Celebration of Suffering: Sunshine after Rain - 28 May 2019

Louise Gevers

“Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5

Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people, right? Many people who think this when horrible things happen that they can’t understand, and appear unfair, are usually speaking from emotion or empathy, and not sound judgment. God alone understands the situation and can be trusted in it because He “is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made”. (Psalm 145:17) He is, “near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) and He can be trusted in all circumstances.

Once, there was a man in the Bible who learnt this, when, in quick succession, one tragedy after another happened in his life, which brought him deep anguish. Yet, God knew about it and allowed it and taught him many amazing things about Himself through his experience; He blessed him even more at the end than He had done before the problems started. (Job 38-42)

This was Job. He was, “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”Job 1: 1 God had blessed him with ten children and many servants, flocks and herds. Job was so upright that he even sacrificed offerings to God daily on behalf of his children, in case they had sinned. One day, God allowed Satan to test Job’s faithfulness to Him through suffering, to prove his innocence.

Tragedy and disaster followed. His livestock was plundered, and his servants killed in attacks; his sheep were struck by lightning; his children were killed while feasting, when a huge wind from the desert collapsed the roof of the house they were in. At this, Job “tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’” (Job 1:21)

Next, Job’s whole body was infected with boils. His wife callously told him to curse God and die; then his three friends came to sympathise, but were so shocked at his appearance and suffering that they sat with him in silence for seven days. When they did speak, their advice caused him even more suffering. Job answered one friend’s mockery with, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed this will turn out for my deliverance …” (Job 13:15-16)

Suffering comes to everybody in the course of life. Everything that was once going along normally, even happily, is suddenly turned upside-down. Like Job, our experience of cruel loss, pain and suffering is very real. Can we celebrate? By faith we can. When things happen that are beyond our control, God is the only One who can truly help us; He will, in time, work through it with us. This is something to celebrate greatly.

“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” (Lamentations 3:31-33)

Prayer: Lord, in your great love for us, You allow suffering into our lives to make us stronger, more resilient in our faith and completely reliant on You. We rejoice that You alone can bring celebration out of suffering. Amen

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