Dear Friends,

About 4,000 years ago there was a godly man by the name of Job (pronounced Jobe) whose day started like any other, but by late evening his life was in shambles.  We learn that this was the result of a test that God had allowed.  In this test he lost his crops (his source of food), his livestock (his source of income), plus a tornado killed all of his children and grandchildren (his future).  Few people have been tested as severely as Job.

As if this was not enough, God allowed round 2 of Job’s testing.  In this test he also lost his health.  He was in continual, excruciating pain, plus there were exposed sores all over his body that made him repulsive to others.

Was God piling on?  Is God sometimes guilty of (to use a football term) “unnecessary roughness?”  What do we do when God isn’t fair?

Job’s first instinct was to trust God even in the face of horrific tragedy.  Job had a relationship with the God of the universe through faith.  When he was pushed to the brink, his faith stood strong.  He trusted God’s character even as he couldn’t understand His plan.

After Donna was killed, Job was the one book that seemed most to understand my pain.  I spent hours reading, rereading, meditating, and contemplating the profound words that were recorded four millennia ago.  Job became a fellow-sufferer, even a friend to me.  I loved how honestly Job questioned God.

Listen to how openly Job processed his hurt with the Lord…

Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties…What I always feared has happened to me…what have I done to you, O watcher of humanity…Why have you made me your target?… If someone wanted to take God to court… If only there were a mediator between us… it is God who has wronged me, capturing me in his net…I protest, but there is no justice” (Job 3:23-25;7:20; 9:3,33; 19:6,7).

Have you ever felt that if you talked to God like this you might be struck by fire from the sky?  But it blessed me that Job (about whom God said, “He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil“) was brutally honest as he questioned God.

You see, Job questioned God in faith.  When Job was in God’s face, he was after all directing all his attention into the face of God.  His questions, while candid and even a little irreverent, showed that he believed God was in control and could change his circumstances.  I believe Job’s questions display a powerful faith.  God’s shoulders are big enough to handle your tough questions…IF they are asked in faith.

QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO ASK…AND HAVE GOD ANSWER:

  1. IS MY SUFFERING FAIR?  How do you respond when God seems unfair?  Our knee-jerk reaction is to assume God is being unfair by allowing terrible trouble.

Often people ask, “Why does God allow suffering in the world?”  But this isn’t the real question. The real question is, “If I’m a good person, will God keep me from suffering?”  There is this unspoken expectation that by believing in God we will escape serious trouble.

Why should we be surprised when we face troubles as if God has disappointed us…betrayed us?  Has He broken His promises to us?  Did God promise you that if you believed in Him, you would never face trouble?

Listen to the answers of these credible witnesses:

Job says, “People are born for trouble as predictably as sparks fly upward from a fire” (Job 5:7).

David says: “The righteous face many troubles” (Psalm 34:19a).

Solomon writes, “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

Jesus promises, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33a).

How many of you have faced trouble in your life?  Is suffering fair?  Yes, we need to settle the issue that suffering is fair.  No one has had a life without suffering!  And if suffering is a universal experience of humans, then how can your suffering be unfair?  Claiming unfairness is a waste of valuable spiritual and emotional energy.

  1. IS THIS DISCIPLINE OR TESTING?  You need to ask God whether your trouble is testing or His loving discipline.  If it is discipline, then you need to yield to His correction.  But if it is testing, you must pass the test in order to grow in character and maturity.

Discipline is designed to bring correction

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:11).

Testing is designed to develop character

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3–4).

  1. WHY DID YOU LET THIS HAPPEN TO ME?As I was processing Donna’s death, I continually asked God, “Why did you let this happen to me?”  I must have asked God that question dozens of times.  Each time I received no answer.

Then one day I was listening to Christian radio as Dr. Charles Stanley was teaching on “How we profit from suffering.”  He began his message by saying, “The first thing I must say about ‘how we profit from suffering’ is that many people don’t profit from their suffering.  Many people WASTE THEIR SUFFERING!”  This hit me so hard that I almost lost control of my car as I drove around I-465.  I had the most precious thing in my life invested in my suffering.  The thought of WASTING it was unthinkable to me.

Dr. Stanley went on to explain that if we want to understand our suffering we must ask God, “Why did you let this happen to me?”  That was an extremely familiar question to me, except I realized I had not truly been asking God this question.  I had been using it as an accusation—an indictment—against God.  I wasn’t truly seeking an answer, but simply using this as a claim of God’s unfair treatment of me.

When I earnestly asked God to help me understand “why He let this happen to me” my heart was instantly flooded with His answer.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy…If you need wisdom [to understand your testing], ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (James 1:2, 5).

God began to show me that He was working on my character and that He desired to use my suffering to minister to others.  I understood God was using my suffering to conform me more completely to the image of Christ, and He was working to strengthen me, and mature my faith to the next level on my spiritual journey.

You must ask the Lord, “How can I profit from this testing?”  I’m certain that He will answer your question in ways that will amaze and humble you.  Don’t waste your emotional and spiritual energy blaming God for unfairness.  Acknowledge that your loving heavenly Father is testing your faith to bring you to a new level of spiritual maturity.

Next week I want to continue this series by dealing with HOW TO PASS (NOT FAIL) THE TEST.

If you are going through a time of testing, I would encourage you to spend time with the Lord this week working your way through these questions.

Onward seeking Him,

Pastor Gary