Wisdom and Suffering

When is the last time you sat and wrestled with suffering in a personal way?
What is the difference between grief and suffering in terms of how it feels?
How should we respond to grief and suffering?

These are just a few of the questions I have wrestled with since the last time I posted here. What prompted these questions?

  • realizing that something I had done for a long time with the best of intentions and as a fragrant offering to God may have been misunderstood or misinterpreted by others….or perhaps even caused harm (can you imagine how that feels?)
  • acknowledging the painful reminder that my actions can have unintended consequences
  • embracing the truth that there is a generation of people who think like me….and that we need to be more gracious in how we respond to those who don’t think like us
  • and an invitation to bring a creative approach to a mid-year Day of Prayer’s devotion on Job 3 – 37.

Here are just a few of the passages that have expressed the feelings and thoughts of my heart:

For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water…

When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till dawn. My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh.
“Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath…

For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow…

Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?

My face is red with weeping, and on my eyelids is deep darkness, although there is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure. My friends scorn me; my eye pours out tears to God,
“My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me.
Surely there are mockers about me, and my eye dwells on their provocation.

Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?

And I find these reminders of how God’s ways are unlike mine, and I find wisdom and hope,

 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.

Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways.

Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.
The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price.

Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. The price of wisdom is above pearls. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.

“From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air.

“God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.
And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”

On the last Monday in July, our team led our creative devotion by doing an oral recitation of selected lines from the book of Job, using different voices to both present the pain of suffering and the words of wisdom. For our purposes, we did not look to place blame on what caused the suffering but rather focused on the harsh realities of what suffering feels like when we are in the midst of it. Perhaps the questions we asked during our devotion might be helpful to you today:

  • How does God reveal wisdom through suffering?
  • Who do you know who is suffering today?  How might you journey well with that person, being willing to sit in suffering alongside them?
  • What have you learned about God’s wisdom through your own experiences of suffering?

May the Lord reveal to you His great love and wisdom and may the love of Christ, his beloved Son, meet you in the pain of your suffering. I love you and thank you for reading this post.

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