suffering could possibly bring about anything good.  He just wanted to know why God was letting it happen to him.  Yet in the end, Job was rewarded with things of greater value, wives and children of stronger faith.  This is the truth about suffering: it is painful to endure, but one breath beyond whatever suffering we are going through is a paradise we have only begun to imagine.  

None of us are Jesus. Few of us are as strong as Job.  But when suffering visits, it's important to remember that no matter how bad things may seem, God is working this for our good and His glory.  May we unite ourselves fully with Christ in those moments and say with a humble heart, "Not my will but yours be done".

Popular Posts