Coronavirus and quarantine have changed our lives. They trashed our schedules and taught us the value of digitized communication. We have faced sickness, isolation, loneliness, and depression. Finally, quarantine has given us many opportunities to question God and his goodness in trials.
One striking example of suffering in the Bible is Job’s life. The book of Job begins with Satan getting God’s permission to test Job. Satan claimed that Job was loyal to God only because his life was good. Satan claimed that if Job suffered, he would deny God. God gave permission, and Satan proceeded to test Job with various calamities.
Job knew none of this. From his perspective, he suddenly and inexplicably lost everything. For most of the story, Job and three of his friends tried to explain why these disasters had happened to Job. Job struggled with three core issues: he wondered if there was hope; he believed he couldn’t bear any more suffering, and he wondered why God would allow such things to happen. These are questions that we can relate to, and God’s response to Job can encourage us as well.
Is there hope?
This was one of Job’s primary questions. Perhaps one of the reasons he raged at his friends later in the book is because they ignored this question. This is how he states it in Job 6:11: “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient?” Have you ever wondered if it’s worth it to keep hoping? Even if our trials are not as devastating as Job’s, they can still drive us to despair.
This despair is real, but that doesn’t mean that it is accurate. In Job’s case, his despair was unfounded. In the end, Job became even more prosperous than he was before his trials. His struggles ended, and he lived, quite literally, happily ever after.
Are we destined for the same “happily ever after”? Not necessary. After all, throughout history, many Christians survived heinous persecution only to be brutally martyred. But even if this is our destiny, there is hope. Paul writes: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” No matter how long our trials last, we can have hope that something better is coming. There is always hope, even if that hope is in heaven.
I can’t bear this.
Job lost all his wealth and all his children in a single day. As if that wasn’t horrific enough, he then fell painfully ill. It is no surprise that he believed it was too much to bear. In Job 6:12, he protests: “Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze?”
Do you relate to this? I certainly do, although I’ve never experienced anything remotely like Job’s trials. Over the past months of quarantine, I struggled with loneliness. Although I am very close to my friends, I struggled to connect with them digitally. One of my friends from another state visited my city, and I didn’t know if I would have a chance to see them. I struggled to pray and to trust God. Eventually I gave up hoping and submitted to depression. The day after I gave up, I was invited to the house where my friend was staying for a social-distanced meet-up with my friends.
I had given up just before God came through. I had believed that I could not bear any more pain, but the pain was almost over. Galatians 6:9 spoke to my situation: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” This verse reminded me that trusting God is worthwhile. Despite my doubts, my struggles did come to an end.
In reality, we can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” This is God’s promise- that no matter how difficult the temptation or trial, he will not push us past our limits. Even when the pain grows unbearable, God will provide a way to endure.
Why is God letting this happen?
Why does God allow suffering? Theological explanations sometimes hold little comfort in the middle of trials. Even Jesus, as he was crucified, cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Job also struggled with this question. He went so far as to accuse God. “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:20)
In Job 38:2, God responds, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?” He tells Job that since he cannot fully understand everything that is going on, he should not accuse God of wrongdoing. Job admits, “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Despite not understanding his struggles, Job should have continued to trust in God’s goodness.
Trusting that God is good during trials is hard. However, God promises that it is worth it. Hebrews 10:35-36 tells us: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” It is difficult to keep trusting God in trials. This verse does not deny that. But it does assure us that our faith is not in vain.
The book of Job reminds us that there is hope. No matter how difficult life gets, God wants us to keep trusting him. This does not mean that our struggles will be easier. Job’s despair is a testament to just how difficult it can be to continue trusting God. However, it is possible to endure. God will not abandon us to struggle alone.
When we run out of strength and hope, God points us to Jesus. Jesus was crushed by trials even worse than Job’s, but he continued to trust God. Hebrews 12:3 admonishes us, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus proves that it is possible to endure. With his help, we too can keep hoping.
Sarah Howell is an eighteen-year-old, homeschooled deep thinker. She loves enjoying and creating beauty of all forms. She focuses on writing speculative fiction but also writes articles and blog posts. Throughout her teen years, Sarah has struggled with doubt and with trusting God with her life and her trials. This has taught her that struggling doesn’t make her any less worthy of love- “wilted is not worthless.” Her goal is to encourage other young women in the same struggles.