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Devotion

Revealing The Comfort

Clergy/Leaders’ Mail-list No. 1-120 (Apologetics)

The Cry for a Reason in Suffering (Part 6)

by Ravi Zacharias

——————— REVEALING THE COMFORT ———————

After leaving Job to ponder the fact that God is both Creator and Designer, God came to Job as Revealer and Comforter. And Job’s humbled response was to say, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). The God to whom he had cried out comes to meet him as Revealer and Comforter.

There is a place for knowing and hearing and reading. But there has to come a moment of personal surrender. Our commitment to God has sufficient objective truth so that the truth claims can be verified. The Bible is not a fanciful book of spiritual speculation conjured up by dreamers. There are historical, geographical, and philosophical assertions that can be measured and confirmed by the historian, the archeologist, and the philosopher, respectively. But the point of real contact comes when that third person knowledge–that knowledge about God–becomes a first person trust in God and commitment to His will. Only then does the personal understanding bring a transformed attitude.

The early Israelites made a colossal blunder. Rather than accept spiritual responsibility and come to God directly, they wanted Moses to represent them before God. They asked for a king to deliver them from political responsibility when God had said He desired to be their king. In short, they wanted no direct contact with God.

Church history is littered with the debris of would-be mediators who robbed the common person of the privilege of coming to God directly. The damage inflicted upon humanity and upon Christendom has been incalculable. But it is not just the ebb and flow of history, it is also an assumption that many make that God is unknowable or too distant. The scriptures remind us that God has graciously invited us to come to Him on a personal level. He reaches out to every man, woman, and child and says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

I very seldom like to mention the turning point of my own life, for it is a very private matter and sometimes still hurts to think of it, to say nothing of the embarrassment it must bring my family. But I cannot resist thinking of that most poignant moment of my past. I was seventeen years old when, with neither great intensity or great anguish, I came to the recognition that life had very little meaning. The more I pondered its harsh implication, the closer I drew to a decision. That decision was to choose the way of suicide.

I found myself after that attempt lying in a hospital bed, having expelled all the poison that I had taken, but unsure if I would recover. There on that bed, with a dehydrated body, the scriptures were read to me. The flooding of my heart with the news that Jesus Christ could come into my life and that I could know God personally defies the depths to which the truth overwhelmed me. In that moment with a simple prayer of trust, the change from a desperate heart to one that found the fullness of meaning became a reality for me.

God reached down to a teenager in a hospital bed in the city of New Delhi, a mega-city of teeming millions. Imagine! God cared enough to hear my cry. How incredible, that He has a personal interest in the struggles of our lives. I can not express it better than to say that His self-sufficiency and greatness do not deny us the wonderful joy of being affirmed in our individuality and of knowing that we are of unique value to Him. That was the point of the parable Jesus told about the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in the fold and went looking for the one.

The breadth of the gospel in its implications for history and for all of humanity ought never to diminish the application that is personal. It had to come as a revelation to Job that much of his knowledge of God had come through the thoughts of other people– thoughts never personally pursued. That is precisely the predicament his friends were in, rich in allusions to what others had said but impoverished in their own personal knowledge of God.

It was to that same glaring weakness in the apostle Peter’s life that Jesus directed His attention. Peter gladly quoted what others said of Jesus. But Jesus asked him, “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29, emphasis added). This is why no one speaks with such authority of the devastation of sin as the one who has experienced it. No one knows the restoring power of God like the one who has walked that road. “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” God is not just the God of power in creation; He is the God of presence in our affliction. He had not abandoned Job but was with him personally.

Until pain is seen in a personal context and its solution is personally felt, every other solution, however good, will seem academic. All the answers that one might offer to a hurting person will fall on deaf ears until that person has come to a personal recognition that God has spoken and revealed Himself in His Word first and then in his or her own experience.

To be continued in Part 7 – A Counter-Perspective

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(“The Cry for a Reason in Suffering” is Chapter 3 of _Cries of the Heart_ by Ravi Zacharias. Copyright 1999 Word Publishers. pp63-90. Used with permission.)

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