“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (James 5:11, AV)
All of us are going to endure trials in life. In many cases, if not most, we will struggle to find a rational answer for why we are enduring these. I have had many. One such trial occurred years ago. A couple in a church I pastored opposed me in the ministry and attempted to have my credentials removed. Honestly, I was beside myself. I asked the proverbial question, “Why?” Why would God permit this to happen when all I was doing was trying to serve Him? I thought why, since I have done nothing to deserve this. My problem is that I am incapable of understanding the infinite ways of God. The words spoken in my heart indicated a great flaw in me. Yet, through this episode, I continued to endure and be steadfast in my devotion to God. I think that many can relate to my struggle, the tension between our devotion and our human emotions when suffering.
James in encouraging the readers of the letter to patiently endure suffering, gave the example of Job. In the record of Job, we see that Satan received permission from God to test Job’s devotion to God. As a result, Job lost everything, his property, livestock and his children. He was subsequently afflicted with a severe, painful, and disfiguring skin disease. He received no comfort from those close to him. His counsellors gave no encouragement and even his wife told him to just curse God and die (Job 2:9). Job endured far greater suffering than anything I can imagine. Yet through it, Job did not waver in his devotion to God.
However, Job had a very human side. In his suffering he was not without human flaws. In the statement, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15, AV), we see this. Here, Job is convinced that he will be able to effectively plead his case before God and be exonerated. He could not see any reason that God should bring such suffering upon him. His problem was that he did not fully understand the sovereign ways of God. Later in the record, Job indicated that he had spoken presumptuously (Job 42:2-3).
Job’s experience is a prime example of the believer’s human drama. When we enter a time of trial, we experience the tension between devotion to God and questioning God at the same time. We know intellectually that we should not question God and His ways, but we end up doing it anyway. Yet, God remains faithful to us. He keeps us secure under His wings of love. He shelters us as we go through the storm. Moreover, what we do not fully comprehend is that He has a purpose in our suffering. It is a purpose to bring blessing, even though we cannot see it.
The encouragement we see from Job is that while he endured even though he questioned God, he did endure. And we, by God’s grace will endure our trials also. Moreover, God has purpose in our trials even when we cannot understand or know what the purpose is. Last, there is a blessing that will come for those who endure. It may be in this life, as we see in the epilog that God blessed Job with twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10-17). Our blessing s in this life will be growth in Christ (Rom 5:3-5). Yet beyond this life, He will bless us with infinitely more in the life to come (2 Cor 4:17).