Why do we, the chosen children of God, have to suffer? When one is afflicted, this question can seem overwhelming. In our young adults society, we are currently studying the book of Job. This book gives a sound example of a man who God brought very low through a multitude of trials and afflictions.
Job especially struggled to understand why he had to suffer. From a human perspective Job was known as a good man, one who feared God and eschewed evil, not one who “deserved” to be afflicted. As the story of Job unfolds, it becomes clear that God used these trials and afflictions to teach Job, and us, to endure these sufferings patiently in faith. “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).
Trials benefit the believer in many ways. In Psalm 119:71, David writes, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” It is easy for believers to fail to keep God’s commandments when they become caught up in the busyness of their educational goals, desires for entertainment, or focus on business. When we lose our focus on God, he may then use various trials or afflictions to turn us back to him and his statutes. The importance of living a sanctified life is then evoked in our hearts.
Righteousness is another benefit that may come from affliction. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). Affliction fosters a stronger righteousness which results in peace; for the fruit of righteousness is peace. We see this emphasized in Isaiah 32:17, “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” The children of God when brought low through trials and afflictions find their resolve to live righteously strengthened, and through living for God, their hearts enjoy peace and rest.
Throughout our earthly lives, we will undoubtedly experience affliction. Therefore we should take care to study Job’s words in answer to the Lord: “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not” (Job 42:2-3). Job acknowledged God’s limitless power in every dimension of his life. Yes, Job already knew of this, but now his knowledge was strengthened through experience. When Job said, “I have uttered that I understood not,” he is referring to his efforts to prove his own godliness before his three friends, and in the midst of that effort, he judged God’s providence. Looking around, each of us sees God’s works, but we do not always understand them. At times, God’s ways will be too wonderful for our feeble minds to understand. Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Through every trial and affliction, we must follow the example given to us in the life of Job and endure our sufferings patiently in faith.