“Let me have silence, and I will speak,
and let come on me what may.
14 Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
and put my life in my hand?
15 Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
yet I will argue my ways to his face.
16 This will be my salvation,
that the godless shall not come before him.
17 Keep listening to my words,
and let my declaration be in your ears.
– Job 13:13-17
There’s no doubt, the why questions of suffering are utterly perplexing. And as we search the Scriptures and consider stories such as Job’s, we are tempted to see those as worst-case scenarios designed to help us get our heads straight in relation to our comparatively small “first world problems.” We medicate; we minimize; we moralize. We develop theories to explain what is happening to us. While they may temporarily help us categorize and compartmentalize our thoughts and feelings, when true suffering comes, all our speculations fall flat.
Since no one alive can see the beginning from the end, from the divine vantage point, we’re left stranded in a prison of inscrutability. And sadly, we often prefer our confinement to the disorienting possibility that our suffering is actually ordained, that God is involved in it.
Fortunately, we worship a God who is in the business of freeing captives and creating trust where there was none before. In fact, the cross tells us that He does so (and has done so) through suffering, not despite it.
Justin Holcomb puts it this way in his book On the Grace of God:
Grace is available because Jesus went through the valley of the shadow of death and rose from death. The gospel engages our life with all its pain, shame, rejection, lostness, sin, and death. So now, to your pain, the gospel says, “You will be healed.”
The good news of suffering is that it brings us to the end of ourselves. It brings us to the place of honesty, which is the place of desperation, the place of faith, the place of freedom. Suffering leaves our idols in pieces on the ground. It puts us in a position to see that God sent His Son not only to suffer in our place but also to suffer with us. Our merciful friend has been through it all. He is with us right now! And while He may not deliver us from pain and loss, He’ll walk with us through it.
– Tullian Tchividjian