August 18, 2017

Your Suffering Is Not About You

Emphasizing the Centrality of God

Life is not about me, and it is not about you.
Life is about God.

Everything that happens in this life — every person who is born and every one who dies, every major world event and every minor ‘coincindence’, every joy and every pain — is all about God, and His plan, and His desires. Which means that everything in me must be about God. My thoughts, my desires, my words, and my emotions — and even my suffering — must be about GOD, rather than me. About what pleases HIM, what brings honor to HIS name, rather than what is convenient or comfortable for me.

Author and theologian Layton Talbert explains this further in his book Beyond Suffering (affiliate link), an in-depth study on the message of Job. In chapter 4, Talbert discourses on the reasons God called Satan’s attention to Job. He points out that Satan didn’t mention Job first, God did.

And that makes most of us ask, why? Why would God point out such a faithful servant and practically shove him into Satan’s hands? Why would God allow Satan such freedom in afflicting Job so comprehensively?

Here’s one reason:
Job’s suffering wasn’t really about Job.

And perhaps our suffering isn’t really about us, either. Perhaps it’s actually about God, using our meager suffering to work His perfect plan and showcase His truth. Read what Talbert goes on to say [emphasis mine]:

“Our theological vision has a tendency to become small-minded and man-centered. Anthropocentric by nature, man once assumed that our world was the center of the galaxy and that the sun revolved around the earth. People instinctively see themselves at the center of God’s world as well.

We are not at the center of the universe; the Son is (Col 1:16-19, Phil 2:9-11)We are not even the center of God’s redemptive activity. God is. His saving work is not prompted by our inherent worth, nor is He under any duty or obligation to save us. God justifies every believer “freely” by His grace (Rom 3:24) — that is, as a gift, without cause or compulsion.

That word freely is the same term used to describe the fact that Jesus’ enemies hated Him “without a cause” (John 15:25). God had no more cause or necessity to save us than Jesus’ enemies had to hate Him and hang Him on a cross. But God’s saving work is the free choice of His good pleasure (Eph 1:5,9,11) to the praise of His own glory and grace (Eph 1:6,12,14).

This emphasis on the centrality of God does not minimize our genuine value and importance to God. We are valuable because He values us, and He values us uniquely because He created us alone in His own image and for His own glory. Emphasizing the centrality of God sharpens our focus on the real spiritual world around us and the multitude of spiritual beings other than us for whose benefit God does certain things.

The angels understand and glorify God more as they learn about Him through His dealings with men. Revelations 5:8-14 describes the ranks of angels that swell the chorus of the redeemed. They lift their voices “to the praise of his glory” because they have seen more of God’s power and compassion, sovereignty and mercy, wisdom and tenderness, through all His saving kindnesses to us (cf. Eph 2:7).

This is what is going on in Job. This is what is at stake. The audience at the original live performance of Job consists of all the spiritual intelligences in the heavenlies. God wants to display for all created beings the mutual genuineness and mutual integrity of the relationship between God and man.

If the faith of even the best of men is insincere and rooted in self-interest, God would be a manipulative and deceptive deity who bribes man for worship. The whole created order would collapse into the chaos that follows the over-throw of a tyrant and a fraud. Satan, like Toto, would have pulled back the curtain to reveal a Cosmic Humbug loudly protesting, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

But that is not how this story ends.
This is Uz, not Oz.”

So you see, suffering isn’t about us. It is about God.
Because life is about God.  tweet this


Comments

  1. Just curious if yo have read The Cup and the Glory. I have just started it and it seems like a book you would like also.

  2. What a wonderful post, one I would come back to over and over. I love the first lines: “Life is not about me, and it is not about you. Life is about God.” As soon as I forget that I’m in trouble