On Fear, Again.

Over the past six years, I’ve had recurring struggles with fear, starting when we went to India for a missions trip (or perhaps earlier, when we thought I had appendicitis) and continuing on today, with many in between.
The past few years I’ve resolved not to fear in the coming year, but it always continued. I always felt like there was a piece missing, some ammunition I didn’t have and therefore couldn’t fight properly.

I don’t think the fear always stemmed from the same root, but in recent years I began to see a trend: I usually struggled the most with fear when life was the most rich and thus I was afraid of losing the people I loved so much and the life that was so good. It helped to know more of WHY I have seasons of being more fearful. But even still, I couldn’t really fight it apart from frequently reminding myself that God was good and sovereign, which assuaged the fear but didn’t take it away.

Whenever there was discussion of fear in sermons and such, it was always about fear of death, and I never connected with that. The only thing I thought I was afraid of concerning death was the dying itself, and that only if it was going to hurt.
I did, however, resonate with Valjean’s statement at the end of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, “It is nothing to die; it is frightful not to live.” It put into words fear stemming from not wanting to lose those I love.
I always denied that I had any fear of death, but the other day I got the last piece to the puzzle, the ammunition to fight. When fear comes from putting too much love in the gifts He’s given, taking my gaze off of heaven and the future being better, then I AM fearing death. I am fearing that what comes next won’t be better, fearing the unknown of what it will be like.

But rather than the realization that I do fear death causing me to be more afraid or distraught, it brought HOPE, because now I know what to do with it. Now I know how that fear can be transformed by Him.
I knew to fight fear by reminding myself of His love and sovereignty – that whatever happened I could trust Him, and that He had put us in certain places at certain times.
But that only helped so much, because of the piece that was still missing.

What is that piece?
I think fearing death the way I do can be transformed – not just held off for a time, but really transformed into joy and hope – in Christ and His death. In Hebrews 2 it says that through His death He freed us from fear of death, which is lifelong slavery (true!).

But how does His death free us?
His death and resurrection tell us who God is (love + sovereignty at work in His children’s lives, among other things), and that we don’t have to fear judgement and hell because Christ was punished in our stead – but it tells us more than that.
It tells us that because He destroyed death, what’s coming is abundant life, more abundant than here, which is why we don’t have to fear the leaving behind and the changes that happen in life and death. It tells me, too, that there’s forgiveness for the idolatry of loving His gifts too much and hope to overcome the fear of death.

It seems so simple when I put it all into words, but somehow I’d missed it until yesterday.
I’m thankful for His revealing it to me, and it’s even more exciting that it comes on the brink of a new year. I’m curious to how it will change the struggle with fear in the future, although it also brings up a new struggle: how do you balance not clinging to life here but still enjoying it and loving the people most dear to you that you don’t want to lose?

I’ll probably post more on 2015 and what we hope it holds for us soon, but wanted to close out 2014 with those thoughts.
I HAVE struggled often with fear in this last year, but God has always shown Himself faithful, whether in safe travels, S’s birth, or anything else we faced in 2014.
Happy New Year!

Thoughts from Isaiah: How Not to Fear

Why is my life so safe that all I worry about is where to get organic food while others flee for their lives or have no food?
Help us know how to help them and how to glorify you in our ease.

In affliction we grow, and spiritual life is dull when there is no struggle.
Ease is not always blessing.

Isaiah 11. His holy mountain is SAFE. Why is it safe?
Because the earth is full of the knowledge of Him and so all the earth changes because we know and see Him.

Isaiah 35:4.
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be Strong! Fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.
He will come & save you.”

Isaiah 36.
Fear says “God can’t handle this.” We fear when we doubt God, just as my fear in wildfires, or flying, or childbirth or any unknown doubts His power, goodness, and sovereignty.

Isaiah 41:14-16.
We are worms.
But when He works in us, we do mighty things.

The hardest thing about pregnancy is coming face to face with so many unknowns out of your control.
And yet every single detail is already known by Him.
And He knows how to prepare us and get us through.

YOU are in control and I know I can trust You – who has brought this about, who gives life and health, who cares for my good, who is for our marriage, who is there in the valley, even in death, who knows each star by name and numbers the hairs on my head, who knows the way He is leading me on, who has Heard my prayers, who balances might and tenderness, who does not crush a bruised reed, who has given me Ezra to help in this.
Hope in God and fear not anything that is frightening. FEARLESS not because of me but because of who I have with me.

Isaiah 51:8.
Fear not the reproach of men,
Be not dismayed at their revilings.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
but My Righteousness will be forever and My Salvation to all generations.
HE WINS, even against ISIS.
I’m having a hard time doing anything “normal” when I’m thinking about all the suffering “over there” and how different our lives are here… and how “unfair” it is, and how much I want “those guys gone.” And I was reading in Isaiah and it’s incredibly clear there that no matter what… OUR GOD WINS.

I don’t want to not fear because circumstances aren’t scary.
I want to not fear because I hope in God.

Isaiah 51:12.
I, I am He who comforts you.
Who are you, that you are afraid of man who dies, and have forgotten the Lord, your maker, who stretched out the heavens?

We fear because we forget Him.

Go to His Word, not the news or the internet to know what to do.
How can we not have some fear? ISIS is ruthless, frightening. Unknowns are scary. But what does Isaiah prove?
Our God reigns.
The wicked will be judged.
He cares for His people.
His salvation is forever.
He is powerful and He is the one in control.

Why should I fear when the one who cares enough to call out each star every night, who is powerful enough to bring down the wicked, who is big enough that the heavens are but a hands’ breadth, who knows enough that my way and days are not hidden from Him – why should I fear when it is this God who is my shepherd, who loves me and gave Himself for me and is with me always?
I am a child of the Most High & I am not afraid.

A Study of Lament: Further Reading

How Long? – D.A. Carson
This one is very good. It is solid theologically and wrestles with a lot of tough questions about God and evil. However, it is very scholarly and sometimes hard to get through. Carson himself acknowledges this and also notes that because of this, it’s a book written for before you are suffering rather than when you are in the thick of it.

A Sacred Sorrow – Michael Card
If you only read one of these, read this one. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. There is theology contained in Card’s book, but it is skillfully worked into a more poetic style that comforts as it teaches. He writes about how we draw near to God in the pain, teaches about lament, and walks the reader through examples of sorrow in the Bible.

The Hidden Face of God – Michael Card
This is not a book, but a CD of laments. As with all of Card’s music, these songs are aesthetically pleasing and full of truth.

When the Darkness Will Not Lift – John Piper
A short book, in which Piper looks at various causes of depression and offers help and counsel.

Behind a Frowning Providence – John J. Murray
A pamphlet discussing faith in God during trials. This is very good!

A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
Lewis’s journals after his wife died. These are full of wisdom and show his process of grieving. It was definitely a helpful read for me as someone who hasn’t been through it, but it seems like it would be just as helpful, if not more so, for someone going through grief. He puts feelings into words so beautifully.

The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis
A scholarly and logical work, more for the skeptic more than the suffering. That’s not to say only skeptics should read it. Lewis deals with the perceived paradox of a good God and pain. All of it is good, but I think chapter six is the most helpful.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment – Jeremiah Burroughs
As I read this, I wondered, “how does contentment fit with lament?” But Burroughs answers that question as the book progresses. Contentment isn’t apathy but choosing Him. It’s not denying the pain or missing people – but it chooses to be joyful here.
This is a very, very good book.

A Lifting Up for the Downcast – William Bridge
Another Puritan work, taken from thirteen sermons. Bridge looks at ten causes of depression and offers counsel for them. It’s good and thorough, but he gets a little long-winded at times.

Also of note:
Slave spirituals are often laments.
Carl Trueman has written an article titled “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” in which he discusses lament and modern Christianity.
In Memoriam, by Tennyson, is a long but beautiful poem. Some of his theology is odd, but he has some very striking thoughts and moods.

These books can be good tools, but we have to be careful not to get so caught up in reading about these things that we forget to apply it and talk to God about it, which is the only way we will ever really understand it.

I Have a Shelter
I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven
{Sovereign Grace Music}

A Study of Lament: The Solution

{read the rest of the series by clicking here}

The previous posts can be condensed very generally into three statements:
The need in pain = His presence.
The problem = where is His kindness?
The solution = I  You (My problem  who He is).

If the answer is the presence of God, there is a sense in which we can do nothing, only wait for Him. However, there are still things that can be done, especially in the time of “waiting,” before the vav comes, before change happens. It is a season of waiting, and yet it is not a season to be idle. Many all you can do is go to a counselor or just “get over it.” And there may be times when that is the wisest counsel. But first we must go to Him and to His word.

I know that when we are sorrowing, we cannot imagine helping others because we are overwhelmed by our own struggles. But I also know that it is often a good thing to do, because it brings us out of ourselves. Not only that, but Isaiah 58:9-11 makes it clear that in pouring out for others, you will be filled. You may not have much to give at the moment. Or you may find that already God is using what you have been through to help others, and in the process, bring you joy.

But there is one thing that is greater, and that I have seen at work in myself, others, and the Bible. We remember the sorrows of the prophet Jeremiah, and of David, Jesus, Job, and others. But often overlooked is is Elijah, who in 1 Kings 19 was so depressed he told God that he wanted to die.
Elijah is despairing. God comes, but He doesn’t answer Elijah’s questions. He doesn’t ease Elijah’s burden or say anything to soothe the turmoil inside.
He simply shows Elijah Himself.
And there is the answer, for what we do while we wait for the Holy Spirit to bring us to the vav, to a point of change.
Be still, and behold your God.

Even when you cannot feel Him, you can seek Him out. Remember what He has done in the past, seeing His faithfulness and love. Remind yourself of His mighty deeds, and there find His power to save. Read Isaiah or Ephesians, filling up on who He is. As you behold Him, you will find strength to hang on, perhaps still wondering at and questioning the mystery of your suffering, but trusting Him.

Even when you cannot believe it, remind yourself of truth. Truth will set you free from the lies of the devil. Truth will be your belt, holding it all together. Truth will allow you to have faith in God, because you will know even when you cannot see it, that God has been faithful in the past, and if God does not change, then that means He will be faithful again. And then that faith will be your shield, to extinguish attacks of the devil.

It seems so simple, and yet it is so powerful: Behold your God. His love, His power, His beauty, His faithfulness. The place I see all of that most clearly is Isaiah 40 – but I have written about that before.
Draw near to Him. Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord. Don’t be so busy you don’t have time to see Him.
Be patient with yourself. Let God work – wait, don’t rush it.
Lament, and find joy again – find Him even in the darkest night.
Remember that He was forsaken to. He understands. And not only does He understand, but He intercedes for us before the throne of the Father.

And what can I say to those of us for whom suffering is far away? Two things:
First, be prepared. One day you will be dealing with it. Know God well now and you will be well-equipped for later.

Second, care for those who are depressed and suffering. In his book, When the Darkness Will Not Lift, Piper writes about John Newton, who cared for William Cowper. Newton said that he had drunk deeply of God and was overflowing with joy for those who weren’t. Newton was able to invest in Cowper, reminding him of truth when Cowper couldn’t see it himself.
We may wonder if our “easy joy” rubs those who are suffering the wrong way. At times, I’m sure it does. But more often, I think it is something that can overflow from us into them. I have seen it happen, and have been told it was happening even when I couldn’t see it.
We may not always be able to persuade them of the truth, but we can still stand by them and not let them sink deeper into depression.
Those of us who find joy easy and suffering lacking may not be that way so that our lives can be easy, but to allow us to pour joy into those who cannot find it themselves. The length to which we are willing to come alongside them and share in their suffering shows our level of commitment and love for them, how much and how deeply we care for them.
Do be careful not to turn God into plain theology or try to reason out the suffering as Job’s friends did. Don’t speak just to speak. Be silent if you need to, but be with them. Remind them of truth, and hold them up when they are sinking. Tell them who God is when He seems to be gone from them. Love them in every way you can, be it meals, phone calls, hugs, babysitting, silence, or anything else. Give hope to them when it seems to them they have none. Be patient with them. Let them talk. Don’t bash their feelings, but help them focus on the truth.
Behold Him, and then help others behold Him when He seems far-off, just as God did for Elijah, and Newton did for Cowper.

A Study of Lament: Pour Out Your Heart

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We try to hide our pain and sorrow. We see it as embarrassing, or even wrong, for the Christian. After all, we’re supposed to rejoice always, aren’t we?
Yes, but I don’t think that rejoicing in the Lord equates a “happy smile,” and I definitely don’t think that Christians cannot go through seasons of sorrow. That’s not to say a Christian should remain in a state of depression. We are commanded to be joyful – but I think we forget that there is a time for sorrow and mourning. Tears – whether of the eyes or of the heart – are a normal part of the Christian life, used by God for His glory.

Jesus was a man of sorrows, and in Romans 8 it says that we are being conformed to the image of Christ. That brings me to believe that weeping has a place in the life of the Christian. It also causes me to think that the embarrassment we have at our tears and sorrows is wrong, because Jesus wept openly.
I also know that God doesn’t look with disdain upon our tears. In Psalm 56 it says that He takes account of our tears, even putting them in a bottle. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are told that those who mourn are blessed. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul writes not that they are not to grieve, but they are to grieve as those with hope. Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. Those aren’t the only scriptures about it, though.
The Psalms are full of examples of lament. Just a quick read-through of the book turns up many: 6, 13, 17, 22, 38, 55, 56, 42, 51, 60, 62, 63, 74, 77, 88, 89, 102, 109, 130. They are laments for various reasons: sin, enemies, judgment, physical suffering, and abandonment. I encourage you to read them, pray through them, think about them, let inspire your own laments, even if there is nothing troubling you now. There will one day be mystery, unanswered questions, sorrow, in your life. Our lives begin in pain and tears, and they will most likely end in pain and tears as well.

When you feel that things are not right in the world, or when your sin is weighing you down, or when a loved one dies, or your body is racked with pain – when His presence is seemingly broken, His hesed – His mercy – gone, and you ask “Where are You? If You love me, then why?” When the curse of Genesis 3 that life is now toil and pain and sorrow seems more real than ever before – what will you do?
When it seems that God is gone from you and you have to decide whether to press on even when His face is hidden, asking yourself “What is God worth to me? Will I stay faithful to Him in the pain, or will I walk away?”
When you’re in the wilderness, or grieving over sin, suffering at the hands of enemies – will there be faith?

To some, lament seems like despair, not faith. It seems like yelling at God. But even though lament is honest with God, it refuses to let go of Him, asking questions of the mystery but refusing to doubt. It keeps us connected to God even when God seems so far away. Michael Card calls it the path to true praise. It empties self of self so that we can praise, so we can look beyond the pain right now and focus on who God is, learning to love Him not for His benefits but for who He is.

But how do we lament?
The simplest answer comes from Lamentations 2:19, where it says “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord.” Tell Him everything, even the things you feel you shouldn’t (you’re already thinking them; He knows). Acknowledge your pain – you can’t heal a wound if you don’t admit it’s there. Don’t be idle as you wait for God. Remind yourself of truth, even when you can’t see it. You may have to do it over and over and over again, mixed in with crying out to God, before there is any change. Ultimately, the vav, the change, is something that only God can bring. Often in the Psalms it seems random and out of place, sudden and unexpected after seasons of lament. You can remind yourself of truth, but true change only comes from God.
Because of the vav, lament is no longer bitter, but sweet (Ezekiel 2:9-3:3), much sweeter than holding onto and hiding sorrow. Because lament doesn’t end in feeling forsaken, it doesn’t end in sorrow. He calls us to remember His love. Something great comes – the cross, and we look ahead to heaven, when we will part with lament.

But until then, there is suffering, and much of it.
Richard Baxter wrote that “suffering unbolts the door of the heart, that the Word hath easier entrance.” When all is going well, we lean too hard on things other than Him. Suffering causes us to lean only on Him, revealing how much we need Him, and how often we smother our need for Him in the things of this world. It makes us see God for God, not as theology we talk about, but as One that we can be with and talk to.

That is one “reason,” and yet it is often not enough. We find suffering unfair. We want to know why us and not another. We wonder how God can be good and bring this evil upon us.
We can seek answers, but still must acknowledge the mystery of God’s sovereignty, especially His sovereignty in conjunction with man’s responsibility when we are harmed by men. God is never an accomplice of evil. C.S. Lewis notes in The Problem of Pain that pain is only a problem if there is something greater out there that claims to be good. He writes that our view isn’t whole, so while we may see a contradiction there isn’t one. I won’t write more about it here, but Lewis’s book is very good, as is D.A. Carson’s book, How Long? which also addresses those questions.

As for fairness, there isn’t a lack of fairness on God’s part. There is the mystery again, what we don’t understand or see in what God is doing, what is going on behind the curtain. Lamentations 1:18, Deuteronomy 34:2, and Habakkuk 1:5 make that clear.
There may be times we understand, but there may be times that we never know why this side of heaven. D.A. Carson asked in his book, “There will be mystery – is there faith?” Are we ready to trust, remembering what is behind us, when we cannot see the way forward? William Cowper, a hymn-writer much-acquainted with depression, wrote:
God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

A Study of Lament: The Man of Sorrows

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Whether we are suffering because of judgment or in innocence, God’s purpose is for His glory. The greatest example of innocent suffering is Jesus, and like the sufferings of Job and Jeremiah, Jesus’ suffering is also for God’s glory.

Perhaps the greatest comfort to me in seasons of sorrow is that Jesus understands. Isaiah 53 says, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” And in Hebrews 2, the author notes that Jesus was made like us in every respect.
In the incarnation, He entered our suffering. He stepped into the sin-cursed world. In His perfection, He was more aware of things “not being right” than we are. He understood the fullness of the brokenness of our condition. He was tempted, like us.
He suffered, like us. Injustice, pain, spiritual torment. He was innocent, like Job. He wept over Jerusalem, like Jeremiah. And he was forsaken and alone, like David.
He was born, like all of us, in pain and tears. But it didn’t stop at His birth – the innocent were slaughtered as Herod sought to destroy Jesus. And so there was weeping yet again.
Then He Himself lamented for Jerusalem, longing for her to come to Him, weeping for the coming judgment, but ending with hope: “you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” There was devastation coming, but Jesus knew that one day there would be repentance, and so His lament contained hope.

But even more than identifying with our pain, Jesus shows us what the answer to our suffering is. He came down and joined our problem, but He didn’t leave it alone. He pronounced blessing and future joy for those who are mourning, but it didn’t come in the way everyone thought. He showed us that the answer to our pain isn’t a solution, but His presence. It’s not what we asked for, but it’s what we need more than anything else.
Jesus became Immanuel, so that Immanuel, God with us, can be forever. He offered His hesed, His lovingkindness, in a way that can never be lost because it is based on Jesus and not our performance. He came to free us from chains of sin that weighs us down. He came to fill our need, and to bring us to God – who is worth every pain, who makes it not about us but about His glory, which is far greater. He doesn’t take pleasure in our pain, but allows it because it results in His glory.

While He was God with us, there was a time when He was forsaken by God. Condemned and separated, He suffered the darkest night a soul has ever known. He was accounted as sinful and judged by His Father, cut off from the most intimate relationship anyone has ever known.
“The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief… As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied. By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11).
It was when Jesus was forsaken that God was using Him most. Like a lament, the suffering and questioning of God turned to rejoicing for His love and mercy.
Jesus conquered the root of our suffering – our sin, and so now in lament there is a certainty of a change from sorrow to joy. There is a certainty that the sorrow will end for His children and result in great rejoicing, because there is a promise of an eternal life of knowing the Father.

Immanuel.
He came and fixed our problems, not by taking them away, but by giving us Himself in them so that we will have everything we will ever need.
Remember that, when it seems you are forsaken. He is working even then, and He will not cast off forever (Lamentations 3:31-32).

Jesus of the Scars
If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
– Edward Shillito

A Study of Lament: The Innocent Who Suffer

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Proverbs makes it sound like everything will always go well for the righteous. The book of Job calls that mindset into question with the introduction of innocent suffering. Job knows he is righteous and doesn’t deserve this suffering, but his friends don’t believe him. We, the readers, get a behind-the-scenes look that tells us what is really going on, and because of that we can see that Job’s suffering is Satan’s doing, not a result of our sin. But it tells us much more than that. It tells us that innocent suffering, like that brought on by judgment, is designed to bring us closer to Him.

As Job suffers, his friends try to offer him counsel (lesson number one for those talking to the hurting: sometimes it’s better to be silent). Their counsel becomes repetitive: confess your sin and everything will be well again. In his book, How Long?, D.A. Carson points out that if we look deeper, they were asking Job to confess nonexistent sin just to get his wealth back. They make God into intellectual theology instead of the personal being Job knows He is.
Meanwhile, Job’s wife is telling him that he should just curse God and die. In other words, if God brought this upon you, He’s not worth serving.
Job fights against these pressures, tenaciously clinging to what he knows to be true.
We sometimes think Job’s response is wrong, because he questioned God. God says otherwise: “[Job’s friends] have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). He knew who God was. Job was convinced of God’s justice, but was confused, and so in anguish he cried out to know God more. His attitude was sometimes prideful, but he always spoke rightly of God. How could Job do that in the midst of such pain?

He knows God is sovereign (3:23) and has brought this upon him: “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10). He says this not to say that God does evil, rather, it is an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty even in the darkest of times. Job didn’t know what was going on between God and Satan, but he did know that God was in charge, and that God wasn’t guilty.
How do I know this?
Because if he thought God was guilty, he would have turned from God when there was mystery, but he never doubts God. Job wants to know why, but even when he’s begging God for answers he clings to who he knows God is. He’s tenacious, even audacious, in his asking as he waits for God to answer.
And God does answer.
He says that man can’t understand it. He could have told Job everything – how this was because God was proving Satan wrong – how then the suffering was an honor to Job. But He doesn’t. He just shows Job that He is much bigger and more powerful than Job.

God never promises answers. At first that seems cruel and unfair. But He gives us something far greater than an answer – Himself.
We can ask God “why.” Jesus did it. Jesus suffered – God even suffers to some degree, as shown in His laments in the prophets. He understands our pain, and He knows how best to help us through it. He speaks to us in it.
There’s never a promise that we won’t feel pain or won’t deal with deep suffering or seasons of no joy. But in His faithfulness, we will never walk through it alone, and in those times we will be closer to Him than we were before.

Suffering makes us worship God for who God is, not for our own gain. I read an article recently about how if we love God for what He gives us, then our relationship with Him is like we are prostitutes. We don’t actually want Him, only His gifts. Suffering takes away all the things we were relying on and leaves us with only Him. It forces us to ask ourselves if we want Him most or if we are only worshiping Him because it makes us feel good or because we receive blessing for it. Job comes to the point where he says “though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” Can you say that? If God took everything you rely on from you, if you had no answers, if it seemed He was being unjust to you – could you say that you would still hope in Him, and that everything He does is right and just? Or would you turn your back on Him like Job’s wife wanted him to do?
When we grieve, it is because something good is gone. Turning our hearts to God doesn’t deny the goodness in what was, but puts it in its proper place and leaves room for us to be filled with the greatness of God. God in His goodness takes away our crutches – our addiction to the things of this world – and leaves us with something far greater, all we ever needed to begin with – Himself. If we had no suffering, we would love the world too much. There is pain as our hearts turn from our idols to Him, but the end is sweet.

To those facing innocent suffering: wait patiently for the Lord. When we are frantically searching and moaning for what is gone (though it may feel not that something is “gone” but that something unwanted is “here”), we close Him off. Lewis notes in A Grief Observed that our cries overwhelm His words.
Remember who He is and delight in Him even when everything else is gone. You may need a friend to help you remember when life is very dark. But you will find He is enough. I don’t think we even realize how worthy and beautiful and awesome He is, even when we only have Him. Heaven will be glorious, completely worth all our groaning (Romans 8:20-25 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”
– Job 2:20-22.

Bitter Sweet
Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament and love.
– George Herbert