Life is full of joy and pain. I long for the day when Jesus comes back and our joy will be made complete and pain is gone forever. But in this life we cannot escape trials and pain. Unlike what many prosperity gospel preachers will tell you, Jesus didn’t make any promise to Christians that they will have an easy, pain-free life. As a matter of fact, he was pretty clear that Christians would have a hard road ahead of them. However we are often too quick to judge the reason for such trials.
Job was a man who experienced pain on basically every possible human level: physical, emotional and spiritual. And on top of all he went through, Job had friends that made things even worse. In chapter 4, one of his bonehead buddies starts talking foolishness. “Stop and think!” he tells Job, “Do the innocent die? When have the upright been destroyed? My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.”
What his friend is really saying is, “Look Job, it’s pretty clear here that you have done some horrible thing and God is paying you back. After all, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.”
Like that is what a guy needs to hear from his friend after his kids have died, his workers have been murdered, his wealth and income have been destroyed and his body has been plagued with boils! He’s sitting in a pile of ashes for goodness sake!
This is the same sort of thinking that the disciples had in John 9 when they came across a blind man. The disciples asked Jesus, “…who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”
They were making the erroneous assumption that particular sickness is always caused by particular sins. They were looking to judge. Jesus responded with this, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” In other words, this man was not born blind because of a particular sin, but because of God’s plan to display his redemptive healing power in him. And He did. Jesus miraculously healed him. The man was born blind and lived in darkness his whole life until he met Jesus. This very meeting with Jesus, and not a particular sin, was the reason for the man’s blindness.
So at this point you may be thinking, “How could God allow such pain, just to magnify His name?”
Part of the answer to that is found in the end of the chapter. Jesus had a conversation with the man he healed. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him. (John 9:35-38)
Because of his weakness, this man was healed. His physical weakness and healing exposed him to his spiritual weakness and need of a much deeper healing. There were probably others who believed because of this miracle as well. So we see that it is actually God’s love that allowed this man to experience pain.
Job also gives us an answer to the previously stated objection. In the end of the book God shows Job His sovereignty and right to rule. In a sense He says, “Who are you to question me? Who is man to judge God?”
It is funny that our default position is to play the part of the judge. We are always searching for the cause or reason for our circumstances. Like Job’s friends and Jesus’ disciples, we can fall into the trap of judging people in their trial and pain, saying that they must have brought it upon themselves. Of course there are consequences for sin, but all pain and sickness is not an immediate judgment from God for a particular sin. We must be very careful not to judge in this way.
The other trap that we fall into is judging God and His sovereignty and love in and through our trials. What is God’s reason for bringing this about? Is it malicious, or vindictive? Could it be a lack of care, or is it just an oversight?
For believers, God has given us a reason…His reason that undergirds and guides all that happens to us. Simply put, He has promised that in all things He is working for our ultimate good. And the “good” He is talking about is to conform us to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:28, 29)
This means that no trial or sickness comes on us by accident. God isn’t just getting back at us for something bad that we did. As a matter of fact in all that God does, He is actively loving us.
And THAT is something we can be quick to judge!