How Affliction Reveals the Love of God
In this segment, Nate Danser looks at the story of Job to make sense of how God can use suffering in our lives to reveal His love, to humble us and reveal his wonderful salvation. (From Podcast Episode #457 - Answers for When Your Husband is Repentant)
Recently I came across the verse “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119 :67). Reading this made me think of one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament that’s very personal to me, Job 33. I'd like to read some of it to you, and then make some comments. Most of you probably know the story of Job. It starts off with something that’s almost a game in Heaven. God and Satan are there, and God says, “Look at my servant Job, He's amazing.” And Satan says, “Well, just test him and you're going to find out what's really in him.” And so, God gives Satan nearly free reign over Job. The only thing that Satan can't do to Job is literally kill him.
For 30 chapters or so, Job essentially defends his innocence. The biggest thing he communicates is, “I didn't deserve this, and if God would just give me an audience with him, I would show him that I'm right.” Job cried out, “Why won't He just come down and let me tell him that I'm right?” And then his three friends basically say to Job, “It's impossible that you're right. God would never treat a righteous person like this. So, there must be something wrong. You're either totally lying to yourself, you’re totally lying to us, or you're just completely deceived!” Then Job essentially responds, “No, there's no way I've never done anything wrong. I've done everything right.” Then, the last one to speak to Job was Elihu. He's a young man, and he takes Job to task. He's angry with Job because Job justified himself, rather than God. And he's angry with his three friends because they could not prove what Jobs real issue was.
Then Elihu speaks to Job, and once again, I’m going to read to you a number of verses. It’s very, very beautiful. It has to do with God searching us. I read from the ESV translation. This is Elihu speaking to Job: “You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold He finds occasion against me,” (Job 33:9-10) Meaning, Job was basically saying “Look, God finds occasion against me! He counts me as His enemy!” Elihu continues: “He puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths” (Verse 11). Does He Job? Does He count you as His enemy?
“Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend against Him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words?’ For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it” (Verses 12-14). So up to this point, Job has been saying, “Why won't God just come down and why won't he communicate? Why is He silent?” And Elihu tells him, “He's not silent Job, He's speaking. But you're not hearing.”
“God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds. Then He opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that He may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man. He keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword” (Verses 14-18). Okay, so what Elihu is talking about here is what God is trying to do. He is trying to remove your pride from you. And at the same time while he does this, He's keeping you from dying.
He's trying to save your soul, because He has to remove from you and from your heart the thing that will ultimately kill you. He will go to great lengths to do it, and He will keep you. Once you die, It's over. That's the end of the story. So, he has to! He's got to do what David said, “You have chastened me severely, but you have not given me over to death” (Psalm 118:18). He's got to go to great lengths with some people to conceal their pride from them, the thing that would kill their soul without killing their body.
“Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed, and with continual strife in his bones, so that his life loathes bread and his appetite the choices food. His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out. His life draws near the pit and his life to those who bring death” (Verses 19-22). What Elihu is basically going to do here is he's going to show you, “Job, God is not treating you as an enemy. He's loving you.” Elihu is saying, “Everything that you're interpreting as some kind of unjust punishment is not that at all. You are not hearing what God is saying. You're missing the point.”
He goes on, “If there be for him an angel, a Mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him and He is merciful to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom. Let his flesh become fresh with youth. Let him return to the days of his youthful vigor.’ Then man prays to God and He accepts him. He sees His face with a shout of joy and He restores to man his righteousness” (Verses 23-26). Okay, now don't get caught up and stuck. There’s a lot of stuff in there where we can ask, “What does that mean?” Here's the point of what Elihu is saying to Job: what is God's purpose? He's trying to save him. He wants to save him. That's the end game!
In all of this, everything that you're going through, I promise you, God's end game is to save you. He's not treating you as an enemy. Many of us, when we came to Pure Life Ministries, we were the enemies. And He treated us not as our sins deserve, but in kindness, in mercy and in love. And sometimes that means a good thrashing. Why? To conceal our pride from us. To bring it out into the open, to expose it to us. So that we see it for what it is and turn away from it. God knows what He's doing. I love this. Isn't this amazing? Because what we see is the anger of God, which we so easily see when we’re in our sin. And it is His anger, but it's a pure anger. It's not like that of man. Man's anger is almost always to destroy, but the purpose of God’s anger is to bring life.
Then listen to this. I love this. It’s so illogical, and that's good for me because I want to be logical. But I need God's logic, not man's logic. It says of Job, “He sings before men and says, ‘I sinned and perverted what is right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light’” (Verses 27-28). What a song that is! Have any of you ever sung that song? “I'm horrible! I sin and I pervert what is right, but God does not repay me. He redeems my soul.” That's a good song. We don't like that song. We want the song that says “I'm good, and God is good. We're buddies and this is great, it’s all going to turn out nice.” That's the song we like. The song that God loves is for us to sing: “I am nothing, I am worthless, I am worse than nothing—and yet God is amazing. He is full of lovingkindness, compassion and tender mercies.” That's the song that God loves.
“Behold, God does all these things twice, three times, with a man.” Why does he do this? “To bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life. Pay attention, Job, listen to me; be silent, and I will speak. If you have any words, answer me; speak for I desire to justify you” (Verses 29-33) I desire to justify you. That is the Word of God. He shows us what's wrong with us because He desires to justify us. That's His motive. We don't know things like that, it doesn’t make sense to us. Oftentimes the exposure of the worst parts of us seem like God is desiring to condemn us—and it's not true. He desires to justify us.
<pull-quote>He shows us what's wrong with us because He desires to justify us.<pull-quote><tweet-link>Tweet This<tweet-link>
At times it just takes real faith, when God shows the worst about us. What do we do with it? Do we shrink back? Do we run away from the light? Or do we draw closer because He is love? In lovingkindness He afflicts us. That’s what we find in Psalm 119. “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Psalm 119:50). “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119:67). “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). “I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75).
So, I encourage you today to go to God in humility. We don't have to drag ourselves like a cowering dog into God's presence. We just come humble because we are who we are, and He is full of love and kindness.