Suffering; March 11, 2022

Job 19:25-26 “I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God.”

This magnificent statement has naturally been set to music, but that very fact somewhat dampens our grasp of the level of Job’s suffering. When he talks about his skin being destroyed, (the Japanese says, “peeled off”) most of us don’t understand the level of pain involved. We don’t know the details of Job’s afflictions, but in the initial description it says that “Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.” (Job 2:8) Skin ailments can range from inconvenient to fatal, all the way from sunburn or poison ivy to melanoma, but they are certainly capable of causing a lot of discomfort to say the least. To say that Job was at his wits’ end as to how to deal with it would certainly be an understatement. It is in the middle of this suffering that he continues to pin his hopes on God. That takes faith! Sometimes we have to have everything else taken away before we really cling to God alone, and that is what happened with Job. God would not have allowed Satan to afflict him if He hadn’t known from the beginning that Job would come through. Sadly, there are some whose faith doesn’t survive even much lighter testing than what Job went through. The saddest thing about being in the Missionary Kids Facebook group is the people who have discarded whatever faith they had and are bitter and angry. Recently when I wrote about God having told me clearly that He isn’t happy with all that goes on, someone responded very bitterly that they had been “imprisoned” in such thinking for a long time but had eventually “escaped.” That isn’t escape, it’s destruction!

I certainly haven’t endured what Job did, but my biggest health issues have been with my skin. I have had three basal cell carcinomas removed, two of which involved skin grafts, but I never considered any of that to be particularly acute suffering, though there was pain involved. Right now I have an issue with my scalp that I don’t think my dermatologist has diagnosed correctly yet, but I don’t think it’s malignant and it’s not something I can’t endure. That said, as I have said to one of her doctors, my wife is something of a “department store of pain,” of various types and in various parts of her body. I am to be the support God intends me to be to her, not putting her down but standing on her behalf against the onslaughts against her. I am reminded of something my mother frequently prayed for people, that God would keep them from “unnecessary pain.” My mother had been through enough that she could understand what the Psalmist said: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71) I am not to make light of anyone’s suffering, but at the same time know that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Father, suffering is a mystery. Keep me from getting hung up on it, either mine or that of anyone else, but submit everything to You, knowing that Your eventual resolution will be more than worth it all. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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