Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? –Job 2:10b
I have never known suffering. I have always lived in a free country, had more than adequate shelter, food and clothing and have only experienced mild degrees of illness. To most, my life would appear extremely blessed. But, I am drawn again and again to the story of Job who experienced suffering unlike anyone I have ever known. God allowed Satan to destroy Job’s crops, his property, his animals, his children and ultimately his own health. In it all, Job’s faith never wavered. In fact, Job 2:11 tells us that “in all of this Job never sinned.” How is that possible?
In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl conveys his experiences of unimaginable horror in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. Of all the experiences shared, most striking are his references to religious faith and its impact on the prisoners. Frankl writes, “The religious interest of the prisoners, as far and as soon as it developed, was the most sincere imaginable. The depth and vigor of religious belief often surprised and moved a new arrival.” And again, “In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain, but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.”*
Suffering still exists today. Abuse, poverty, hatred, hunger and malnutrition, disease, war and death continue to plague our world. And Scripture is clear that suffering shows no favoritism. The Israelites suffered under Pharoah; Joseph was hated by his brothers and unjustly sold into slavery; widows and orphans were overlooked in food distribution; disciples were imprisoned and killed and Jesus was unjustly accused, unfairly tried, beaten and put to death on a Roman cross. Suffering is very real in this sin-laden world.
Frankl later came to the following conclusion about suffering, “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.”
Job suffered greatly, but in his suffering, he never sinned. His faith deepened and in the end, was rewarded by the very God who permitted his suffering. His faith weathered the very greatest of storms.
Perhaps you are in a time of suffering in your own life and are questioning the presence of God in that suffering. Listen to the story of Job, study it, and see how his experience might bring encouragement into your own.
*Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, 1959, 1962, 1984.