7–13 October 2018.
When we suffer, what hurts us most is often not really the physical pain – after all there is a lot of medication we can take for that. Instead what hurts us most is the emotional pain we feel in our hearts and souls. No painkillers can take that hurt away.
What causes that emotional pain is often our search for answers. We want to know why we suffer, why these bad things have happened to us. We want to hear an explanation and be given a reason that helps us make sense of our suffering. But sometimes there just is no reason. We are surrounded by pain, attacked by physical and mental torture – and there is no good reason for it at all. If only our suffering served some kind of purpose, then we feel like we could bear it better, we could have the strength to hold on and even fight. But too often the frightening truth is that our suffering is completely meaningless. And that’s why it’s truly evil.
This is the challenge that Job and his friends struggle with. Each of them in their own way is trying to make sense of Job’s suffering, trying to find the hidden logic behind it. Job’s friends try to find some way to blame Job himself for his suffering, because if his suffering was due to God’s punishment then they could understand it, tame it, and rob it of its power. But Job rejects this logic. He knows he has done nothing wrong. He’s done nothing that makes him deserve such heart-breaking misery. Instead Job confronts the frightening possibility that maybe there really is nothing to understand here – maybe there really is no great hidden reason for his suffering.
What’s shocking for us is that we have read Job’s story, we have read chapters 1 and 2, and we know the secret that Job doesn’t. We know that Job’s suspicions are true: there truly is no good reason or meaning behind Job’s suffering.
Sadly, that’s the way our world is. Our fallen world is too full of pain, too full of suffering. And too much of that suffering really is completely meaningless. A teenager’s heart suddenly stops beating, a tree falls and kills one woman while leaving the woman next to her alive – is there any deeper meaning there? True evil doesn’t serve any good purpose at all. It’s meaningless. It makes us suffer for nothing. And all it does is hurt, kill, and destroy.
But that doesn’t mean there is no hope. True evil has no meaning, no reasons; but in Romans 8:28 Paul gives us good news. Yes sufferings come, meaningless threads of evil and pain run deep through our lives. But God in his grace takes those tear-soaked threads and he weaves them together into something that is finally beautiful and good. As Paul writes, “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him”. Yes, evil doesn’t need reasons, but God takes the meaningless pain and suffering of our lives and God finds a way for meaning and hope to bloom and grow from them.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis