Thursday, November 21, 2013

A suffering witness

Why do the innocent suffer?
It is the age old question of Christianity and certainly the question poised in the book of Job. Chapter after chapter, words cry out the question of why? Job pours out his misery in response to friends that want to point to sin as a cause of his plight. He is innocent and blameless yet they scorn him and condemn his cries of grief. They simply cannot face the truth: sometimes the innocent suffer.
This is a question that plagues Christians and stands in the way of non-believers from coming to Christ. How can a loving God allow hardship, disease, sickness and sadness to befall good people who love Him? How does that make any sense at all?
This brief post could never answer this question of the ages. To truly get our answer we must wait till heaven where all the mysteries of this world will become clear and brought into focus. What I have learned from Job is not a definitive answer that will close the book on all the doubts you might have surrounding innocent suffering but it has helped me to see that there is a divine purpose and plan in the midst of the Christian's suffering.
In Job 16:8, Job is responding to the condemnation of his friends when he says, "You have bound me - and it has become a witness." The suffering and cruelty that he endured was front and center to his friends. They witnessed the devastation that he endured. They saw him lose his children, his land and his health. Then they witnessed his response.
Job didn't hide his frustrations. He wailed openly to God and begged for the grave. But he never denounced God's existence. Instead he actually pronounced that God was the one in control, allowing this to happen. God allowed satan to wreak havoc on Job's life. God pointed to Job as someone upright and blameless and satan wanted to ruin that witness. Satan wanted to destroy the life Job had in order that Job might destroy his witness for Christ by cursing God and turning from him.
But Job did no such thing. Even in the midst of his cries he did not curse God to his face, as satan said he would.
On earth Job might never see what his witness was meant to accomplish. That is just another mystery withheld from the sufferer until they reach heaven. But there is one thing that is certain: God uses the suffering of the upright as a witness to the lost. He allows suffering. All we need to do is look at Jesus hanging on the cross to see how suffering has been used by God to bring him glory. By Jesus dying on the cross and rising again salvation was brought to fallen sinners. If Jesus had never suffered, this forgiveness wouldn't be available as the free gift to all who believe.
If you are suffering today hold onto the hope of Job and the truth of Jesus. There is a purpose for your suffering. There is a witness to be displayed in the midst of your pain. The greatest trials you face can be the loudest message you send to a world in desperate need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. God is not allowing your suffering as a punishment or reprimand. If you have repented of your sins then they have been removed from you as far away as the east is from the west. That is final. The price has been paid. The debt is wiped away, clean and spotless.
The question is, will you let Him use your greatest suffering as your loudest witness?

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