How to Overcome Affliction

Today we’re going to address the topic “How to overcome affliction”. Affliction is an important topic because all of us face affliction as we go through life, and we need to know how to persevere through affliction so that our affliction doesn’t destroy us. Job is a great example of persevering through affliction so we’re going to look at the hope and optimism he had when he was in the midst of his great affliction, and then we’ll look at several passages in the New Testament which give us some promises to cling to as we go through our affliction.

Context

Let’s start with some context. This is a map of the middle east, showing the nations of the middle east as they exist today. It is about 2,700 miles from the left of this map to the right of this map and it is about 3,000 miles from Los Angeles to New York City, so what you see here is about the size of the United States.

Modern map of the Middle East

This is what the topography looks like. The green areas are close to sea level, the brown areas are the hills above sea level, and the white areas are the high mountain regions.

Topography of the Middle East

Bible history began around 4000 BC with creation, Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel. Around 2500 BC, during the lifetime of Noah, there was a flood that destroyed the whole earth. After the flood, Noah and his descendants settled in the Mesopotamian Valley and tried to stay together, but God confused their language and forced them to separate. Shem’s descendants went east and settled in the Mesopotamian Valley and modern day Iran, Japheth’s descendants went northwest into Europe, and Ham’s descendants went southwest into Africa.

Around 2000 BC there was a descendant of Shem named Abram who lived in Ur. Ur was near the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers near the Persian Gulf. God told Abram’s family to move, so they traveled to Haran which was near the modern day border between Syria and Turkey, and then eventually Abram and Lot moved to Canaan. In Canaan Abram fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered the 12 tribes of Israel, and the next 2000 years of Bible history centered around the land of Canaan.

We don’t know exactly when or where Job lived, but he probably lived around 2000 BC, about the same time Abram lived. Job 1:3 tells us he lived in the east, which means he lived somewhere in modern day Iraq or Iran and he was probably a descendant of Shem.

Job’s Story

The book of Job is a little unique. Most of the Bible tells the story of the nation of Israel. Job was not part of that story. The book of Job sort of stands alone as its own separate story.

At the beginning of the book of Job, Job was healthy, wealthy, and wise. Then there was a dialogue in heaven between Yahweh and Satan, and Satan was given permission to take away Job’s children, possessions, and health. Next, three friends came to visit Job and the bulk of the book of Job is a dialogue that took place between Job and his friends. Job spoke first, then Eliphaz, then Job, then Bildad, then Job, then Zophar, then Job again, and this pattern kept repeating. Near the end a man named Elihu spoke, and then at the very end Yahweh spoke and He restored Job’s health, wealth, and family.

During this dialogue between Job and his friends, they were discussing why Job was suffering. Today we’re going to look at Job 19 where Job insisted he was suffering because God was against him. Job also explained that his family and friends were abandoning him, but all of those troubles didn’t stop Job from having some optimism, and we’ll look at his optimism later.

Poetry

In order to understand today’s passage it helps to understand a little about Hebrew poetry. Unlike English poetry which is all about rhyme, Hebrew poetry is about repetition and contrast. Job 19 has both synonymous parallelism and synthetic parallelism. In synonymous parallelism the poet keeps repeating the same idea over and over again in different ways. In synthetic parallelism the poet makes a statement and then adds to it.

Outline

As we read Job 19, I want you to notice four different sections. The first section is the first five verses. These verses were spoken by Job and they are Job’s transition from listening to Bildad to responding to Bildad. Look at verse 3. Job said to his friends, “These ten times you have insulted me.” Job and his friends repeatedly traded insults like this throughout their dialog.

The second section starts at verse 6 and goes through verse 13. In this section Job kept saying God was afflicting him. Verse 6 is synonymous parallelism. Job said, “Know then that God has wrong me and has closed His net around me.” Both of these lines say the same thing. Verse 7 is both synonymous parallelism and synthetic parallelism. It is synonymous because both of these lines say the same thing, “I cry ‘violence’, but I get no answer; I shout for help, but there is no justice.” This verse is also synthetic parallelism compared to verse 6 because Job was adding to his thought in verse 6. In verse 6 Job said God was against him and then in verse 7 he said he was crying for help but getting no answer. The rest of this section is synonymous parallelism. Job kept repeating his theme that God was afflicting him. In verse 8 he said, “God has walled up my way.” In verse 9 he said, “God has stripped my honor.” Over and over Job stated God was afflicting him.

The third section starts at verse 14. Again, we have both synthetic parallelism and synonymous parallelism. There is synthetic parallelism because up through verse 13 Job had been saying God was afflicting him, and then in verses 14 through 19 Job added to that thought by explaining the negative results of God’s affliction; namely, that Job’s family, friends, and acquaintances were against him. Here in verse 14 Job said, “My relatives have failed, and my intimate friends have forgotten me.” Verse 16: “I call to my servant, but he does not answer.” Verse 17: “My breath is offensive to my wife,”. This section is synonymous parallelism because Job listed multiple examples of how God’s affliction had resulted in people turning against him and forgetting him.

The last section starts in verse 20 and is a diverse collection of thoughts. In verse 21 Job asked for pity. In verse 23 he desired to have his words written down and preserved. And then in verse 25 Job expressed some hope and optimism. We’ll come back to his optimism later.

Job 19

With all of that as some context, let’s read Job 19. Remember, Job was describing his affliction. As we read, ask yourself if your affliction has ever been this bad. Perhaps you will be encouraged because your affliction has never been as bad as Job’s, or perhaps you will be encouraged because you will realize you aren’t the only one who has been afflicted.

Job 19:1 Then Job responded,

Job 19:2 “How long will you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] torment me

And crush me with words?

Job 19:3 “These ten times you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] have insulted me[Job];

You are not ashamed to wrong me.

Job 19:4 “Even if I[Job] have truly erred,

My error lodges with me.

Job 19:5 “If indeed you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] vaunt yourselves against me[Job]

And prove my disgrace to me,

Job 19:6 Know then that God has wronged me[Job]

And has closed His net around me.

Job 19:7 “Behold, I[Job] cry, ‘Violence!’ but I get no answer;

I shout for help, but there is no justice.

Job 19:8 “He[God] has walled up my[Job’s] way so that I cannot pass,

And He has put darkness on my paths.

Job 19:9 “He[God] has stripped my[Job’s] honor from me

And removed the crown from my head.

Job 19:10 “He[God] breaks me[Job] down on every side, and I am gone;

And He has uprooted my hope like a tree.

Job 19:11 “He[God] has also kindled His anger against me[Job]

And considered me as His enemy.

Job 19:12 “His[God’s] troops come together,

And build up their way against me[Job]

And camp around my tent.

Job 19:13 “He[God] has removed my[Job’s] brothers far from me,

And my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.

Job 19:14 “My[Job’s] relatives have failed,

And my intimate friends have forgotten me.

Job 19:15 “Those who live in my[Job’s] house and my maids consider me a stranger.

I am a foreigner in their sight.

Job 19:16 “I[Job] call to my servant, but he does not answer;

I have to implore him with my mouth.

Job 19:17 “My[Job’s] breath is offensive to my wife,

And I am loathsome to my own brothers.

Job 19:18 “Even young children despise me[Job];

I rise up and they speak against me.

Job 19:19 “All my[Job’s] associates abhor me,

And those I love have turned against me.

Job 19:20 “My[Job’s] bone clings to my skin and my flesh,

And I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.

Job 19:21 “Pity me[Job], pity me, O you my friends[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar],

For the hand of God has struck me.

Job 19:22 “Why do you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] persecute me[Job] as God does,

And are not satisfied with my flesh?

Job 19:23 “Oh that my[Job’s] words were written!

Oh that they were inscribed in a book!

Job 19:24 “That with an iron stylus and lead

They[Job’s words] were engraved in the rock forever!

Job 19:25 “As for me[Job], I know that my Redeemer lives,

And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.

Job 19:26 “Even after my[Job’s] skin is destroyed,

Yet from my flesh I shall see God;

Job 19:27 Whom I[Job] myself shall behold,

And whom my eyes will see and not another.

My heart faints within me!

Job 19:28 “If you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] say, ‘How shall we persecute him[Job]?’

And ‘What pretext for a case against him can we find?’

Job 19:29 “Then be afraid of the sword for yourselves[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar],

For wrath brings the punishment of the sword,

So that you may know there is judgment.”

Optimism

Again, what we read here was Job’s description of his affliction: God was afflicting him and that caused all his family, friends, and acquaintances to abandon him. However, Job expressed some hope and optimism at the end. Let’s start reading again at verse 25.

Job 19:25 “As for me[Job], I know that my Redeemer lives,

And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.

Job 19:26 “Even after my[Job’s] skin is destroyed,

Yet from my flesh I shall see God;

Job 19:27 Whom I[Job] myself shall behold,

And whom my eyes will see and not another.

My heart faints within me!

Job was optimistic that better days were ahead, even if those better days were after his death. Was Job correct? Can we be optimistic better days are ahead when we are suffering through affliction?

Keep something in mind about inspiration and inerrancy. Inspiration and inerrancy apply to the author of the book of Job. The author inerrantly recorded what Job said, but that doesn’t mean Job was correct. Job was hopeful better days were ahead, but we can’t use that to reassure ourselves that better days are ahead. Instead, we need to look at other passages to see if Job was correct and to learn how to overcome our affliction.

New Testament Promises

1Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

2Cor. 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

How do we overcome affliction?

We need to start by reminding ourselves of four facts. First, God will not allow us to be afflicted beyond our ability to endure. Second, God will comfort us. Third, our affliction makes us better and stronger. And fourth, if we persevere, we will receive the crown of life. If we remember these four facts, then we will have the strength and confidence to persevere through our troubles. This is how we overcome affliction.

 

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

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