The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of His People Part 5 – Wallowing in Suffering

by Mike Ratliff

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. (Job 3:1)

When God opens the eyes of His children as they seek Him by drawing close and following hard after Him, they become Spirit-led. That means they have matured to a point by God granting them repentance where they actively strive to take every thought capture unto Christ and walk through each day in repentance. There will never be a day in this life where they will be perfect or sinless. Yes, in God’s eyes they are righteous and blameless before Him, however, this life is one of maturing not sinless perfection.

Part of our growing in grace is learning to deal with suffering. After all, it is through our suffering that God does His marvelous work of changing our character to become conformed unto Christ-likeness. Suffering weakens our old nature’s ability to keep us self-focused, prideful, and in love with this world. When we suffer and learn to trust God and rely on His grace to sustain us in the fire we are spiritually cleansed. If we come through our suffering this way, our faith is stronger. We have jettisoned or let go of whatever God has taken from us that was an impediment to our devotion to Him.

However, as we can see from the passage I placed at the top of this post, believers can become exhausted, frustrated, perplexed, nonplused, angry, testy, impatient, bitter, and full of anguish. Job had been one of the greatest in the East. He loved God. He served God in all that he did. He was the one people came to for advice or help. However, now he was destitute. All of his children were dead. He had a loathsome skin disease that drove him to sit on the ash heap scratching his skin with a broken piece of pottery. His wife had counseled that he give up, curse God and die. His three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite came to comfort him. When they saw him they tore their clothes, put dust on their heads and, sat seven days in silence with Job on the ash heap saying nothing. They did not even recognize him at first. After seven days of this suffering, Job cursed the day of his birth.

And Job said: “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. That night–let thick darkness seize it! Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it. Let those curse it who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan. Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none, nor see the eyelids of the morning, because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hide trouble from my eyes. “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse? For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves, or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver. Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; they hear not the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master. “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.” (Job 3:2-26)

I must admit that I have said something similar to God. I have asked Him to go ahead and kill me, “Take me home now Lord, please!” I know better. I know that suffering plays a vital role in our spiritual maturing. However, there always seems to come a time of doubt that God really cares about me anymore. It seems as if He is delighting in my suffering or I have done something really horrid so that I deserve it. I could serve God so much better without this suffering! Doesn’t He understand this? The Apostle Paul had a similar experience with suffering.

Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:6-10)

Paul was a brilliant and godly man. God had given him tremendous revelation. After all, he wrote the book of Romans from which we get most of our Christian doctrines. He wrote most of New Testament. However, God sent him some suffering to keep him from being too elated in his knowledge. He wallowed in the suffering for awhile. We don’t know how long. However he did pray three times for God times to take the suffering away. What was God’s response? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” What sort of response is that? When I was an immature Christian, I thought this was a passage of foolishness. How could God’s grace be sufficient in our suffering? When suffering came upon me or my family I would pray for wisdom, discernment and for God to take the suffering away. Then I would read this passage and ask God where the grace was.

It wasn’t until God did open my eyes as He circumcised my heart that I saw how my view of everything had been upside down. My value system had been based upon my self-attempted piety, but now it was based entirely on God’s will. I saw His sovereignty as the only reality. It was incredible how everything changed. Did suffering stop? No, it continued. However, my spiritual vision was now 20/20. I could see God’s hand in it. I could see that I didn’t have to know the purpose in my suffering. I just had to submit to His will and rely on His joy to strengthen me and sustain me. Just as Paul said that he will boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon him, I saw suffering in a new light. I saw suffering as an opportunity to grow in grace. Did I always submit to it joyfully? Nope. I wallowed in self-pity many times and still do, however, eventually, God reveals what I need to do and I do it. I repent of my self-pity, I submit to His will. In other words, I humble myself before His throne. I give up my self-importance and submit to God as nothing special. Why? Because, when we do this the power of Christ rests upon us. When we are content in our sufferings, we are weak and humble, but we are strong in Christ.

Was Job sinful in cursing the day of his birth? I see anguish here. I see someone exhausted by his suffering. I see someone who is in the fires of tribulation and is still clueless about what is happening to him. He is where I have been many times. I would get so excited about what God was showing me and how deep my walk was becoming and then I would try to share that with some people who, I thought, would rejoice with me. Instead, they would smirk or shrug or say cruel things to me. I tried to share the gospel with some people I work with and was laughed at and ridiculed.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-19)

I don’t like suffering and I don’t appreciate the ridicule coming from non-beleivers, but that that comes from supposed brethren really hurts. It can throw cold water all over our joy if we let it. Suffering because of our own stupidity is something else entirely. Suffering for the gospel is painful, yet it is also the place where we become identified with Christ.

Why was Job suffering? He had no idea. He was doing it all right. He was actively dealing with his and his family’s sin. Then calamity overtook him and his family. His breakdown into wallowing in his misery is the inevitable result of relying on his own strength and will power to sustain himself. He was not relying on God’s grace to sustain him and, therefore, he fell into self-pity. Anger and bitterness will follow. Will these emotions drive God away? Will they cause Him to give us over to it? How big is our God? We must remember that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our breaking points. He also has His own purpose in our suffering and that is something we may never learn until we join Him in eternity.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

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8 thoughts on “The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of His People Part 5 – Wallowing in Suffering

  1. Mike,

    Another excellent post!

    I too have been in a position where I’ve asked God to strike me dead. In fact, it almost seems to be a pattern that when tough trials come, it’s right after I seem to bust that God delivers me through– almost as if to remind me he is always more faithful than me.

    Possibly, we get into such despair wondering whether we’re in a trial or undergoing chastisement. Isn’t that how we’ve been programed to think? Yet, this Sunday I was reminded of something in Romans 8. Not only is God using all of this to conform us to the image of his son, but while we get utterly stumped in how to pray for ourselves, he has the Holy Spirit continuing to pray for us. And I guarantee the Holy Spirit knows the will of God.

    Now, that should be a comfort for us.

  2. Amen Mike. My nature is one of always needing to be in control. Well, that doesn’t go over to well with God. I think almost all of my suffering has to do with Him forcing me to let go and trust Him. Isn’t that what faith does? So, our suffering is designed to increase or strengthen our faith. Faith is stronger as it is used. The reason or cause of our suffering is actually immaterial if we really think about it. As you said, God is still going to work in the midst of our suffering to accomplish His will and purpose in us.

    Great Comment!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. It is true. We just want the suffering to end so we can crawl under a rock and die. It is only when it is all over that we see how dramatically God used the suffering to strengthen us.

    God is working in it all. When we have the assurance of an eternity ahead of us with Him, then suffering is only a bump in the road on our way to that goal.

    God bless,

    The Aspiring Theologian

  4. Albert,

    Yes, exactly. Our temporally focused minds are finite and clueless to God’s infinitely perfect actions in our lives. Oh Lord, give us wisdom and discernment so we can submit, by faith, to your work in our hard hearts.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Mike,
    I know I should know this and maybe I do, but I was wondering if you could explain what Paul meant when God told him that He wouldn’t take away his suffering and (this is the part that I need explaination on) that His grace was sufficient for him. God has been working on my attitude for awhile now and I was doing really well in allowing God to purge my hot temper, but lately I don’t feel His strength in me to help me put an ax to each and every time I feel/that way. Wouldn’t the grace that He was telling Paul about be that strength to not sin at least EVERY TIME that a test comes around? Like I said, I was doing well and now feel very frustrated…mostly at work.

  6. Sarah,

    What Paul meant was that God told him that he would have to continue to suffer, but that God would give him the grace to endure and deal with whatever it was. For me sometimes I have wonderful patience with some people I work with that I would really rather not even be aound at all. Other times, I revert back to impatience and aggrivation even to have to work with them. What makes the difference? I do well when I am God focused and joying in Him. When I am joying (enjoying) my relationship with him by what I get out of it then I start resenting things. It is all based on focus I think. Does this make sense?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. Yes, it does. Maybe my prayer life isn’t as strong as it was. I don’t know. I just feel like I’ve been thrown into the fire right in the middle of helping others to see the wrong with watching tv. Maybe I made a mistake in doing this. I thought we were suppose to point out what it is to indulge in the things of this world to help each other to be separate from this world. It is as though I’m being shown that I’m not perfect by making me fall every time a trial comes along. I’m not saying this to feel sorry for myself. I’m saying it because if we aren’t suppose to do what I did, then I certainly won’t do it again for all the trouble it’s caused me…sounds self doesn’t it? I just feel especially confused lately. This whole confession really opens me up to you all but I really am feeling despondent.

  8. Sarah,

    Despondence is something I am quite familiar. It comes to me when I share with someone close to me hoping that they will joyously grasp the truths I am giving them. Then they respond with something like, “Why are you preaching at me?” Despondence closely follows. However, don’t believe that you haven’t planted seeds of wisdom and godliness there. It may not have been appreciated, but that does not mean that God won’t use what you shared in His timing. I get myself out of the slough of despond by humbling myself before my Lord, submit to Him in all things, weep and mourn and worship and repent. That is a sweet place to be Sarah. Perhaps God has allowed you into the slough so you can experience the sweetness of His comfort, sustanance, and grace followed closely by JOY.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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