Just a few months ago, my and my family’s life was radically turned upside down. If you read my blog post Life, Interrupted, you know exactly what I am talking about.
But if you are not sure, let me catch you up. Five months ago, I was walking in late to a meeting about an upcoming mission trip I was about to embark on with some of my best friends. As I was walking into the door, my mom called me. The only words I vividly remember hearing were “collapsed” “tumors” and “emergency room.” I ran to the bathroom (“straight out of a movie” type scene), called my best friend and we sat on the church bathroom floor and cried together.
Later that week, I would drive home from college to spend a week in the hospital with my family. It was then confirmed that my mom had stage four colon cancer.
Fast forward to June 2017. My mom had been in alternative treatments for her cancer, rotating between chemotherapy and natural remedies for the past four months. Right when things were under control, we found out she had blood clots all over her body. This would create a spiral of unwanted and unwelcomed hurdles for her body and the doctors to overcome.
We took a family road trip to Wyoming in the midst of all of this. A week after we got back, my mom landed in the hospital again- only this time she would suffer a heart attack and a stroke. However, there was nothing we could do for either because of her blood clots. With lots of pain medicine and prayers, we sat with her through a 14-hour heart attack. A week later, she was put into hospice care.
A lot of pain, sleepless nights, anxiety, and a cloud of sadness has swept over us, no doubt. This is by far the most difficult season of life we have ever gone through. The Bible shares a similar story of human suffering in the book of Job. The majority of the 42 chapters are about human suffering, but God’s sovereignty prevails in the end. Let me give you the rundown of Job’s life.
Written like a narrative, we have an inside look on a heavenly court debate between God and Satan. Satan approaches the Lord after roaming about on the Earth and the Lord speaks to him.
“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on Earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8 NIV)
Satan debates with God, saying that if He took everything away from his faithful servant, Job would curse his name. God knew that Job was totally devoted to Him. He told Satan he could take everything from him, but not lay a finger on him.
Satan did just that. Job’s cattle were stolen. His servants were murdered. His sons and daughters died because of a collapsed house. He suffered from misery. He had agonizing sores all over his body, unending pain, and a total loss of dignity. He even longed for death.
He questions the same thing we tend to question a lot —why do bad things happen to good people? Job was inherently good. He had riches but still put God first. Like us, Job can only see our small, earthly view of suffering- he had no idea of God’s greater intention.
“Why does God bother giving light to the miserable, why bother keeping bitter people alive, those who want in the worst way to die, and can’t, who can’t imagine anything better than death, who count the day of their death and burial the happiest day of their life? What’s the point of life when it doesn’t make sense, when God blocks all the roads to meaning?” Job 3:20-23 MSG
Much like Job, I have cried out to God asking what we have done to deserve this. I have begged to see tangible miracles, yet He stays quiet. I prayed in the Father’s name to have my mom completely healed. I have pleaded with God asking for her to be healthy enough to watch my little sister graduate high school, help me pick out my wedding dress one day, or buy an RV with my dad and hit the road when they retire like they had always planned.
“But he stands alone (singular and sovereign), and who can oppose him? He does whatever He pleases. He carries out his decree against me, and many such plans He still has in store. That is why I am terrified before him; when I think of all this, I fear him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.” Job 23:12-17 NIV
Job did not feel silenced because of the dark times he was walking through. He communicated his distress and misery to God. He had a fervent fear for the Lord, like we are called to have. We are able to see the bigger picture that Job was never able to see. The truth is this: we see a tiny crack compared to the things God sees. He sees from the very beginning to the very end. If we knew all of the facts, we would always choose God’s way. Sometimes God ordains innocent suffering. He does this for many reasons:
- Our own strengthening: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV
- Patient endurance to help others: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV
- To bring God glory: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3 NIV
Job was prepared to DIE trusting in the name of God. It is true that sometimes we cannot trust God with our whole heart until our circumstances lead us into painful places. This is when we learn to lean not on our own understanding. THIS is how we obtain spiritual endurance much like Job did. Suffering also reveals the weakness of the things we usually lean on (friends, Netflix, food, alcohol, isolation).
We are brought to the end of ourselves through suffering.
God finally confronts Job in chapter 38, saying “Where were you when I laid the Earth’s foundation?” Job 38:4 NIV.
After waiting 37 chapters for this moment, Job responded much how I would have.
“I’m speechless, in awe- words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen.” Job 40:3-5 MSG
Through it all, Job did not curse God’s name ONCE. While he was on Earth, he never had an idea about the conversation between God and Satan. This is where we are given a true example of walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Our human reasoning is inadequate! I can not think of a single reason for God putting my family through the trials we have been through these past five months and the much harder times to come. Much like Job, I have sleeplessness, a broken spirit, lack of peace (Job 3:26), and fractured plans (Job 17:11).
I believe with my whole heart that Jesus can and will heal my mom. My eyes have been shifted, however, to ask God to do whatever brings Him the most glory. I cannot see His intentions, but I will trust Him today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life. This requires giving Him my everything, literally- my life, my worries, my time, my attitude, and the hardest- my family.
He has a reasoning for your suffering. Most of the time, you will never get to see the bigger picture. But rest assured that in the midst of your anguish, His goodness will prevail.