Human Suffering

            You may have read the story of a blameless and upright married man that existed numerous centuries ago. This righteous man was, as some would say, a blessed person. A believer in the Almighty and a pursuer of truth, he was also pleasing to God and just in God’s eyes. Nevertheless – and contrary to the notion that only good events happen to good people – he began to experience tremendous misery and hardship. His name was Job.

            His life is detailed in the biblical book bearing his name and addresses the mysterious human reality of suffering. In addition to raising the query of why people suffer unjustly in this world, the book of Job attempts to expound the fact that all people experience suffering – indeed, neither the innocent nor the just are exempt from it. Certainly, to be human is to be susceptible to periods of adversity in this life.

Our Faith and Trust In God Will Never Be In Vain

            However, we attain a comforting instruction when we attentively read Job’s story. Even though he suffered from terrible anguish, the Omnipotent God of all creation never abandoned him. Moreover, the book impugns the notion that suffering serves no purpose. As we reflect on Job’s struggle and relationship with the Lord, we begin to understand that even though God does not desire to see us in agony, He mysteriously permits these experiences for our own well-being. This is certainly difficult to accept and comprehend when we are presently going through physical or emotional pain and distress.

            However, the final vindication that Job received when God defended Job’s innocence gives us hope. This teaches us that placing our faith and trust in God, no matter what is occurring, will never be in vain. Certainly, the book of Job demonstrates what Psalm 22:25 states, that we “are not spurned or disdained by God in [our] suffering.”

            One day, I went to preach at an evening prayer service. Before the service started, a woman approached me and shared how she had not attended the prayer service for two months due to the struggles she was undergoing. I conversed with her about Job’s experience and how he suffered unjustly but continued trusting and hoping in God. However, I spoke about Job’s struggle with her only after imitating Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These three friends of Job came to mind as well as how they gave him sympathy and comfort.

            As she spoke, I strived to listen in the same manner that communicated their sympathy and comfort. (2:11) I sat with her without speaking a word (2:13) for I, too, saw how immense was her suffering. Afterward, she appeared relieved since she was able to unreservedly share her afflictions without interruptions. It was at that instant that she was prepared to hear about Job’s experience. Thanks be to God for the immeasurable peace and strength she received.

The Power of Faith Is Greater Than Suffering

            There is a powerful movie titled “God on Trial” that treats the subject of suffering through the perspectives of prisoners that were facing extermination at Auschwitz. As these rabbis debated about whether God is innocent or guilty, they referenced a number of scriptural passages that relate to the people of ancient Israel and their experience of suffering. Their debate presented clearly the questions that human beings have raised for centuries: “If God is good, why does evil exist?” “Why do good people suffer?” “Why does God allow the suffering that people experience?” “Has God forgotten us?” These are questions that will never disappear.

            For some reason, these inquiries remind me of what Jesus Christ stated to Saint Thomas: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Faith is powerful. Faith in moments of suffering sustains, strengthens, and sanctifies us. Faith in God during our moments of trials are what carry us through and remind us that God is powerful, wise, and merciful despite whatever may be happening. He is in total control even when situations seem to be out of control. Furthermore, just as God never abandoned Job, He never forgets us! As we perceive the present suffering we are bearing, God previews the future blessings He has in store for those who endure all circumstances united with the Crucified Lord.

Suffering Giving Way to Joy

            The salvific message of the Gospel is that Jesus has turned the apparent hopelessness and illogicalness of human suffering upside down. While Job was a blameless and upright man, Job did sin at some point during his life. However, Jesus was totally blameless and upright for He’s the Innocent One, the Just par excellence, and God’s Holy Son. He became man so that humanity can no longer assert that God does not know what it means to suffer.

            The sufferings Jesus endured were completely unjust. Nevertheless, He generously and lovingly embraced them on our behalf. This has turned the illogicalness and hopelessness of human suffering upside down as humanity can now foster their conversion as well as their loved ones’ by offering their hardships as a sacrifice. For this reason, Saint Paul pronounced, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” (Col 1:24)

            In Christ, we can rejoice in our human sufferings, but not thanks to these difficulties in and of themselves. Rather, we can rejoice due to what we are able to accomplish through our sufferings. We can rejoice in them for the salvific sake of others when we patiently unite them with Christ’s passion. Our trials truly become useful for salvation! In a sense, we transform into salvific instruments in the Savior by offering our sufferings for others. They become useful for fostering the salvation of others and of the whole world.

            Job didn’t have this privilege that we possess in offering our trials through the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, let us give thanks to God for salvation through His only begotten Son. Today, we can be transformed and transform others if we persevere amidst our temporary trials. Our suffering will not last forever. Christ will soon give us true joy and peace.

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