Thursday, August 25, 2016

When You Cannot Live With or Without God

You have heard of Job’s endurance, James says (James 5:11). Job is the man who had it all and lost it all. His story is so unreal as to be incredible. But the Book of Job cannot be construed as merely an allegory or fictitious example of someone who suffered great pain and loss but continued, somehow, to hold on to his faith in God. Neither is it an abstract treatise on the nature of suffering, its causes and effects. If Job were not a real person who lived in real time, his story would have little power to aid the rest of us.

Did Job, in fact, keep his faith? He complained bitterly; he argued vehemently; he scorned answers given him by friends. He felt abandoned and betrayed by God who seemed to be toying mercilessly with his moral uprightness when he should have been rewarding it. If this is not enough to indicate serious failure of faith, Job, at several junctures, wished he were dead or, better yet, that he’d never been born. Can we say that a man who curses the day of his birth (Job 3:1ff) has faith?
Job held on, yes, but did he hold on to faith?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When God is Silent

Silence. Sometimes what causes us the most pain and confusion isn’t what God says to us but the fact that in the midst of difficulty he seems to say nothing at all.

Has God been silent in your life as you’ve been waiting for answers?

That’s how it was for Job. He wanted to hear from God. He wanted to understand why he was suffering. He wanted God to clear his name. “Let the Almighty answer me,” he pleaded (Job 31:35)

Voice from the Storm

Finally, after all the questioning and struggle, in a voice from out of a storm, God spoke.
God asked where Job was when God began the work of creation. What had Job done to call the universe into being, to create his own life, or to make possible the existence of his possessions or his children or his health?

You might expect God to have answered all those chapters of questions from Job and his friends, who had been waxing eloquent about God and how he works. You might think God would have set the record straight on all the fine points.

But that isn’t what he did.

He answered Job’s questions with his own set of questions—four chapters of them—to remind Job that he was questioning almighty God.

God didn’t explain. He didn’t reveal his master plan. Instead, he revealed himself, and in the midst of his awesome presence Job’s questions weren’t answered—they simply disappeared.

Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”

Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will put my hand over my mouth in silence. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.” (Job 40:1–5 NLT)

Accepting the Mystery 

In his response God didn’t explain the meaning of suffering or how to avoid it. Suffering is a mystery, and Job came to respect the mystery. He came to grasp that because he knew who God was, he could accept what God gave—even when he didn’t understand it.

The Lord did not choose to reveal everything to Job. He doesn’t reveal everything to us, either. And the truth is, he doesn’t have to. He is God. He is Creator; we are the created. God does not owe us an explanation.

And what if God had spelled it out? What if he had explained his full plan and purpose for Job’s suffering? We tend to think if we only knew why we were suffering, we’d be able to bear it. But would we?

Somehow I think that even if God listed all the reasons he’s allowed you to lose your loved one, develop the disease, or suffer the rejection, it still wouldn’t seem worth it from your limited perspective. So instead, he expands our perspective by giving us a glimpse of his ability to run the universe in contrast to our limited experience and understanding.

Job had no idea he was a player in a cosmic confrontation. As we read the ancient story, we’re privy to the deal made between God and Satan, but Job had no such context for his suffering. He had no idea his faithfulness in extreme difficulty mattered so much. But it did.

Job teaches us that our response to testing matters, too. Like him, we often cannot see God’s hidden purposes. Yet we can determine to be faithful and keep walking toward the Lord in the darkness.

Choosing to Trust in the Dark 

Our task isn’t to decipher exactly how all of life’s pieces fit and what they all mean, but to remain faithful and obedient to the God who knows all mysteries. This is the kind of faith that’s pleasing to God—a faith that’s determined to trust him when he hasn’t answered all the questions, when we haven’t heard any voice from the whirlwind.

Would you be still and listen for the voice of God speaking to you through his Word, perhaps not answering the question “Why?” but revealing the all-important “Who?” Would you rest in knowing there are mysteries we will never understand completely in this life, and would you resist trying to explain an unexplainable God?

Would you choose to trust God and continue believing he has a plan and a purpose, even though the future looks dark?

This excerpt is adapted from the new edition of Nancy Guthrie’s Holding On to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God (Tyndale Momentum, 2016). The book includes an eight-week Bible study on the Book of Job.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


This blog was taken from a blog written by Ray Ortlund Jr. and was originally posted on his blog.

The book of Job is not answering a theoretical question about why good people suffer. It is answering a practical question: When good people suffer, what does God want from them? The answer is, he wants our trust.

The book is driven by tensions. One, Job really was a good man (1:1, 8; 2:3). He didn’t deserve what he got. Two, neither Job nor his friends ever saw the conflict going on between God and Satan, but his friends made the mistake of thinking they were competent to judge. Three, his friends interpreted his sufferings in moralistic, overly-tidy, accusing categories (4:7-8). Thus, they did not serve Job but only intensified his sufferings further. Four, Job refused to give in either to his own despair or to their cruel insinuations. He kept looking to God, he held on, and God eventually showed up (38:1-42:17).

Two observations.

One, even personal suffering has a social dimension, as others look on and inevitably form opinions. Suffering brings temptation both to the sufferer and to the observer. The sufferer is tempted to give up on God. The observer is tempted to point his finger at the sufferer with smug, self-serving thoughts and words: “This is all your own fault, of course. If you’d just own up, everything would start getting better.” The fallacy here is to assume that we live in a universe ruled by the simple laws of crime and punishment. Our minds dredge up these thoughts not really because we are confident in ourselves but because we are uneasy about ourselves and therefore threatened by the suffering of another: “If it’s happening to Job, it might catch up to me too.” So we cling to the illusory feeling of control by reinforcing our own self-image of moral superiority. We try, by sheer force of assertion, to re-order the moral universe in a way reassuring to our prejudices. The book of Job teaches a more honest and humble way. When we observe someone suffering, we too should trust God and sympathize with the sufferer rather than off-load our own guilty anxieties by dumping on the sufferer.

Two, when we ourselves suffer in ways that defy easy explanation, God wants us to trust him more deeply than we ever have before. Job eventually settles into a profound place where, without answers to his questions, he trusts in the omni-competence of God: “I know that you can do all things” (42:2). What God can do is more important than how God explains himself. What if he did tell us every mystery right now? Would we be satisfied? Would we say, “Oh, I see. Here I have your explanation for it all. That really makes everything okay now”? I doubt it. An explanation is a wonderful thing, so far as it goes. But it is an intellectual thing. It cannot touch our core being, where the anguish in fact has taken up its deepest residence. Far better to leave it all with God, as our faith deepens from questioning to waiting. We don’t live by explanations; we live by faith.

“I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able.” 2 Timothy 1:12

Monday, August 22, 2016

What Not to Say to Someone Suffering

This article was taken from It was written by Matt Smethurst.

“Job's friends were great counselors,” Tullian Tchividjian observes, “until they opened their mouth.”

Tchividjian sat down with Paul Tripp and Dave Furman to discuss things you shouldn't to say to a person in pain—many of which they've learned the hard way.

“I've made the mistake of comparing one person's pain to someone else's,” recalls Furman, pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Though perhaps well intentioned, this approach diminishes the real struggle before your eyes and leaves the person to conclude you “have no idea what I'm going through.” Along similar lines, Tripp adds that it's remarkably unhelpful to tell someone, “You will never suffer as much as Jesus did.” To the person who suffers this comment sounds like Jesus set the bar so high that no one else's pain matters.

“The mandatory happiness we require inside the church often perpetuates the pain people feel,” says Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. “But we have a faith that actually embraces suffering, that looks it square in the face and is realistic about it. The idea that God suffers for us and with us is what sets Christianity apart.”

Watch the full seven-minute video to see these pastors discuss blunders they've made, comforting their kids, awkward silence, and more.

What Not to Say to Someone Who's Suffering from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.