Historical Insights into Human Suffering

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Historical Insights into Human Suffering

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In London's Westminster Abbey, where the great and famous are laid to rest, two huge candelabra depict biblical figures in cast iron. Among the depicted characters from the Old Testament, two stand out from the others.

At one end of the massive candleholder is King Solomon, portrayed as reclining on a throne in his majestic robes as ruler of a united and prosperous people whose divine blessings pervade the country. His wisdom is aptly summed up in the mysterious Queen of Sheba's comments: "Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel" (1 Kings 10:7-9).

Solomon attained the height of temporal achievements, thanks to God's bounty.

The other end of the candelabra highlights the patriarch Job, depicted as suffering the depths of misery and despair. His throne—to ease his discomfort—is a bed of ashes. Three of his friends visit him from afar, but not to praise his achievements.

Man's existence includes both suffering and the exaltation of life. Suffering is as much a part of the kaleidoscope of humanity as is the attainment of greatness. The God of Israel was as much a part of Job's life as He was Solomon's, if not more so.

As this Bible-study lesson strives to show from the Scriptures themselves, great purpose lies behind our sufferings. Life gives us time to consider the important questions: Who am I? Why am I? What part do I play in God's master plan?

Suffering is a natural part of our existence. No one can escape it. Suffering can stimulate us to reevaluate the importance of life. It forces us to take the time to consider the vital issues of existence. 

Our Creator determines to develop His righteous character in us. He is far more interested in the character we can build than in letting us live a life free of suffering. Jesus Christ Himself learned obedience by the things that He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).