“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13:15). This is Job’s declaration in the midst of arguing his case. He is a righteous man, but stricken by the Lord, a testimony to us of perseverance and the righteousness of God in all things. Let’s not forget that, in the end, the Lord’s vindication of Job included a lengthy rebuke from God, because Who is it who controls all things? And Who is it who is good? The Lord, only the Lord. So Job despises himself and repents in dust and ashes. Amen. (Job 38-42)
Again, though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Just before this, Job had stated, “Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” This is my hope – to see difficulty as from and in the hand of my mighty Lord, and though He slay me, may I hope in Him alone.
All of this because this is what the Lord has said: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Jesus was foretelling His impending death and resurrection, and the disciples would have sorrow not only over His death and joy over His resurrection, but also bear under the hatred of the unbelieving world as they spread the gospel. This is tribulation indeed. Most of them were murdered for the sake of Christ, and this was the way in which they last glorified God on this earth.
Also there is “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12). And “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” This the Lord spoke through Peter, who would indeed die for Christ.
Yet what if it is frightening?
“For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3:5-6). Don’t fear anything that is frightening! But, Lord? Let the Scripture continue, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:13-15)
I think about these things, often. What is a suffering Christian? Well, there is no Christian who does not suffer (Hebrews 12:8). We may suffer for righteousness sake, or we may suffer in the Lord’s discipline if He is rooting out our sin. The guarantee is that we will suffer. What is Peter’s encouragement in this? What are we asked to do? Rejoice! I’ve watched friends suffer for no reason I can identify, while fighting an indwelling sin, for being courageous for the Lord. More and more my feeling for them is joy over pity. Oh, I pray for them deliverance and relief, that the Lord’s hand might no be so heavy on them. But folks, how high are the thoughts of the Lord? And how precious is the end for His children? He is refining them in fire, and in this I will absolutely rejoice. He is good, and He is good to them even in this moment. He is good to me in all my moments.
As for myself, I feel like I’ve known nothing but mercy. Each day of my life He has poured out mercy and grace to this truly wretched sinner. First saving display of those things was in His making me to know myself as that. His continued work shows me how hopeless without Christ I truly am. How precious to my soul now are His rebukes! If He didn’t daily show me my pride, I would be dying in it. If not my selfishness, I would be dying in it. If not my need to be so like Him, and so not like myself, I would die, independent of Him. His rebukes are precious, my friends, like a million rare diamonds. Do you want to stay in your sin? Poor and without mercy? Then wish for a life without trial and go the way of all those who do not fear the Lord. Those who are in Christ alone are rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Those who are in Christ follow Him. (John 14:15). Those who are in Christ will have tribulation (John 16:33, again).
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD: I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19). At all times, in every season, hope in the Lord.
I hope not to dissuade you with these words, “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8).
Do you see when you are promised relief? In the end, if you belong to the Lord. If He’s your Master and Savior. In the very end, when the race is complete and He is shown to have the preeminence. Job was blessed richly by God on the earth after his great suffering, but this is not our promise. Our promise is eternal glory. Is that enough? It’s more than enough.
Take hold of this: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). Let life be fruitful work for you, and rejoice in the promise of life after death. Praise God in your furnace of fire, for He will either bear you up or take you to glory. In either, magnify His endlessly wonderful name, and hope in Him.