Some reading this blog are suffering like Job. Your finances, family, friends, future, and faith are falling apart. God seems distant, friends seem helpless, life seems useless, and the thing you most look forward to is death. I’m truly sorry you hurt so. I really wish God would stop your suffering and allow you to have better days.
And some reading this blog, have silently or vocally uttered forth harsh, untrue, slanderous, and blasphemous statements after the manner of Job. Perhaps you have said or thought the following:
“Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’” (3:3)
“For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me.” (6:4)
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul … When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (7:11-16)
“And were my head lifted up, you would hunt me like a lion and again work wonders against me. You renew your witnesses against me and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me.” (10;16-17)
“Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave.” (10:18-19)
“Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? Will you frighten a driven leaf and pursue dry chaff?” (13:24-25)
“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant. But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he?” (14:7-10)
“Surely now God has worn me out; he has made desolate all my company. And he has shriveled me up, which is a witness against me, and my leanness has risen up against me; it testifies to my face. He has torn me in his wrath and hated me; he has gnashed his teeth at me; my adversary sharpens his eyes against me … I was at ease, and he broke me apart; he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces; he set me up as his target; his archers surround me. He slashes open my kidneys and does not spare; he pours out my gall on the ground. He breaks me with breach upon breach; he runs upon me like a warrior.” (16:7-14)
Suffering friends, I am not a self-righteous man judging you for your sentiments and statements. I have to ground to stand upon. No, I do not suppose for a moment that in my personal days of Job-like trial, I will do any better. As a matter of fact, even though I have lived a fairly soft, easy, and profitable life as an upper-middle-class, white, Anglo-Saxon, American, protestant, living in one of the up-and-coming areas of the United States, I have many times doubted, slandered, and blasphemed God with my life and lips. Sadly, though my lot in life has been much easier than most, my eyes have watered, my knees have buckled, my theology has faltered, my faith has wavered, my mind has wandered, and my mouth has slandered. Like you, I have been a suffering sinner like Job, Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus’ Disciples. Therefore, please, hear me again, I am not judging.
However, at the risk of being unhelpful like Job’s foolish counselors, I do want to help with words of counsel and comfort. I desire greatly to provide some spiritual balm to love your wounded soul this morning.
Therefore, right now, if you were sitting next to me in my office, what would I long to say to you? Well, on this particular morning, I would take you to Psalm 121. This was most encouraging to me last night as a brother preached from this text:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 21)
Suffering friends, many lift up their eyes to themselves. They seek to make sense of their life based upon their own wisdom and understanding. Suffering friend, you are not that bright. You don’t have all the facts. You are not unbiased. You need external help. You need an appointment with the Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace.
Many lift up their eyes to their sinful neighbors. Friend, help will not ultimately come from the advise of parents, spouse, counselors, psychologists, ministers, or neighbors. As sharp as Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Mr. Osteen are, they cannot give you lasting aid. They have their own issues to deal with.
Finding no help from mankind, many lift up their eyes to some escape mechanism. Drugs, medicine, sex, shopping, food, movies, games, and work-out at the gym can provide some short-lived relief, but we all no what happens when the “highs” are gone and the effects wear off. Sometimes we find ourselves as bad as we were before, if not even worse.
Suffering friend, what do you need to do? Where do you need to go? The suffering psalmist is correct, you need to head to the hills. He is not referring to nature or any particular elevated precipice; rather, he is speaking of “any place” where God can be found. And it was in the hills that God met Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and David. It was in the hills that God encouraged Jesus and his disciples. And God presents himself as one who inhabits Mt. Zion, the holy city in the holy hills. This is where his throne-room is found. This is where his court-room is found. This is where his prayer-room resides from which he watches and prays for you. Suffering friend, you need to cry to God until he comes. You need to wrestle with God until he blesses you. You need to grab his feet, hug and kiss, until he responds sweetly. It is good for you to plead for communion with the Holy One. Go to the Word. Go to the tabernacle, temple, or church. God in prayer and seek God on his holy mountain.
And what will you find when your audience is granted and your eyes are enlightened?
You will find the all-powerful, omnipotent, Creator of heaven and earth. He is sovereignly controlling all.
You will find he has a purpose for your suffering. It is not arbitrary. Nothing is happening by chance or blind-fate. He does what he knows is best. You are being used for his glory, and someday you will be glad.
You will find the all-loving, never-changing, never-losing, lover of your soul. You will learn again how he is always passionately watching you. He is never groggy or slumbering. His eye is always on you, and especially so while you are suffering under his sovereign providence. He is not a God of apathy, but one of sympathy and empathy.
You will find he saves. He is the God who keeps your foot from ultimately being moved. He is the one who keeps you, and keeps you, and keeps you. You will find him to be your shades while the sun beats upon you. He may allow you to be wearied, exhausted, and burned a bit, but his shade is a-coming. And because of his sacrificial union, he will keep you from evil. He will not let the world, the flesh, and the devil win. He is the one who will guard your body, soul, and spirit from this time forth and forevermore.
Oh suffering friends, God is allowing you to be hurt, but do not question his power, purpose, love, and salvation.
The troubled Psalmist suffered so, and he experienced God’s help later in his life. And the great news is, he is still experiencing God’s salvation about the holy mountain today.
The troubled Job suffered so, and if you will keep reading, you will find that he too experienced God’s help in this life. In due time, God showed up, gave him the audience he needed, stirred his intellect, softened his heart, soothed him with Gospel-love, and even gave him an easier lot in his temporal life. And, like the Psalmist, Job continues to sing the glories of the Lord in paradise today. He is a mountain-of-God-dweller, and oh how sweet it is.
Therefore brothers and sisters, the Lord is all-powerful, he is all-controlling, he is all-knowing, all-loving, always-winning, and he is watching you right now. I know you hurt like hell, but this is the only hell you will ever experience, and it is for a good purpose. So go to the hill of the Lord. Grab your friends and let them take you there. And perhaps today will be the day when God shows up and helps you better understand his power, purpose, love, and salvation.
I know you need this. I need this as well. It is time for me to stop writing and find a quiet place to talk with the lover of my soul.