Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Suffering will come in some form, and you will search in vain for a reason why. You will not find some foolish action on your part that led to the suffering. You will not find yourself clinging in unrepentance to a sinful attitude or action where you could say the suffering is God’s wake up call. You might not be so foolish as to say, “I don’t deserve this!” because you know that for your sins you deserve far worse, but you might find yourself wondering, “If Christ took my sins and bore God’s wrath for me, then why am I going through this?”
A couple days ago I posted about how sometimes we face suffering because of our sinfulness, as a corrective, disciplining action from our loving God. But sometimes the suffering we face has nothing to do with our sin, except in sideways, sin-in-the-world-causes-suffering sort of way. What then?
That’s what Job went through. Remember Job, the guy God had blessed abundantly, then allowed abundant catastrophe so that he literally had nothing left? All his fields and flocks were destroyed, his children died, his wife left him, he got horribly, painfully sick, and his only friends came to sit with him and tell him how he must be an awful guy to have so many problems. Job’s constant refrain through all of that could be summed up as, “This just isn’t fair!”
What was God’s reply to job? “Who are you to tell me what is fair? What do you even know? Your life is short, you are weak, you can’t see all things, so how can you say when something is not fair?”
Scripture shows us the behind-the-scenes about that situation, though, that reveals God’s purpose – to prove to Satan something the devil could never understand, that faith isn’t a quid pro quo with blessings, where believers stop believing the moment life becomes rough.
However, I think we can see that God was doing something more than proving a point. See, it was out of the crucible of Job’s suffering that two of the most beautiful expressions of Christian faith. When he learned of all he had lost, Job declared, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Later he reflected on man’s transitory nature and confessed, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).
Often – though we cannot say with certainty how often – this is the purpose behind the suffering God allows in our lives. It is to produce in us a faith that clings more desperately to him when faced with the direst of circumstances. It is to produce a trust that no matter how bad things get, he is still for us. It is to lead us to surrender any hope that we can make this life a paradise, so that we will cast our eyes to the paradise he is preparing for us.
In short, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
So maybe it is fair… but not in the way we understand fairness. It is a wholly different kind of fairness, the kind that, in many ways, only those who have seen the end of all things can really grasp. We’re not there yet. Clinging to Christ someday we will be.