(Image courtesy of https://obscurecharacters.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/job-wife11.jpg.)
"Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. 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 5:7-11).
I don't know why bad things have to happen, but I do know that God has a plan. That is the essence of faith: trusting God even when things don't make sense. It is trusting the Lord and not relying on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In James 5, the first example the author gives of patience and faith is that of a farmer. The farmer plants his seeds in the ground and then he waits. He has no choice but to wait. Sure, he could sing, dance, encourage, or curse, fight, and stomp around, but it wouldn't do any good; the seeds won't hurry up and grow. In his patience, he must rely almost completely upon the Lord. The rain is outside of his control. The sunlight and temperature are outside of his control. It is in the Lord that he must place his trust. No amount of worry, anxiety, fear, or anger will cause the seeds to grow. He is at the mercy of God.

Next, look at the second example James gives of patience and faith: the Old Testament prophets. The prophets were horribly mistreated simply for speaking the words of the Lord. The people didn't like hearing from the prophets because the prophets often told of the people's sins and their need for repentance. The prophets were mistreated, abused, and even killed for speaking the words of God. But how did they endure their suffering? With patience, having faith in the Lord that he would make all things right someday.

Lastly, James mentions the character of Job. This man had his entire household destroyed, including his livelihood. He was essentially left with nothing but a bitter wife and a few old pieces of broken pottery by which he scratched his itching sores. What a pitiful situation. Yet Job did nothing wrong; why was he being "punished"? There are times when, like Job, we ask, "Why is this happening? I don't deserve this." And neither did Job. God wasn't punishing him because Job had offended God somehow. (There are certainly accounts of God justly punishing the wicked, but that is not necessarily the case here.) The Lord God speaks clearly to Job at the end of the story: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, since you know so much." Essentially, God is saying to Job: "I have fashioned the whole earth from nothing. I know the numbers of hairs on your head. Do you think I have forgotten you? Do you think you are sovereign over anything? You do not have power even over your own health, even your own animals! I own the cattle on a thousand hills! Now, trust in me. I will do what is right and best." This is what Job learned through suffering: even when things seem out of control and even though God is just and right in all he does, nevertheless, God is merciful and gracious, and we can trust him.

Suffering is not something we like for obvious reasons: it hurts. It is never right to call suffering good; however, good does come out of suffering. Suffering is a result of God's curse upon sinners, of which we all are. But it is through suffering and various trials that the Christian learns faith; that is to say, it is through suffering and various trials that faith is produced in the Christian through the secret work of the Holy Spirit. What an incredible gift! Just as the farmer, the prophets, and Job were blessed by their faith in the holy and sovereign Lord, so we, too, will be blessed with peace and joy when we wait for the Lord patiently and with faith.

This season of our lives has been challenging. Anna Grace has spent at least half her life in the hospital. After five weeks in the NICU, she was able to come home a couple weeks ago, only to re-visit it for a night this past week! She is still recovering, and when she gets well enough, surgeons will open her chest and operate on her heart. She will be two months old in three days. The emotional roller coaster is never-ending. But there is an Operator whom we can trust; he is all our hope and stay. May he ever increase our faith through suffering!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).