Let God’s Love Hold You Up: For those who are suffering
May 24, 2018
This month on the broadcast, we enter the sacred space of suffering. The book of Job should never be entered lightly, but thoughtfully . . . compassionately. The same is true whenever we meet someone who is walking in the valley of shadows, of pain, or of death or even of setbacks and discouragement. Perhaps you’re there now. In this fragile place where questions about God and about life’s meaning and purpose fill your thoughts, our teacher, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, has a word of counsel: Let the love of God hold you up.
In this tender excerpt from his booklet, “Job: A Man Stripped Bare,” Dr. McGee leads us through Job’s questions to the answers found in Jesus.
From Dr. J. Vernon McGee:
About these times of suffering, Job said, “I’ve reached the place where I’m afraid of God, because I not only don’t believe He’s just, but I’m not sure I can believe He loves me. I don’t think He cares anymore.” When a man reaches that bitter part of life, my beloved, when he thinks that God does not love him, he has reached the very bottom. That is total disintegration of personality. It’s total deterioration of the soul of man when he reaches the place where he says, “God does not love me anymore.”
At this point Job was stripped; he was a naked soul exposed to the universe. May I say that in the midst of his dreadful condition and plight, down deep in his soul, he was anchored to one declaration (and it’s the reason I say he “almost” lost his sense of the love of God). In the midst of all his calamity he could still say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Job said, “I don’t understand. I’ve lost my view of God’s justice. I’m not too sure of His love, but in spite of all that, I’ll hold on.” It’s the same thing Peter said:
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. -John 6:68
And so, Job held on, and I hear the cry of his soul. I don’t think he was complaining then to his friends; he was not acting. This happened to be real. Here’s the cry of this man’s soul:
For [God] is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him …. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both. -Job 9:32, 33
Job said, “I’m at a great disadvantage. I don’t stand a chance before God. I wouldn’t be able to state my case right. I need somebody who knows God, I can see that! And I need somebody who understands me! I need somebody who can take God’s hand and also take my hand, someone who can bring us together!”
You won’t find the answer to that until you get to the New Testament:
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. -1 Timothy 2:5
That “someone” is the Lord Jesus Christ. He came from heaven’s glory and took upon Himself our frail humanity. He held on to God with one hand and took man with the other hand, and at this very moment Jesus Christ can bring man to God! Job didn’t have the benefit of the New Testament, but what faith we see in this man! I hear the cry of his soul again:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. -Job 19:25, 26
This is the one prop that held Job upright when he was robbed of all the others.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. -Hebrews 10:19–22
Many of us don’t draw close to God until we face a crisis. We’ve heard it too much; we’ve heard it too often. It has no effect on us. But God may move you into a crisis, and perhaps you’ll hear Job encouraging you along with Peter, who said:
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. -1 Peter 4:12, 13
When the props are knocked out from under you, let the love of Christ hold you up.
“God did not promise we would miss the storms of life. He only promised that we would make the harbor at last.” -J. Vernon McGee
BONUS ONLINE MESSAGE: This article was adapted from Dr. McGee’s booklet, “Job: A Man Stripped Bare.” Download the full booklet for free here and be encouraged by Job in your own suffering.
More from Dr. McGee on suffering:
What question is asked by both believer and nonbeliever more than any other Bible-related question? It is a question asked with a capital WHY? “Why do God’s children suffer?” More books have been written on this subject than the subject of the Antichrist or the social gospel or how to live the Christian life.
Too many have believed the unbiblical sales pitch that if you will only trust Christ you will move into the green pastures where all is calm and the problems of life are solved. They tell you that you have joy without any sorrow. In other words, Christianity has been made an inoculation against disease and trouble.
Now I don’t want to be misunderstood. There is joy in the Christian life. There is peace. And there is healing. I know. I have experienced all three of these, and I can testify that all of them are certainly true. However, it is an axiom of the Christian life that God’s children suffer. There is no escape from it. “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
- “What do I believe about God?” No matter what season you are in—suffering or calm—this is a great question to ask yourself. Write your conclusions down in a journal or the back of your Bible. Return to it often to add to your list as your eyes of faith deepen.
- In our “Why Study Job?” info-graphic, several verses are listed at the bottom that focus on Job’s view of God. Find a quiet place and look up each of those verses in your Bible. Underline those that are meaningful to you.