Good Grief (5)
“After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.”
Job’s cursing the day of his birth is certainly understandable. He had lost his children and all his property. He was stricken in his body with a horrible, wasting disease. His wife had betrayed him. And his prospects for redress and restoration were slim to none. Yes, he overstated his grief by invoking a curse on the day of his birth, but I rather suspect the Lord would not have rebuked him for that.
Job’s suffering was, indeed, very great (2:13). Probably few of us have ever experienced so much hardship at one time. But we all have known various kinds of trials and sufferings, and all trials and sufferings bring pain and sorrow. What we don’t need on such occasions are friends like Job’s, who have our “problem” all figured out and are determined to get us to see things their way. What we need is space to grieve and time to wait on the God of all comfort to renew our strength and our hope.
A common mistake that people make when they come to various trials is to think that somehow God is out to get them. Either He wasn’t watching and so couldn’t keep us from our suffering, or He had it in for us somehow. And so we cry out, “Why, Lord!”
But there is some truth to that cry as well, because nothing happens to us outside the scope of God’s sovereign power and will. Paul reminds us that God works all things according to the counsel of His will, and this includes the trials and sufferings we occasionally endure (Eph. 1:11). Job understood that, but rather than rest in God’s sovereign power and infinite wisdom, and wait for the Lord to restore, if not his prosperity and progeny, at least his peace, Job let the grief of his suffering and his disappointment with his friends get the best of him. He demanded that God explain the reason for this pain. He insisted that he would stand before the Lord of heaven and earth and hold Him to account for His causing a good man to suffer.
When trials befall us we must surely grieve. But we must not allow our grieving to lead us to presume. We cannot know the mind of God in such matters, any more than Job could. But though we cannot penetrate the mysteries of the eternal will of God, we can know God and rest in Him, so that we find in Him the comfort, assurance, and loving kindness that we need in the midst of our trials and suffering.
The way to do this is to receive all our trials and suffering with thanksgiving and praise to God. When the pain and sorrow of suffering descend upon us, we may certainly expect to grieve for our situation. However, even in the midst of grieving, if we give thanks to God and persist in praising and waiting on Him, we will find strength from God to bear up under our trials in a way that transforms and renews us through them (cf. Jms. 1:2-4; Rom. 5.3-5).
Through thanksgiving and praise, even in the midst of sorrow and pain, we may renew hope and all the power of hope to realign our thoughts, renew our hearts, strengthen our resolve, and keep us on a course of knowing God’s glory and living to that glory in every aspect of our lives.
The grief and sorrow that come with trials and suffering are good grief, but we must guard against our grief leading us to bitterness, presumption, and rebellion against God. Grief of any kind should signal us to seek the Lord in praise and thanksgiving, so that even as we grieve, we are renewing hope and increasing the likelihood that God Himself, the Father of all comforts (2 Cor. 1:3, 4), will meet us in the midst of our grief and enfold us with His glory.
Talk with some of your friends about the best ways to comfort those who are experiencing trials and suffering. Share your own thoughts and see what they think. How can we lead those who suffer to give thanks and praise to God, without, at the same time, negating the importance of their grieving?
This week’s series, Good Grief, is available in a free downloadable format, suitable for group study.
For more information on this topic, get the book, A Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations, by Leslie C. Allen, from our online store. You might also benefit from reading the article, “Full and Fruitful Affections,” by T. M. Moore.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.