This post has been percolating in me the past few days. Bits and pieces come to me as I think about isolation and suffering. What happens if we suffer alone? Does it matter? Make a difference? Indicate a tinge of our own significance?
Job suffered alone.
Yes, he had his wife and his well-meaning friends, but in the depth of his pain, he felt abandoned. Not one soul seemed to understand. Not one person shouldered his grief fully.
We live in the world of Facebook, Twitter, and texting. At any moment of the day, we can be virtually surrounded by “friends.” But we are a lonely people. We crave community. We do not want to suffer alone.
And yet, sometimes God calls us to a journey that feels scary and isolated. Why? I’m not intelligent enough to understand the heart or mind of the Almighty. But I can say I’ve grown deep roots during loneliness. And I’ve found more and more of Jesus in those forsaken places.
In Job 26, Job recounts the greatness of God, how other than us He is. He rebukes and the world trembles. He quiets the waters with a word. Be fascinated by the way this chapter ends:
“By His breath the heavens are cleared; His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent. Behold these are the fringes of His ways; And how faint a word we hear from Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” (13-14, NASB).
We serve a powerful, surprising God. And if we suffer patiently and with faith, we’ll begin to catch the fringes of His ways.
But what’s the point of suffering? Are we like Job, suffering to prove our integrity? Why go through all that? Why alone?
One answer comes from a favorite book, When God Weeps by Joni Earekson Tada. She writes of her good friend John who suffers from a debilitating illness. And mostly, he suffers alone:
“God’s purpose is to teach millions of unseen beings about Himself; and we are a blackboard upon which God is drawing lessons about Himself for the benefit of angels and demons. God gets glory every time the spirit world learns how powerful His everlasting arms are in upholding the weak. They learn it is God who permeates every fiber of John’s being with perseverance. My friend’s life is not a waste. Although not many people seem to care, someone–a great many someones–care more than John can imagine. John’s life does something else. It disgusts Satan. The trust John shows God drives the Devil up a wall.” (p. 108).
I gain perspective when I read and re-read this passage. Our suffering, even if it’s completely alone, matters. Our praise in the midst of pain means something. It deals a blow to the Enemy of our Souls. It testifies to the angels that God is strong when we are weak and needy.
If you suffer alone today, consider deeply these words. God sees. He sees you. Even if you feel completely bereft of relationships, if you are friendless or some sort of pariah. He knows. He suffered in like manner on the cross. Disrobed, disgraced, and bloodied, He cried the agonizing cry, forsaken by friends, lost to the Father in a holy moment. He’s been there. He’ll meet you in the lonely, shattered places.
I know because I’ve been there before. Like Job, I’ve looked back in retrospect in those dark, lonely moments and said these words:
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5).
Suffering alone changes our vision. We may have heard God in the past, but through the crucible of suffering, we see God. See Him! And suddenly the crying in the dark feels like a part of the journey toward knowing Him in an entirely new way. Not only do we shake the heavenlies when we praise through our trials, we move from hearing to seeing the Almighty.
If you are suffering alone today, take heart. Praise Him in the midst of the darkness. Praising God while the tumult swirls is great spiritual warfare. And wait in anticipation for the day you see God more clearly.
The lonely journey is worth it. It is.