Handling Difficult Times: Part 1

Key Scriptures: John 11, Job 1:1-5, Genesis 2-3, Job 1:6-2:10, Job 38-41, 2 Timothy 3:12, Psalm 34:19, I Peter 4:12-13, James 5:10, James 4:13-15, Psalm 39:5-6, Isaiah 55:9, I Corinthians 13:12, John 8:44, John 10:10, Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 4:4, I Chronicles 21:1, I John 5:19, Revelation 2:10, 2 Timothy 2:26, Genesis 3:15, Job 42:7-17

Guiding Question: Does God really care when bad things happen?

Optional Introductory Activity: Have students scan the headlines of several newspapers. Ask them what stories might make someone question God cares when bad things happen. If the stories tell of the reactions of the people involved, have them share the reactions. Do any of them indicate a possible Christian faith?

Lesson: (Questions to students are in bold italics.) Read John 11. What was the initial reaction to the news Lazarus was ill? When they finally arrived in Bethany how did Mary and Martha react? What was the initial response of Jesus? Why do you think he cried? What did Jesus do after that? Do you think Jesus made Lazarus die so he could raise him again? (This question will be addressed through the rest of the lesson; so don’t feel obligated to correct students if they say yes initially.) It would be easy to see why Mary and Martha might want to question Jesus. What are some of the questions Mary and Martha might have had that aren’t recorded in the Bible? The questions they may have had, were the questions many have today when bad things happen and the questions Job and his friends had. Read Job 1:1-5. What kind of life did Job have in the beginning? Read Genesis 2:8-17. What was life like in the Garden of Eden? Life was perfect. Except somehow Satan was able to convince Adam and Eve to take their eyes off of all of that perfection and focus only on the one thing God told them they could not do – eat that one fruit. Satan also was able to convince them to question God’s motives. Surely, there wasn’t a good reason to forbid them from eating that fruit – God just didn’t want them to be as special as they could be. Read Genesis 3:16-24. What were the consequences given in what is now called The Fall? In short, life from now on was going to be HARD and would end in death. There is a hope and a promise in there too. For now, let’s focus on the effects of the Fall. Read Job 1:6-2:10. What bad things happened to Job? Job has some really bad advice from his wife and friends. (Have students skim Job chapters 4, 5, 8, 11, 15, 18, 20, 22 and 25) What are some of the pieces of bad advice or inaccurate possible reasons Job’s friends gave for what had happened to him? (Note: Warn students people often take verses from these chapters out of context as if God agrees with them. God is actually allowing them to speak their nonsense and will correct and punish them later in the book of Job for thinking and speaking like this about God.) (Have students pick out selections from Job 38-41 that are interesting to them.) What does God say to Job and his friends? In the end, God tells Job man cannot understand God’s ways. Yet God never really explained why the bad things happened to Job and Jesus never really explained to Mary and Martha why Lazarus had initially died.

Read Job 42:7-17. What did God do for Job at the end of the book? Had God showed he cared about Job before that? (He restricted what Satan was allowed to do to Job.) How did Jesus show he cared about what had happened to Lazarus and how Mary and Martha felt about it in John chapter 11? 

Let’s see if these scriptures can help us summarize the principles from today’s lessons from Lazarus, Genesis and Job. (Have students read scriptures and offer their meaning. Answers are provided to help teacher guide discussion)

  • Read 2 Timothy 3:12, Psalm 34:19, I Peter 4:12-13, James 5:10 – Even “good” people suffer on earth – although all of sin and therefor have the same consequences of hard life and ultimately death as Adam and Eve
  • Read James 4:13-15, Psalm 39:5-6 – Our time on earth is extremely brief compared to eternity in Heaven – to us bad times seem as if they last forever because we have an earthly time bound perspective. Once we enter Heaven that time of pain won’t even be a nanosecond on the clock of eternity
  • Read Isaiah 55:9, I Corinthians 13:12 – We cannot completely understand God and His ways – our brains are not capable of really processing the things God can process. Things we cannot “wrap our brains around” are very clear to God
  • Read John 8:44, John 10:10, Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 4:4, I Chronicles 21:1, I John 5:19, Revelation 2:10, 2 Timothy 2:26 – The majority of the bad things that happen are a result of Satan – either he directly causes them to happen or they result from the sins of others or our own. Ex.: Drunk driver killing someone. It wasn’t the victim’s fault, but she/he died as a result of the consequences of the drunk driver’s sins. Specific sins have negative earthly consequences that can cause pain and death.

Going back to one of our initial questions, “Do you think Jesus caused Lazarus to die so he could raise him from the dead?” We can’t say from absolute certainty, but it appears Lazarus died because of the consequences of the Fall – people get sick and die because of man’s sin and the consequences given for that to Adam and Eve and all of mankind. Jesus did use the circumstance to show his love and caring for that family and his power as the Son of God to perform miracles. It also served to foreshadow his own coming death and resurrection. God didn’t cause Lazarus to die directly, but Jesus showed how much he loved them and loves us from the way he handled the situation.

It can seem depressing to think life will be hard and then we die. It can cause us to think God may not really love us after all. Look back at John chapter 11 though. Jesus wept, may be the shortest verse in the Bible, but it is also one of the most powerful. Even with the knowledge and understanding Jesus had of eternity and how God thinks and understands, Jesus wept. The word there doesn’t mean he got a little moist eyed. It means he wailed in pain and tears. He felt the pain of Mary and Martha as strongly as they did. Jesus feels our pain when we hurt too. The next time you are tempted to think God doesn’t care about your pain, remember the crying of Jesus and know he is crying with you as well.

Application Challenge: Read the book of Job. Remember that everything said by Job’s friends God later discounts as wrong. Go back and read John chapter 11. How do those scriptures change the way you think about God and how he feels about your pain?

Author: Thereasa Winnett