The lie that Luther battled during the Reformation was
“you have to earn God’s love.”
The lie that we battle during suffering, and that “this world with devils filled” whispers to us constantly is:
“you have lost God’s love.”
That’s an easy lie to believe. When you are suffering, if you have an awareness of sin, you think, “That’s right. I’m an idiot. I don’t deserve God’s love. ”
C. S. Lewis wrote “Screwtape Letters” in which the devil (Screwtape) writes from hell to his apprentice, “Wormwood” on earth. My daughter Sally and I went to the play that has recently been made out of this classic book. Max McLean played Screwtape, and a female gymnast played a little demon who helped him down in hell. She would lithely climb a rope ladder to send and receive letters to earth via a bank tube. When Wormwood’s response had good news — that the client had believed the lie and was backing away from God, she would leap from the top of the ladder and do cartwheels and flips joyfully across the stage. But if the news was bad, if the client was actually trusting God in the midst of suffering and pressing into Him, she would shriek, claw the air as she fell, and somehow land safely, like a cat with nine lives.
My daughter Sally has suffered a great deal in her young life. When we went to the play she had recently made it through a long and severe depression, but was then battling with infertility. When we left, we were both contemplative. I asked her, “Honey — what have you learned in these last five years of tremendous suffering?”
She said, “I have learned that God is good and that God is in control. If He gives me the desire of my heart, I will be so thankful. But if He does not…” And then she screeched and clawed the air — and we both laughed.
And though this world with devils filled
should threaten to undo us
we will not fear, for God has willed
His truth to triumph through us
The prince of darkness grim
We tremble not for him,
His rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him
Screwtape Letters was inspired by the book of Job. We will return to Job so that we can see how though God gave Satan a lot of rope — it was only enough to hang himself.
Questions — feel free to do one or two a day. They are meaty, so chew slowly.
1. Mike Mason, in The Gospel According to Job, says it is unusual to be rich and righteous, but it can happen. How do you see this in Job’s life in Job 1:1-5? Look carefully at phrases and practices.
2. What did Satan believe about Job according to Job 1:9-11? Can you see, when you look at your own heart, why Satan’s statement might have some legitimacy to it? How does loss reveal our hearts?
3. God is omniscient, so knew Job loved Him for Himself — but Satan did not know this. Summarize Job’s losses in chapter 1 and his response.
4. (Challenge question) In the whole book of Job — God never explains to Job why he is suffering. Why, do you think? (If any of you love Tim Keller like I do — I recommend his series on Job: Job — a Path through Suffering at Redeemer.com — Keller explains why God couldn’t tell Job.)
5. Sing Matt Redmond’s Blessed Be Thy Name — a contemporary version of Job’s response. (I am confident you techy sisters can find the lyrics or video versions!) Share your contemplations.
6. Memorize verse 3 of A Mighty Fortress. Contemplations? One internet source if the blue letter Bible which will give you Scripture references for the lyrics for great hymns. Share your contemplations.
7. Do a little research on Screwtape Letters. Give us some background, some key points, some ways it has impacted you if you read it.
8. What was Job’s second test in Job 2:1-10? What was Satan’s thinking? How did Job respond?
9. What application does this have to your life?
Lord, I ask Your protection over my sisters as they work, for I know the enemy does not like to be exposed. You are greater, and we trust you. Give us wisdom, give us trust, and give us your quickening as we press into You. Thank You for each woman, and for her desire to know You, love You, and love her sisters.
In Jesus Name
P. S. If any of you are in driving distance of Kansas City, I’m giving a free retreat on The God of All Comfort with Amy Shreve on April 17th. More details and registration on my website. (They suggest a donation of $20 — but it really is a donation.) Love to have you fill up your car with friends and come!