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When faced with a crisis situation - whether sudden or developing over time - one of our first inclinations is to ask God why. Why are we suffering so? What did we do to deserve this? Why has our God, who is both sovereign and good, allowed this suffering to occur?

This is where Job found himself when God allowed Satan to bring suffering into his life. Surrounded by friends whose only answer was to attribute his suffering to his own sin, Job couldn't reconcile the life he had lived with the pain he was enduring. He longed to be able to speak to God face to face and for God to explain himself.

We may not voice our longing exactly the same way that Job did, but the truth is that many of Job's questions are also our own.

In Job's story, God has peeled back the curtain for us to see what Job could not see - the drama being played out on a cosmic stage between God and Satan. Indeed, God had even started the dialog by pointing out Job's righteousness (would he say the same thing about us?).

Job couldn't know that the trials he suffered were actually helping to make God's point in the debate. His suffering at the hands of Satan showed the difference between life as God intended it and life as Satan marred it. But all this was lost on Job, who wasn't in the heavenly council. All he knew was the misery he was enduring.

After 37 chapters of suffering, Job finally gets to hear from God. But what he hears doesn't answer his original question. God does not explain himself. Instead, through a series of challenges to Job, God reveals his own majesty. In the face of all that, Job drops all his demands and humbles himself before God.

While Job never got an answer to his question of "why", he did gain from his suffering something he had never experienced before - the presence of God in a new and more powerful way. Job summarizes his own experience this way: "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you."

From our vantage point, then, we can see at least three effects of Job's suffering:

  1. It demonstrated the difference between God's blessing on a life and Satan's curses.
  2. It gave Job an experience of God he had never had before.
  3. It has encouraged millions of people down through the ages who have also suffered through various crises to trust in God.

But Job had no way of knowing anything but his experience. The same is true of us in our suffering. We may not see the impact it is having in our lives or the lives of others; we may not understand the reason for it or have any idea how long it will last. But we can experience God in the midst of suffering and emerge with a stronger relationship with him than we had before.

So, while "why" may be the most natural place for us to start in our dialog with God during trials, a more helpful question is "what". What is God accomplishing in our time of anguish? What does he hope to produce in our lives? What can we learn about him and what new ways can we experience him? As we learn to pray "what", we open ourselves in new ways to his work in our lives through times of trial.

 

How have you prayed during times of suffering?  How has God answered?  Please share your experiences!

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