OK, so I realize that the Lord wants me consider trials and tribulations as pure joy. Yeah, ok. I am still working that one 😊. And the Lord has said that hardships in this life are supposed to be discipline. It is not always discipline that a father might give to his son, but also discipline like a personal trainer screaming in your face, “Push! You can do it! One more rep! Fight through the pain!!” That is reminding me of our college strength and conditioning coach. He spit when he yelled and I am sure that motivated us even more. So I guess when I have financial problems, sickness, a traffic ticket, or even a hangnail, I can imagine the Lord in my face, “Fight through the pain! You can do it!” He wouldn’t do this until he saw that I had reached my limit, then he tried to push me past my current level of strength. The difference is that my strength comes from Him and to fight through the pain, I am not pushing up 225 pounds off my chest, but I am fighting to maintain my faith, to love when it hurts, and to hope in the bleakest of moments. I am still in training.
But when the Lord first speaks of our Old Testament friend, Job, He calls Job ‘blameless.’ Blameless? In the first chapter of Job we see him lose everything, then it says that through it all he does not sin against God. It seems he has reached some kind of pinnacle. He is blameless. The discourse between his three friends revolves around their belief that he must have sinned to experience such tragedy, yet they cannot find any sin in him. Job declares himself as pure. Oh..oh yeah…there it is. Even Jesus refuted the title ‘good’ when He was called ‘Good Teacher.’ I struggled with that one for a while, but then Scripture says that Jesus was tempted in every way. Purity would not allow for temptations. He was as pure as a human could be which He was choosing to live as a human being on Earth. But we know the Father in Heaven cannot be tempted-now that’s what purity is. When Job said he was pure, everything began to make sense.
I couldn’t understand that if God considered Job blameless why He would discipline Job. If Job was at the peak of spiritual fitness, what is the point? But as soon Job declared his own purity, I realized he could still go further spiritually. That is the whole point of the book of Job-we never run out of room for spiritual growth. But how could the Lord call Job blameless if he still had room to grow. Blameless almost seems perfect. But perfect is perfect and blameless is not perfection. Blameless means Job had done nothing that anyone could point to. To that point in his life, Job had not ever acted in a way or said anything that someone could find any kind of spiritual deficit. He was blameless. But the Lord knows the pitch-black ocean depths of our hearts. He can see where we can still grow and mature and He moves us to focus in on that space in our hearts.
All that Job went through was not enough to move him, at first. But as time went on, Job began to complain that God was unjust in his chastisement of Job because he believed himself to be pure. Finally, in Chapter 32, Elihu rightly and angrily calls Job out for being self-righteous. Job was able to handle the issues when they happened, but as he continued in his disease with painful boils from head to toe, mourning the loss of his children, bankrupt, everything began to get to him. I know. I hear ya. I don’t know of anyone, including myself, that would have handled what Job experienced as well as Job, yet the Lord looked at Job’s incredible spiritual maturity and said, ‘There is still more room to grow.’ Wow! Then the Lord allowed these circumstances to come to Job and to remain. As they remained, Job was pushed into circumstances he had never experienced. He was finally pushed beyond what his spiritual maturity could maintain. He began to question God. He began to justify Himself rather than God (32:2). And the Lord said, “Push through the pain! You can do it! Don’t stop fighting!” Job was pushed beyond his current level of spiritual maturity. He could either quit or increase his faith. He could have just cursed God and died as his wife told him or increase his understanding of God’s ways.
There are some issues in life that I can handle well. I maintain my faith, my integrity, my love for others. But inevitably, the Lord will allow me to go through something that I have not faced yet to push me past my current level of spiritual strength. If the Lord does not do this regularly, I will stop growing. I will simply rely on the strength I have already obtained, never pushing beyond what I know I am able to do. I would never be challenged and without the challenge, I could easily forget that I needed the Lord. This is what happened to Job.
The level of his spiritual maturity far exceeded his trials and tribulations and he forgot that he needed God. He became self-righteous, so sure of his own spirituality that when the Lord challenged him, he did not accept it as discipline. He chastised God for being unjust.
Why does the Lord allow tragedies like rape, murder, church shootings, cancer, heart attacks, tsunamis, and tornados? We must continue to be pushed beyond our current spiritual level. We must put forth effort to grow and to grow, we need resistance. We need the hardships. We need the trials. We need these things. They challenge us to either give up and die, or increase the strength of our faith.
I am nearly 50 years old now. AARP is sending me their promotional mail every week! But when I was in my physical prime, in the weight room every day, red-faced coaches yelling, spit shooting, I loved it. I loved the pain and I loved what I became physically, stronger, bigger, faster.
The pain of life, if we allow the Lord to use it, will make us so spiritually strong. We will overcome and help others do the same. We will appreciate the pain, maybe even consider it pure joy. We will like who we become, not by our own strength, but by the Holy Spirit working within. This is why God allows suffering. This is why He doesn’t stop every tragedy. He is increasing the strength of the church one soul at a time. He is increasing our faith, our love, our wisdom, our peace, our influence for good. Pain is good, and we should give thanks for what God is going to do in us through our suffering.
Then Elihu said:
“Hear my words, you wise men;
listen to me, you men of learning.
For the ear tests words
as the tongue tastes food.
Let us discern for ourselves what is right;
let us learn together what is good.
“Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
Although I am right,
I am considered a liar;
although I am guiltless,
his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’
Is there anyone like Job,
who drinks scorn like water?
He keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with the wicked.
For he says, ‘There is no profit
in trying to please God.’
“So listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.
Who appointed him over the earth?
Who put him in charge of the whole world?
If it were his intention
and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
all humanity would perish together
and mankind would return to the dust.
“If you have understanding, hear this;
listen to what I say.
Can someone who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?
Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’
and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’
who shows no partiality to princes
and does not favor the rich over the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
They die in an instant, in the middle of the night;
the people are shaken and they pass away;
the mighty are removed without human hand.
“His eyes are on the ways of mortals;
he sees their every step. (NIV)
Lord, I want to be stronger. I want to not be washed away by the issues of this life. I don’t want a roller coaster spiritual life where one day I stand strong and the same day, I fall hard. Help me to see all pain and suffering as opportunities to grow. Forgive me when I have become angry with you or others during trials and give me strength to fight through the pain, maintaining my integrity, increasing my faith. I need help with this Lord. It is such a struggle. Move in my heart today. -Amen