Why such suffering?

Job 38:8-11 “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?”

It’s likely that no one on earth has surpassed the man Job as to the suffering that he endured. Here was a rich man who in one day’s time lost all his earthly possessions to thieves, all his servants to murderers, and then all ten of his children to a tornado. To top it off, he ended up with painful sores “from the soles of his feet to the top of his head (Job 1:7).” In agony, this one who at one time was on top of the world, ended up sitting on an ash heap scraping his sores with a piece of broken pottery. Talk about a hopeless and miserable situation. After some time, some of Job’s friends came to commiserate with him. One by one they sought to share their “wisdom” with Job, concluding (wrongly) that all of this had happened to Job because Job was a sinful man. Job wrestled with his thoughts and wrestled with God as he tried to come to grips with his miserable life.

But then God speaks. In the eternal wisdom of the ages God never answers Job’s questions. Rather, He asks Job some of His own in what are some of my favorite passages of Scripture in a monologue running from Job 38-41. In essence, the bottom line was that there are many things that only God knows, and He is under no obligation to explain it all to us. Yet, in His wisdom, He gives us comfort in the knowledge that, indeed, He is in absolute control of everything, no matter how it might look to us. One of the wonderful things He says is in the form of some questions regarding the sea. In essence He says to Job, “Consider the sea. Where did it come from? Do you have any idea how I did this? Were you there when I gave the mighty oceans their birth?”

This turns my mind to the power of the sea – and the much Greater Power that created it. But it’s the particular question that pointed to God’s sovereign control of the sea that catches my attention as I consider the plight of Job, i.e., “Who prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?”

With these words God tells us all that He has the power to control anything. Although Job couldn’t have known this, God, in some mysterious way, had set limits not just to the sea, but to Job’s suffering as well. Although for reasons that are never explained, God allowed Satan to wreak havoc on Job’s life, yet He also put limits as to how far Satan’s schemes could go. And that’s how it is for every believer, “for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).” Just as God set limits to Satan’s work in Job’s life, He sets limits to the evil one’s work in our lives as well. And in some wondrous, mysterious way, the Good Shepherd who watches over us is in such sovereign control that we can say with Joseph, who had been treated with such evil by his own brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).”

You see, God’s love for the world is so great that he gave his only begotten Son to die for it. In the Satan inspired betrayal of Judas and murderous treachery of both the Jews and the Romans, God worked good for the entire world at the cross. This same enemy of God works to bring the children of God down as well, but no matter what, even if we die, we shall live with Christ (2 Timothy 2:11).

Suffering: it’s a reality for this fallen world, including for the children of God. So often it makes absolutely no sense. But through it all, God, has told us “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Is it any wonder then, that He has nevertheless told us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding? In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6),” even when those paths lead us through the valley of the shadow of death?

One day we will understand, though “now we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). May the faithful God who made and controls the sea give us the faith to trust Him to the end, no matter what waves of suffering come against us. He has promised to sustain us, come what may, and He has also assured us that “the one who endures to the end (who) will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

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