Whenever I see the sufferings in this world, especially during this time of pandemic, God reminds me about Job. Despite being a blameless and upright man, he faced trials that are too hard to bear.
In the Bible we read that Job lost his sons and daughters and all his property. “Struck with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head”, he suffered physically. And in the extremity of his afflictions, his wife was short of encouragement as she told him to “curse God and die”. Even his friends who came to comfort him, ended up judging him guilty of sins he did not commit.
We may not have gone through the same experiences as Job, but in some ways all of us have experienced sufferings already—those that make sense and those that don’t.
According to Paul David Tripp,
“You can’t escape the reality that the Bible teaches that suffering is not a unique experience. It’s not a strange experience. It’s not a surprising experience. It’s not an episodic experience. Suffering is a universal human experience. Starting in Romans 8:18, Paul discusses suffering, and he assumes the universality of suffering. He assumes that somehow, someway, all of us will suffer… This may not be a happy thing to hear. But if you’re not suffering now, you’re near someone who is. And if you’re not suffering now, fasten your seat belt. You will, someday.”
Most of us see that reality, especially now in this crazy time we live. And there is no guarantee that we will be spared from sufferings—from health issues, emotional distress, financial struggles, failures, betrayals, or loss of a loved one,—because we live in a fallen world and are even affected by the consequences of our own, and other’s sins. But what should our response be when faced with trials or sufferings?
Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Rejoice in Hope
“Rejoice in hope” was written along with the marks of the true Christian in Romans 12. That means a true Christian rejoices in hope.
We can see Job’s hope in God despite his affliction when he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.”
Rejoicing in hope, doesn’t mean that we deny the presence of our trials or the painful realities of life, but we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of our sufferings may not only bring us pain but also shame as these sufferings often expose our weaknesses, limitations, and even our remaining sins as well. This is why when we look to ourselves, we often find nothing but hopelessness. What we must do is repent and set our hope in the Lord.
For what better hope do we have apart from what our Lord Jesus Christ has done? That the glorious Son of God came to the earth, walked the path of suffering, died the death we deserve on the cross, and rose from the dead… to reconcile us to God, so we will never have to suffer from His wrath, the worst of all sufferings that could befall us.
As God’s people, we have a living hope, not a mere expression of uncertainty or wishful thinking. It is our future resurrection through Christ’s resurrection from the dead, “to an inheritance—that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.” When we rejoice in that hope, we would realize that the things we suffer here are light and momentary in comparison to the glory that is to be revealed to us at our Lord’s return. What God has promised for us through Jesus is eternal.
“Paul distills the essence of the Christian life when he says, ‘Rejoice in your hope,’ since our joy is vested in the future that God promises for His people. Our joy as strangers and sojourners in this valley of tears is that God has prepared a place for us—a better world that will be consummated at Christ’s return.”— R.C. Sproul
Be Patient in Tribulation
Our hope counters the pain and the shame that entails our sufferings. It is written in Romans 5:3-5 (ESV):
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Consider Job’s response when met with difficult trials. “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22 ESV)
In his grief and misery, he was patient. Despite challenging God and asking him questions, God deemed Job as one who had spoken of him what is right.
God permitted Satan to afflict Job, despite being a blameless and upright man. Why would a loving God do that to His faithful servant? It is not only to prove the genuineness of Job’s faith and strengthen his character, but more importantly, to display His glory and sovereignty over all creation.
We can be patient in tribulation because we have hope, and sufferings are not meant to break or punish His children but to sanctify us by the power of the Holy Spirit and to make us more like Christ.
Be Constant in Prayer
Aside from spending time in God’s Word, there is no other way we can commune with God but through prayer. It is an act of humility to come to our heavenly Father who cares for us. To pray in times of plenty is to acknowledge that everything we have, we received from God. And to pray in times of suffering is to trust God’s purpose for us and submit to Him, knowing that He works all things according to the counsel of His will, to the praise of His glory.
When our life’s abundance is replaced with sufferings, do we come boldly to the throne of grace or do we wander away from God?
We must be constant in prayer regardless of our circumstances, for we are in constant need of Him in whom we live and breathe and have our being. He is our help and our refuge. And apart from Him, we can do nothing.
There are many trials and sufferings in this dying world that don’t make sense, and there are still more to come that will never make sense or might only make sense when eternity is finally before our faces. But the faith which the Spirit of God has granted us is not blind faith. We have the assurance past this side of heaven, a sure and steadfast anchor of our soul: this hope that we have in Christ. Therefore, we have a reason to rejoice. And when sufferings bring you to your knees… kneel and pray, and like Job say, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15). Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
And “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
To God be the glory!
Call to Action
Memorize Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”, ask the Holy Spirit to help you live it out. AND share the hope of the gospel of Christ to others.
Questions to Ponder
1. What truth about God have you learned through trials and sufferings?
2. How does this truth change the way you respond to trials and sufferings that you are facing/ may face?
This is the expanded version of the message I wrote and shared along with a coworker and sister in Christ in our staff-wide devotion yesterday. We had a very limited time, so we had to shorten it and deliver it in a conversational approach as well. It took me a few days to finish and I almost cried in the process, but the grace of God held and helped me through it. I pray that this may serve as an encouragement for you to set your hope in Christ. God bless! Soli Deo Gloria!