Suffering is part of life –– that’s a tough reality to embrace! But the crazy thing is, with Jesus, suffering is often the context for our hope…In suffering, we come face-to-face with what we really believe in our hearts about who God is. Few stories depict this reality more beautifully than the story of Job. Even in the midst of tremendous suffering, Job walked in unstoppable hope –– something we can all learn from, with equally beautiful results in our lives.
1. There are many types of suffering.
- When we’re in the midst of suffering, it’s hard to get our head above water. Usually, we don’t see the amazing things that God was doing until we look. After a season of suffering, we might see incredible growth in our lives, but make no mistake, the growth happens through the suffering, not apart from it.
- Job was a man who was blessed. His family, his wealth, and his walk with God were all notable. His suffering began in the spiritual realm when Satan decided to go after Job. Then, Job suffered the loss of his possessions first, his family next and then finally his own health.
- When we discuss the concept of suffering, Job often comes up. We compare and contrast his story, trying to understand our own suffering, but everyone’s experience of suffering is different. We may not suffer as Job suffers, because God has a unique story to tell through our lives.
How are you currently suffering? How are you growing not apart from, but through, your present circumstances?
2. Sometimes friends and family fail.
- Job’s wife is usually looked down on and mocked. We forget that she is also suffering. She lost all her kids and possessions. Her husband is sick. When she could have tried to support Job, she can’t because she’s given up hope.
- Job’s friends are not much of a comfort either, but their response is one that all of us can fall into. They want to mourn with him but can’t even recognize him. Then they try to make sense of what he’s going through.
- Sometimes what makes suffering especially challenging is when those closest to us fail us. When we feel like we need support more than ever, sometimes our loved ones are not a comfort.
In these times, we can become bitter toward those around us, rather than turning to the true source of our comfort. Regardless of the reactions of those around us, our God is faithful.
What have you experienced from the close people in your life during seasons of suffering? Describe one time that stands out in your memory where you saw God’s faithfulness over and above all others’ faithfulness.
3. Let hope rise under pressure.
- When suffering overtakes us, we have a choice to make, we can try to explain away suffering, like Job’s friends. We can let our hope fail, like Job’s wife. Or we can declare, like Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
- When our circumstances dictate that our hope should fail, we can fix our eyes on our risen Savior. This response is the only one that will cause our hope to rise under pressure.
- Because each person’s suffering is different, hope will have different effects on each of us. While hope does not change, the way it plays out in each of our lives may look different. Some of us may need to hope in God’s promise of provision, while others of us may need to hope in the promise of His presence.
What does hope rising up look like for you in your present circumstances? How can you set your mind on the finished work of Jesus during this time?
4. You can trust God even when He doesn’t explain Himself.
- When we look at history (biblically and in our own lives) we can see how God has worked in and through seemingly impossible odds. Throughout the scriptures, God tells his people to remember what he has done. This is key in holding onto hope.
- When you ask God for wisdom, He’ll give you more wisdom than you ever asked for. Not only that, but he won’t belittle you or give you a hard time about it.
- When we go to God with our questions, he usually gives us some answers, but not always the answers we want. Sometimes he doesn’t answer us when we want him to. Those are the times when we need to allow God to be God and trust that he is at work.
What are some of the questions you’re asking God right now? What answers is he giving you? Are they the answers you want? How can you trust God in the midst of your unanswered questions? Why should you trust him?
Optional Follow-up Questions:
- What makes you say that?
- How do you feel about that?
- How would you explain your answer to a non-Christian friend or neighbor?
- Why did God design it to work that way? Why not just do (whatever else) instead?
- What would you say to someone who disagrees with that?
- Why do we really have to do it like that? Why can’t we just go (some other route) instead?