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Will This Suffering Make Us Stronger?

This is the highwater mark in the Book of Job – and the greatest single expression of Job’s faith under enormous pressure:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’ and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’ be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment.” (Job 19:25–29 ESV)

Francis Andersen provides a helpful summary of Job’s remarkable speech:

“In this speech Job’s audacious faith reaches its climax in the famous words, I know that my Redeemer lives (verse 25). He leaps to this height from a state of despair caused by the reproaches of his friends (verses 2–6), his devastation by God (7–12), and his sense of utter forsakenness (13–22). His certainty of final vindication (23–29) shines all the more brightly against this dark background.⁠”[1]

He leaps to this height from a state of despair. He arrives at this understanding from a place of spiritual devastation. He sees this far while standing utterly and entirely alone. While we are right to admire Job’s incredible insight, we are often guilty of failing to reflect upon the arduous process by which it was gained.

We observe a similar pattern within the pages of the New Testament. The Apostle Peter says:

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1 ESV)

Here Peter is trying to prepare his people mentally for the coming experience of persecution:

“Get your head around it.”

“Resolve to endure.”

“Grit your teeth.”

“Bear down because it’s coming.”

But then he tries to encourage them. He says, on the plus side, people who pass through the sorts of things you are about to endure, generally lose their appetite for sin. If you can make it through this, the strength and sanctification that will result might even make you thankful for the experience.

Wayne Grudem says here:

“following through with a decision to obey God even when it will mean physical suffering has a morally strengthening effect on our lives: it commits us more firmly than ever before to a pattern of action where obedience is even more important than our desire to avoid pain.”[2]

Are you hearing that?

Grudem is saying that if you can hold it together and maintain your faith and integrity through a time of suffering you will be noticeably stronger on the other side – that appears to be what we are observing in the story of Job, and I wonder if that might not be part of the reason why God regularly ordains seasons of difficulty and hardship for us as believers.

Does great suffering result in great strength – moral, personal and spiritual?

Does great pain produce great gain in terms of faith, wisdom and understanding?

Our reading of the Bible, Old Testament and New, would seem to suggest that it does. Job is pressed down. Job is sorely afflicted. But Job is sustained – barely. And in that painful place Job becomes incredibly strong. He sees things that he never saw before. He believes things that he never had an inkling of before. In his suffering Job becomes a giant. In the darkness Job is able to see.

That is clearly what is happening in Job 19, and I wonder if that might not also be at least a part of the purpose and kindness of the Lord in our present trials.

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Paul Carter

To listen to the most recent episodes of Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes. To access the entire library of available episodes see here.

[1] Francis I. Andersen, Job: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 14 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1976), 205.

[2] Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 6 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 175.