It is a well-known fact that when people encounter suffering in their life, their first instinct is that God is punishing them. I did not realize that I had made that assumption too until I came across this simple sentence in Nancy Guthrie’s book. “Can you find a person in the Bible — even the godliest of persons — who did not suffer greatly?” It was not even her main point of the chapter, but it made me stop in my tracks. My heart too had made that faulty assumption that godly people shouldn’t have to suffer — and therefore, that God must be punishing me; that I sinned so greatly against God that He needed to teach my heart a lesson; that my heart’s idolatry was the only logical explanation for losing another baby.
But suffering does not always equate to God’s punishment. In fact, Scripture goes out of its way to turn that assumption on its head. Job 2:3 says, “Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you noticed my servant Job? He…has maintained his integrity, even though you persuaded me to harm him without cause.” The LORD is so pleased with Job that He makes a point to show him off to His great enemy Satan in a great cosmic debate. The LORD brought suffering on Job because he was so godly.
Now I am not saying that is why this happened to me. But I am saying that how we stand up in suffering can please and glorify God greatly. I too can actually please God. This is what we see in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him…” Put another way, you could say, “with faith, it is possible to please Him.” Oh how my heart needs to soak that truth in more: with faith, it is possible to please the Almighty God. May my mustard seed faith do just that! And may that be enough for my heart to make sense of this loss…
If you were to finish the story of Job, by the end of the book, you would expect God to reveal His reasons to Job for bringing about such suffering. Clearly, the author of Job knows that part of that reason is because Job brought God such honor in his response. But that’s not the reason God gives Job. In fact, God says nothing as to the purpose or reason at all. That is the riddle of Job. Our hearts long to understand why God allows the suffering that He does in our lives — and with good reason, for Scripture has revealed that suffering is not without reason or purpose, and that has been the greatest comfort my heart has had in this whole process. But God’s revelation to Job is not explaining His reasons. Rather, it is revealing His glory to Job. Seeing God’s glory is enough to settle the doubts and questions in Job’s distraught heart. Simply put, God is big enough to explain even the greatest suffering a person can endure. One true look at God, and it all just clicks.
I had one of those moments several months ago, after our first loss. I was sitting in a hot tub in the middle of a remote motel in Texas, watching a storm come in over the hillside as the sun was setting. In that moment, staring at the sky, as I watched God care for the land that no one else seemed to take notice of, I saw that God is God. I saw how small I was. I saw how little I really understood. I saw how faithful God is — how present and engaged and involved in our world He is, even when no one else is watching. Simply put, I saw God as God, and all my problems seemed to be consumed by the immensity of Himself. This moment impacted me so much that even now I can go back to it, in my memory, and it reminds me that I do not understand the ways of God. I am too small, and He is too large. But He is not only immense, He is nurturing and caring, and compassionate. He was there, watering the dry desert land, in a place where so few people have trod — that water wasn’t for them; it was for the land, the desert creatures, His creation. He was just doing what He does, regardless of whether we humans took a moment to notice.
There is most assuredly growth God wants to do in me through this suffering, but He is not punishing me; He has already taken on the punishment my sins deserve in the person of Christ. There is no punishment left for my sins to be had.
No, He is just being God, and that is enough for my troubled soul today.