Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Temporal Suffering vs. Eternal Joy

Viewing the Pain of Earth Through the Eyes of Heaven

I had a different post planned for today, but this afternoon I read through tears the news of a young couple who lost their full-term daughter the day before she was due to be born. I only met this young father once at a conference a few years ago, but I have prayed for him earnestly because I know very well the expectant hopes and joys of fatherhood. And since yesterday’s mishap with my own son, I’ve been especially aware of the fragility of our lives and the importance of grounding our joy in something other than prosperous circumstances.

One of the very first subjects I addressed as a new pastor was suffering, not because I want to ruin people’s joy but precisely because I want to strengthen it. Life shreds thin joy, and if yours isn’t rooted in something stronger than your circumstances, it will be very thin indeed.

Because I do not have much time to give to writing today, from this point I am simply going to reproduce part of my sermon manuscript from the last of three messages I preached on the book of Job. These are the kind of thoughts that help me when my imagination runs away with scenarios about what could happen to my children or my wife in this wretched, fallen world. I hope they are thoughts that will help strengthen your hope in God in the face of your own (future?) suffering as well. What follows is from that sermon.

As we come to the end of the book, we find that Job is a broken and changed man (42: 1-6). He affirms God’s freedom and sovereignty, and he repents of his reckless and reactionary words. He forgives his three friends and prays for their forgiveness by God (vv 7-9). And then we find an amazing and complete reversal of Job’s fortunes (vv 10-13). Here we learn the sixth theme of the book of Job:

Someday God will right every wrong and repay every hurt.

Should we conclude that this restoration here is normative and means that all of our sickness will give way to healing, all of our loss will be regained, all our hurt will be soothed in this life? Not quite. Job’s restoration in his lifetime is, I think, an accommodation to the era in which Job lived, before the Scriptures were given in their full form. Job’s restoration is God’s way of vindicating him and demonstrating what we know from the revelation of the rest of the Scriptures, which Job and his friends did not have.

The rest of the Scriptures reveal that God is just, He will right every wrong and repay every hurt and make every trial worthwhile.

How? Well, we’re not quite sure, but what we do know is that He is the God who imagined and carried out the details of the gospel. And in the gospel we see that our God wounds, but He also heals and will someday welcome us to His everlasting joy.

Rom 8:16-18 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Oh, how glorious is the good news of the gospel for those in suffering! The final answer to the book of Job and the ultimate consolation for all of the Jobs who have suffered like him is that our Lord Himself embraced and absorbed all the undeserved consequences of sin and evil in this wretched world!

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, let me urge you to please repent and trust Him today! And for those who are in Christ, rejoice that eternity will make sure that not a single moment of patient suffering is wasted or lost. Psalm 56:8 indicates that God keeps every one of our tears in a bottle and records our sufferings in a book. And someday, the first nanosecond after we cross over the river to heaven’s shore, in that single instant the suffering will be over. But not only over—also worth it, for the eternal weight of glory that will be revealed to us!!
2 Cor 4:16-18 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Did you hear those last two verses? “Our LIGHT and MOMENTARY troubles are achieving for us an ETERNAL GLORY that FAR OUTWEIGHS them all…”
Behold the mercy of our King,
Who takes from death its bitter sting,
And by his blood, and often ours,
Brings triumph out of hostile pow’rs,
And paints, with crimson, earth and soul
Until the bloody work is whole.
What we have lost God will restore—
That, and Himself, forevermore,
When He is finished with His art:
The quiet worship of our heart.
When God creates a humble hush,
And makes Leviathan his brush,
It won’t be long before the rod
Becomes the tender kiss of God.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What a really edifying post, Josh ~ thanks for taking the time to share it.