Grief and Suffering

Jacob Have I Loved: Suffering and the Love of God

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:13

He loved Jacob, that wild boy with a heart rather struggling than obedient. But Esau God hated.

What was it about Jacob?

What was it about Esau?

Was it them at all?

Which of the two led a life easy and free from tension? Was it Esau, who quietly stayed at home and sold his birthright? Or Jacob, driven out to find his way, wrestling with God and with man?

Jacob he loved. And yet it was not Jacob whose life was easy, with all the rocks sifted out from the smoothed path of his so that his foot never tripped. It was Esau.


Jacob wrestled, struggled, fought.

When doubts surface, we can let them fester and rot until one day we wake up and realize we no longer believe as we thought we did.

Or we can face the turmoil head on. And God will forgive us the doubts, if we truly seek the answers. For belief must not be wholly blind. We must have assurance that our faith rests on truth and a true God.

I am afraid of my questions, afraid that I will find another truth which contradicts what I know must be. Yet the God I know-He is honest, fierce, good, but just. I can wrestle with Him. It is okay to not wholly understand, to ask, “why?”

“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job.” (James 5:11)

Job was the one God called his servant and blessed and protected; why would God then allow Satan to torment him?


“And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ ” (Job 1:8)

Do you remember how Satan had to request permission to attack Job? And how, even then, Job accused God? And God did not lay the responsibility at Satan’s feet, though certainly it was his doing.

I have been thinking on this lately. It is difficult to reconcile our understanding of who we think God should be with who He is.

Listen to this quote: “[Satan] cannot act without God’s permission.

That is one of the points of Job’s sickness. The text makes it plain that when disease came upon Job, “Satan . . . struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). His wife urged him to curse God. But Job said, “Shall we receive good from God,and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). And again the inspired author of the book (just as he did in 1:22) commends Job by saying, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

In other words: This is a right view of God’s sovereignty over Satan. Satan is real and may have a hand in our calamities, but not the final hand, and not the decisive hand.

James makes clear that God had a good purpose in all Job’s afflictions: “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).” John Piper, How Satan Serves God


We want to make God wholly loving and merciful to sinners, and so, remove the justice and concern for holiness that makes the love and mercy necessary. We create a god after our own image and then expect the real God to conform to our image.

But He will not.

God is not a man, to change his ways at another’s whim. He is not a clay statue to mold and form after culture’s perception of righteousness. He is God. We are the ones who should search Him out. We are the ones who should wrestle with the knowledge of who He is. We are the ones who must conform to the image of God.

Do you see my servant Job? The righteous. The blessed, protected, then the afflicted, tortured.

God’s beloved should never set their hope simply on a good and happy life. The American dream of a perfect, stationary, safe life is not good enough for the child of God; we must have struggle too, or we will not grow. Should we receive blessing from God and not cursing?

Why do we desire to have a good, peaceful lives? When we think about heaven, why don’t we tremble for every moment spent on worthless things? For our time here, to serve, to share the Gospel, to send God’s fame far and wide, is so short.

We are truly an aimless people.

A friend and I were talking about looking forward to heaven. She is suffering greatly right now, and the Lord may bring her home soon. But she doesn’t feel excited.

Should she?

Should we jump for joy when sorrow comes?

I don’t know. I do know that Jesus grieved for John when he heard of his death.

Perhaps these are not separate; perhaps we can indeed rejoice at suffering and grieve. Perhaps we can know that Satan sends suffering and so resist it, and that God is over all and so welcome it.  We say a thing must be so or not so, but the Bible does not always give us an answer like that. Salvation is by God’s extended grace-alone. Salvation is by Jesus work-alone. Salvation is by faith-alone.

Three things together are not alone. But they are all true.

The wrestler doesn’t avoid these questions. Is it possible to ask the hard questions and yet believe? Does wrestling have to endanger our faith?

Can we find a way to trust while we acknowledge our doubt?

The band twenty one pilots uniquely embody the existentialism and doubt many Western youth face. They ask the questions we are often too afraid to ask. Listen to these lyrics:

“Come down, come down

Cowards only come through when the hour’s late

And everyone’s asleep, mind you

Now show up, show up

I know I shouldn’t say this

But a curse from you is all that I would need right now, man

Danger in the fabric of this thing I made

I probably shouldn’t show you, but it’s way too late”

(Levitate, twenty one pilots)

I believe twenty one pilots lead singer and songwriter, Tyler Joseph, is talking to God, asking Him to say something-anything-even a curse would be better than the silence of God. Joseph is a wrestler who faces his doubts. But he’s a typical millennial Christian, expecting God to show up and do miracles.


In Leave the City, he says, “In time, I will leave the city,

For now, I will stay alive…”

In an interview with altpress, he talks about “Leave the City” and the crisis of faith he’s going through. “[The song is] definitely about losing faith, which I’ve been working through on this record… I still think I am going to answer that question, and I’m going to know, and when I know for sure…what’s the end goal? Where am I going? Is there heaven? Is there hell? Is there a God? … I still believe in God. I still want to call myself a Christian—because I am a Christian… But…the days I don’t think about Him, I’m fine. It’s not like supernatural things are happening at every turn, and I think, ‘Well, I can’t describe that other than “it’s God,”’ and that didn’t happen the whole album cycle. We just got up and worked and created and moved on.”

So many people are in a similar place. We have doubts about God. We’re afraid of them. We try to move on. We think, couldn’t God just show up? Couldn’t He just express His love somehow? Even a curse would be better than this silence. But we hear nothing, and so we keep on living.

Will we ever leave the city?

Is God even real?

We begin to doubt God’s character, then we doubt His very existence.

And I think somehow Christian culture is partly to blame. We monetize every miracle, televise false healings, sell books and make movies of every modern miracle we hear of, talk about emotional “God moments” like they are the evidence of true religion. And faith? We talk about faith like it’s the Christian currency, saying if only you had enough faith such and such would happen.

What is wrong with us? 

Jacob have I loved. The exile.

Do you see my servant Job? Yes, the one I blessed I will now allow Satan to harass.

We have drifted so far from the notion that to suffer is to be human, and to be a Christian is to suffer greatly. God hasn’t changed. He still exists, and He still loves us.

But our own image of God, created after the likeness of man, may indeed be shattered. But that doesn’t affect the nature of the true God. God doesn’t have to answer to us. He doesn’t have to do as we think He should or be who we think He should be. He isn’t at our beck and call like a genie in a lamp.

Job demanded an account from the Lord. But God didn’t answer his questions. Instead, He asked Job-“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know!”

Jeremiah 29:13-14 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”

God does send His beloved into exile. Perhaps we have sinned, perhaps we have not had a strong enough faith. And sometimes, like Job, God’s reasons for our suffering are beyond us and our corner of the world. Perhaps God has supernatural reasons.

But how can we seek to understand? How can we wrestle without sinning? How can we face the questions without losing faith? What do we do in a crisis of faith?

The answer is simple: seek the Lord.

Not recompense.

Not miracles or signs..

Do not seek only the answers, seek the God who created a universe of parallels and paradoxes.

Seek Him.

“Who is like the Lord our God,

   who is seated on high,

who looks far down

   on the heavens and the earth?” Psalm 113:5-6

In our heart of hearts, we don’t need the answers as much as we need Him.

It broke my heart when I heard of Lisa and Michael Gungor’s (of the band Gungor) crisis of faith. They come from a charismatic sect, the kind which expects God to show up and do miracles. But after several experiences with phony “healings” and their daughter’s Down syndrome, they struggle to believe in God’s love.

I know people who have seen miracles. I believe that God can do them.

But what is the greater evidence of God’s love?

A  miraculous healing, or the Cross, where Jesus came and took our sin on himself?

Think about that. Can you honestly say that a healing, which in comparison is truly an insignificant miracle would be greater than the Cross?

Does God have to prove himself to you? Is not the very creation surrounding you shouting His praise? Go outside. Can you see the intricacies of a lichen-laden oak, how the bark entwines itself with the tiny cups, of colors you’ve never seen reproduced with any inkling of the same intense beauty, and honestly say you do not believe in God?

Something in your soul would die if after beholding the magnificence of His creation and dwelling on the splendor of His sacrifice, you then denied Him.

But this does not mean you can then simply set aside your questions. Your soul needs to wrestle. So wrestle! Stand before God and cry out. Let your wild soul face His winds of truth and love.

Wrestle for love, not hate. Wrestle because you love God and need to lay your heart open to Him. Do not demand of your Maker. Do not force Him into your own image.

Seek Him. Seek the true God. Search His Scriptures, who does He say He is? Why does He allow suffering? Could it be because of His intense love for you? Could it magnify His name? And truly, what better purpose of a sinful, frail life, than to glorify God?

Grab onto God, and don’t let go.

His love for you is sure.

Just look at the cross.

And do not be afraid of your doubt. Cast it into the Light of His truth, oh wrestler. For what darkness can abide in light, and what shadow will lengthen at noon? So our doubts will flee as we stand in the Light of our true God.

Jacob He has loved.



(Photos from Unsplash)

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