by Bruce Goddard
Psalm 71:20-21 says, Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.
Somehow the …sore troubles… from verse 20 are tied to Thou shalt increase my greatness,… in verse 21. Here again, we see a truth just beyond human imagination. Harder yet is the closing statement of verse 21, Thou shalt…comfort me on every side.
I am not about to claim to understand all that God says or does. I would not be so brazen as to try to explain to anyone why he hurts or why death or tragic moments cross his paths. I would not even attempt to tell anyone how his entire situation will make him better and ultimately bring comfort. I will say that I believe God (in my head, and most of the time in my heart).
In order to take a mountain of granite and conform its face into the images of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, it took the force of blasting away 450,000 tons of rock, ninety percent of which was done with dynamite. By the time the sidewalk-smooth faces of these men were complete, only ten percent of the work was delicately done by the four hundred men who carved and chiseled. Everything else was done with drama and violence. Millions of people have visited the Black Hills in South Dakota to view the images of these greatly-carved wonders. The completed work of Mount Rushmore National Memorial is admired and respected, although the process to get there was rough. The greatness of that mountain was the result of cataclysmic measures.
Just as a diamond is created under great pressure and intense heat, God will use suffering to increase our greatness. Now, most of us would just say, “Can I not instead remain average, Lord?” The choice is not ours, and the gifts and callings of God are in His hands.
Our church spent nearly a decade in tents (actually three different tents) and struggled with everything attached to those frustrating chunks of canvas. However, the “tent times” brought a spirit that would never have been ours in a building and could not have been duplicated. The story of our first twenty years is recorded in the book You Can’t Get There from Here. For about a decade after the book was published, hardly a month passed without someone contacting me to tell me how much they were personally helped by our story.
Our griefs and tough times became someone else’s encouragement.
We simply struggle with the idea that God allows suffering to take place. Consider the numerous hymns found in our church hymnals. If we were to take away the songs that were born in suffering, I am sure that we would lose half of that beautiful book.
Remember the anguish of Job. How many millions of people have been blessed by his story? Consider his words in Job 10:1: My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. He also lamented in Job 23:2 when he said, Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. In following Job’s life to the end, we are able to see what wonders God accomplished through him. Job eventually turned to the Lord in humility and in worship, and said in Job 42:2, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Then, Job corrects his own foolish complaining and arrogance in the next verse which says, 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.
In his great suffering, Job got to know God as few others have ever known Him.
Job 42:5 says, I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
Today, several thousand years after the life of Job, no human in the Bible is better known or more of a blessing to the world than this man who would have wished that none of these events had entered into his life. In looking back at our own trials, none of us desire to be such a blessing, but God does what He sees fit and what He knows is best for eternity.
The life of Job is a fulfillment of Psalm 71:20-21, Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side. Surely, Job had …great and sore troubles,… but he was brought to life again, his greatness was increased, and he was comforted on every side.