“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of a table laden with choice food.” (Job 36:15-16)
So often our first response to suffering is to cry from the depths of our hearts, “GET ME OUT OF THIS!” The temptation is to exert all our efforts in pursuing escape. We come out of the fight wearier than we started, our suffering compounded by our disappointment.
Notice the verse above says God delivers us in our suffering, not necessarily from it. When faced with the threat of death by fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego responded with genuine faith in saying, “the God we serve is able to save us,” while also acknowledging that if he chose not to, they would still worship him. The outcome of their faith was a walk with God in the midst of the fire. They had to go into the fire before they could meet with God in the midst. And they came out unharmed.
John the Baptist faced a similar crisis of faith. In his prison cell, faced with beheading, he questioned whether Jesus was truly the Messiah come to save. If he’s truly the Savior, why doesn’t he save me from the hands of this madman who’s about to kill me? Jesus’ response? “Blessed is the man who does not stumble on account of me.” In other words, we’re blessed when God fails to live up to our expectations yet we continue in faith, knowing his purposes are greater than our own.
God is who he chooses to be, not who we make him to be. He does what he wills, not always what we want. When we embrace this truth, he speaks to us in our affliction, and we’re freed from the restrictions of our expectations. His “wooing us from the jaws of distress” is a picture of what takes place internally—the freedom of joy independent of our circumstances. Whether or not he physically delivers us, we feast on his word—walking closely with him in the midst of the fire…knowing him more intimately as a result, and walking with a more genuine faith when the fire finally dies.
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