Through Many Tribulations (Part 1): Loss

Through Many Tribulations

Job was a man who was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). When Satan appeared before the Lord, God Himself even praised this man: “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8). This man had been greatly blessed by God with seven sons, three daughters, and a large number of animals and servants (Job 1:2-3).

However, the Lord allowed Satan to tempt Job. Satan presented the challenge: “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 1:9-11). Satan believed that if Job experienced loss, he would turn against God. The Lord replied, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him” (Job 1:12). After this, the temptations quickly came against Job.

  • Job lost his children – “Another also came and said, ‘Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you’” (Job 1:18-19). It is a tragedy for a parent to lose one child, yet Job lost all ten of his children at the same time.
  • Job lost his possessions – “A messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was still speaking another also came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you’” (Job 1:14-17). Job did not lose his possessions gradually over time. Instead, he went from being one of the richest men in that part of the world to losing all of his possessions.
  • Job lost his health – “Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes” (Job 2:7-8). Initially, this was not permitted by God (Job 1:12); but after Satan was unsuccessful in the first round of temptation to get Job to sin, the Lord allowed this to be done.

Though these kinds of losses are common to all men and not unique to Christians, they still have the potential to derail our faith. Let us consider how to deal with these losses.

The Loss of Loved Ones

We will all experience this kind of loss at different times – parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren, etc. Death is a certainty for all of us. The Hebrew writer said, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The reason why death is a reality is because of the problem of sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were banished from the Garden of Eden which took away access from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). This caused access to the tree of life to be lost for everyone on the earth.

Why is losing a loved one a challenge to our faith? Some question the goodness of God for allowing it to happen. This was the response of Job’s wife. She experienced the same loss of her children as Job had; but unlike her husband who did not sin and instead worshiped God in the face of this loss (Job 1:20-22), she blamed God. “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!’” (Job 2:9). Rather than being a source of strength for her husband and encouraging him to keep trusting in the Lord, she turned against God and encouraged her husband to do the same. Some people turn away from God when they experience the loss of a loved one instead of turning to Him.

Some people lose a spiritual mentor when a loved one passes away. We should all try to provide spiritual guidance and encouragement to others – particularly the younger generation. Fathers especially have the responsibility to “bring…up [their children] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Timothy received spiritual instruction from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). Others may provide this type of teaching as well. But when we lose a loved one who has been a spiritual mentor for us, we face the challenge of going without their continued guidance, instruction, and encouragement.

How can we endure the loss of a loved one and remain faithful? First, we must not blame God. God is the one who “gives to all people life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25). The devil “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44) since he tempted Adam and Eve to sin, thus bringing death into the world. Jesus came in order to “render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Instead of blaming God for death, we should remember that we can overcome death through Christ.

Second, we need to remember the hope of heaven for the faithful. John wrote, “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Write, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!”’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them’” (Revelation 14:13). There is hope of eternal life for “those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). If our loved ones were faithful in their lives, we can take comfort in this hope. However, there may be times when we do not have this hope for one who has passed on. These situations are certainly difficult. Yet we can be confident, regardless of the fate of our loved ones, their desire for us is to be faithful to the Lord and reach the reward of heaven (cf. Luke 16:27-28). So in either case, we should look to the hope that exists for the faithful and be encouraged to reach that reward.

Third, we should find strength and encouragement from other Christians. After Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica about the hope for those who died in Christ and about the Lord’s return when He will bring all of the faithful with Him to heaven, he wrote, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). While we can certainly be encouraged by reading those words for ourselves, there is also a benefit in receiving a message of encouragement from faithful brethren. Therefore, we should take advantage of the encouragement to be found from our brethren when we are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

The Loss of Possessions

This is also something that can happen to any of us. Paul told Timothy to instruct the rich to not “fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches” (1 Timothy 6:17). Jesus said that earthly treasures are susceptible to “moth and rust” and “thieves” (Matthew 6:19). This loss can come in varying degrees (immediate or gradual, total or partial), but it is always a possibility.

Why is losing our possessions a challenge to our faith? Jesus warned that the “worries and riches and pleasures of this life” can choke out the word (Luke 8:14). We often think about this in terms of having an abundance or in focusing on gaining more of the material possessions of this life. However, Jesus also talked about the “worries” being a hindrance to our spiritual well-being. Losing our possessions would certainly make it easy to worry about the temporal things of this life.

In addition to that, the Bible teaches that there are certain temptations that are associated with poverty. If we are “in want” we might be tempted to “steal, and profane the name of…God” (Proverbs 30:9). If we are in poverty, we can be tempted to envy what others have. Paul identified this as one of the “deeds of the flesh” that will cause one to “not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Poverty can also lead to ingratitude as we focus so much on what we do not have that we ignore what we do have. Jesus told the church in Smyrna, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)” (Revelation 2:9). Though they were poor from a materialistic standpoint, they had been richly blessed by the Lord. But there is often the tendency to be ungrateful to God and ignore these spiritual blessings when we lack the material blessings.

How can we endure the loss of our possessions and remain faithful? First, we must fix our hope on God. Paul told Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). We have already noted the fact that riches are uncertain. Knowing this, we are to put our faith and trust in God who is unchanging (cf. Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

Second, we need to lay up treasures in heaven. Jesus said, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:20). Regarding the instructions Paul gave to Timothy for the rich, he wrote, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:18-19). We need to keep our minds focused on the goal of heaven (Philippians 3:14; Colossians 3:1-3).

Third, we must learn contentment. Paul wrote, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:11-12). We may also face times of abundance or need. Like Paul, we can endure these challenges “through Him who strengthens [us]” (Philippians 4:13). But we need to learn contentment if we are to endure those challenges.

The Loss of Health

Unless we die prematurely in some tragic accident or are alive when the Lord returns, we will face the loss of our health during our lifetime. It is important to note that in the example of Job, this happened after Satan tempted him the first time. Initially, the Lord did not allow Satan to afflict Job in this way (Job 1:12). It was only after the first round of temptations that God permitted this (Job 2:3-7). A possible reason why this was not permitted until after the initial temptations is because this can often be the hardest to handle. For many people, the loss of their heath is the most difficult challenge they face.

Why is losing our health a challenge to our faith? More than anything else, this is personal. This is not just learning how to react to conditions around us, this is about what is happening directly to us. When we consider what the word of God teaches about how to deal with a situation like this, it is often more difficult to apply the Scriptures to ourselves than to others. This is the same reason why David could immediately see the sin in the man of Nathan’s parable but could not see it in his own life (2 Samuel 12:1-7). Since this is something that is so personal, it is tempting to ignore what the Scriptures have to say that applies to our situation.

Also, when we lose our health, we are forced to recognize our own limitations. As our health declines, either rapidly or gradually, we cannot do all of the things that we once could do. The frustration that comes from this causes many to turn against God. The wise man said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Those “evil days” are the ones described in the following verses when the natural process of aging causes one’s eyesight to deteriorate, one’s hearing to not be as good as it once was, one’s balance to not be as steady, and so on. Many people, especially if they have not cultivated a faith in God from their youth, will lose all interest in spiritual things and have no interest in serving the Lord.

How can we endure the loss of our health and remain faithful? First, we need to remember that God’s grace is sufficient. Paul described his prayer to the Lord for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed along with the Lord’s response to him: “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Regardless of what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, he was able to be “well content” because God’s grace was sufficient. We need to remember that the same is true for us.

Second, we should call upon others who can help. James wrote, “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). When we need help from others due to our poor health conditions, we should be willing to call upon our brethren to assist us in the things that we need.

Third, we must never lose sight of the goal. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). We need to remember that this life is only temporary. Our bodies are just an “earthly tent” that will be “torn down”; but “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). We were not meant to live forever in a world of sin. We need to look to our eternal home in heaven, especially when we are faced with the loss of our physical health. “For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4).

Conclusion

It is inevitable that we will face loss as we live on this earth. We must endure these losses and not allow them to cause us to lose our faith in God. When Job lost his children and his possessions, he responded in faith: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:20-22). While he may not have understood why these things were happening, he kept his trust and faith in God.

During times of loss, we need to remember what is truly and eternally important and seek the “inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).


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