“I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my eyes. I take back everything I said and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” Job 42:5, 6 NLT
I was struck recently by a sermon I read by James B. Torrance titled, “Why Does God Let Men Suffer: A Sermon on Job.” In this sermon, Torrance states two propositions. The first is that at times God sends suffering to God’s people as an act of punishment, but that it is done out of God’s love much like a father might discipline a child. The second proposition is that Job shows us that suffering does not have to mean that we are being punished for our sins (at least not directly).
But that isn’t what really struck me. Rather, it was Torrance’s answer to my question. See, I’ve struggled for a long time now with the inequality of suffering and its potential effects. When I worked as a chaplain intern at a hospital a few summers ago, I met many patients and their families who were struggling with their own very real and immediate sufferings and pains. Because of their trials, many of them were brought to new levels of faith in their relationships with Christ. They were given something through which to endure and so what happened is that I found myself lacking something that they had because I had not suffered as they did. So I was left with the weird and nebulous position of wanting what they had in such a way that I was almost inviting suffering upon myself to achieve it. Almost.
But then through the Holy Spirit, Torrance opened up the cross of Christ to me in a way I never before realized. Christ suffered on my behalf. Previously, I had only thought of that in the sense of Christ suffering for the forgiveness of specific sins. But now I have been shown that when the curtain was torn it wasn’t only for that reason (though that is an extremely good and important reason), but rather that the Holy of Holies was made available to all who are in Christ because Christ suffered as Job suffered, but only greater. Through Christ’s suffering, we have all now seen God with our eyes.
This isn’t to say that a person who undergoes suffering won’t receive a benefit that others are unable to understand. They have paid a cost to do so. But Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our High Priest who has in every respect been tested as we are, yet remained sinless and we are able through him to approach the throne of grace with confidence and boldness. The curtain has been torn. Christ’s suffering did for us what Job’s suffering did for him and we are able to say with him, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my eyes.”