James 5:11 NLT
We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. Job is an example of a man who endured.
Most of us as Christians understand there is suffering in the world and suffering in our lives. We all find great encouragement in the examples of the Bible people and the very difficult things they endured and “faithed” their way through. We think of Joseph and all he unjustly suffered at the hands of his brothers, and the grave injustices he endured in Egypt. Yet we all rejoice at the final end of his suffering, as God worked it for great good, made him the second in command, ruler of Egypt, saving his nation, and his own people the Israelites. In fact, Joseph even saved his own family, and God vindicated and exalted him in front of his treacherous brothers! For as they were brought before him, trembling in their boots, they realized God had exalted their brother over them, and saved them all from starvation! We see as believers, the great earthly purpose for which Joseph suffered, and we celebrate it.
We think of Esther, and the indignities she endured, as she was forced, as a young woman, to go through the pagan, Persian rituals to perhaps become King Xerxes’ queen and a member of his harem. We don’t often reflect on what that actually meant for her as a woman, and the very difficult, humiliating things she had to endure. Yet, we see the great divine earthly purpose that comes about as she stands up boldly for her God and her people, risking her life to approach the king. Her sacrifice, suffering, courage, and endurance saved the Jewish people from the genocidal holocaust being planned by Haman the Persian. We rejoice as we see the end of the matter and the destruction of Haman, and the great honor bestowed on Esther. Movies have been made about her.
But what about Job? Why does God pick Job as an example of who we give great honor to? Job was a man who literally endured what I refer to as pointless suffering. Job’s suffering and loss, which was horrific, deeply distressing, extremely excruciating, and humiliating, seems to have no grand earthly purpose. The end result didn’t save a nation. It didn’t resurrect his ten precious children who had all been killed. It didn’t result in thousands or millions of salvations or church plants, such as the Apostle Paul’s great sufferings, privations, beatings and years spent in jail did. No, Job’s sufferings seem from an earthly perspective to have been pointless.
At the beginning of 2004, my daughter Jessica came home from work one-day complaining of a severe stomach ache. We had just celebrated Christmas of 2003 where my daughter had performed Christina Aguilera’s rendition of Angels We Have Heard On High at the huge convention center in Minneapolis for our annual Christmas Eve service. It was an amazing night and thousands attended. After a couple of days of laying in bed feeling even sicker, she began to experience pain all over her body. Day after day she got worse and worse. It was baffling, and then it happened. Week after week, month after month, year after year, more and more painful symptoms began to appear. No more work, no more visits with friends, no more involvement in church, no more singing. For 7 years it lasted. We saw doctor after doctor. Jessica and my wife and I suffered one great indignity after another. The situation was extreme in the worst sense of the word. I was watching my daughter, who had just graduated from Cosmetology College, having her life turned upside down. Her youth was slipping away, she was primarily bedridden, and her pain was very intense every single day. The more we asked people to pray for her, the worse her illness became. Around this time, the reality competition, American Idol, began. Having a family of musicians and singers, this was something Jessica enjoyed watching as a distraction from pain. Jessica loved to sing, she used to sing for hours and hours at home, yet now this was being taken from her, and she literally had no strength to sing. We watched together as Kelly Clarkson competed and won, then Carrie Underwood, and of course, the crowds were standing, applauding and screaming their names. One particular evening I went into the bedroom to be with her and to share something with her that God had divinely inspired and revealed to me in a very special way to share with her.
I said, “Jessica, never forget this! God gives great honor, and His loudest applause for those who endure suffering, especially pointless suffering. This bed is your stage, and you will be greatly honored by God for all eternity, and I honor you now, my precious daughter. You will have eternal fame and glory as a result of this pointless suffering you’ve endured because of your faith in God.”
You see Jessica’s suffering didn’t bring about the salvation of millions of people. Jessica’s suffering didn’t save people from starvation. Her suffering seemed literally to have no great earthly purpose whatsoever.
We live in a world where people give great honor and attention to the beautiful, to the talented, the rich, the famous, the great artist or the great athlete, or the popular Instagram influencer. Even among Christians, the famous Christian musicians/singers on youtube who get the most views, are the ones who receive the most honor. Even Christians have this tendency to give their greatest honor to the celebrity pastors, or the celebrity Christian authors. I have found most people, including Christians do not enjoy being around the suffering.
God however is completely different. God gives great honor to those who endure suffering because of their faith in Him.
My dear friends, never forget your suffering is your stage! It is never truly pointless! Even if the outcome here seems to have no great earthly purpose, God is watching. He is setting you up for great honor, for an eternal weight of glory for all eternity. GOD GIVES YOU EVEN NOW, HIS GREAT HONOR. And I genuinely honor you. You are true heroes of the faith.
All your suffering matters to God! He collects each of your tears in His bottle! He keeps track and records every sorrow you endure!
This song was written by my son Jeromy. It elaborates on the suffering his sister went through, and the cry emanating from their heart to God. It is called Flesh and Blood. I hope it touches you.
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Mark Darling