SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Grace Enables Us to Trust God in the Midst of Suffering
Job 1:1 – 2:10
Key Verse: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. – Job
Studying the Book of Job helps us understand better the presence of suffering in the world. While suffering will remain a mystery in some ways, Job’s experience provides us a biblical way to explain suffering.
Job teaches us that while God is good, he also allows our faith to be tested. Job was a good man. Even Satan admitted that. However, God allowed Satan to make him suffer. Satan tried to break Job. He could not. Job maintained the integrity of his faith despite unbelievable suffering.
Certain convictions flow from this understanding of God. Since God is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, sickness and suffering are under his control. Thus I can suffer, from accident or sickness, because God allows it.
That God permits me to suffer does not mean that my suffering is punishment for my sins. If I am infected with Aids because of sexual promiscuity, I will suffer, not because that is the will of God but because my behavior has resulted in dire consequences. God remains good even when he allows us to suffer for violating his teaching.
If the Bible teaches us anything, it teaches us that God is not whimsical. He does not decide one day to inflict pain upon someone for no apparent reason. He wants our best. His plans for us, as Jeremiah said, are good. Yet our faith is so precious to him that he will test our faith.
It is naďve to believe that all trouble is the result of someone’s sin. This belief, however, remains among us as a cultural challenge to biblical faith.
Some people believe that God is orchestrating whatever happens. Illness, then, is God’s way of putting you “down” on your back so you have to look “up.” Holding this view, you would then hold God accountable for killing children with the flu in order to get the attention of their parents. If we try, we can help people gain a nobler understanding of God.
When word got around that our young son, David, had leukemia, many people came to our home to offer us comfort. Some succeeded better than others did.
One couple explained to us that God needed another little boy angel in his heavenly choir so we should be honored that he chose our David, then age three.
We were not rude to them; we thanked them for coming. However, there was no way we could accept David’s suffering, and eventual death, as “God honoring us.” God simply does not cause children, or anyone, to have leukemia. He does allow this dreadful disease to exist. We realized then, and now years later, that in the midst of this suffering God was testing our faith.
Besides, children do not die and become angels. Angels are a different order of creation. I believe in angels. I have felt their strengthening presence in my life many times. However, no amount of holy living can make a human being an angel. Nothing in God’s Word supports such a frivolous idea.
people tried to convince us that our prayers for David were not adequate. There
were, however, faith healers in
David died in my arms one morning after a long and sleepless night. Soon there came to our home a kind and gentle man, a brilliant theologian who was my seminary teacher in Systematic Theology. He put his arms around us and loved us. He took David’s lifeless body in his arms and, lifting him up, thanked God for the joy he had brought us, and asked God to take receive his soul in heaven.
Then this remarkable man, who had himself suffered the loss of a little girl about David’s age, spoke these life-changing words to us: “I have come this morning to tell you that God hurts like you hurt. He is weeping with you in your loss. But he will carry you through this sorrow to joy. Trust him and he will give you the grace to walk on in his strength.”
That day we began to believe that God does hurt as we hurt. We have tested this conviction for 50 years and we believe it now more than ever. Our God weeps with us in our sorrows even though he permits our suffering to happen. He wants the best for us and he is always working for our good, in all things, and at all times.
As our faith continues being tested by the tribulations of life, our prayer is that finally, when the last test is ended, our attitude will be like that of Job:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job )!
The good news is that God’s grace is sufficient to help any of us reach that goal!
+ + + + (Walter may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)