I’ve got a confession to make here, readers: the book of Job terrifies me a little bit. It’s uncomfortable. As I read my Bible through this year, I almost wanted to skip Job completely.
If my suspicions are right, many of you probably agree with me. There’s so much to wrestle with- God’s relationships to His creation, including satan. The idea of why terrible things happen to good people. How does one really comfort the comfortless?It’s a book brimming with tough things and I can’t wrap my head around all these concepts, it seems.
You see, Job had a hedge of favor from God because he favored God. He had great wealth. A large family. A heart of true devotion to the Creator. Power. Fame. The man seemingly had it all.
God and satan have a discussion about Job and God agrees to remove His hedge for a season to test Job. God was accused by satan of pouring blessing on Job, making it easy for him to obey God. (In reality, Job was obeying God and God was blessing him for his obedience.)
So Job categorically loses everything. His wealth. His children. His respect. His health. This is the part of the story that scares me, because the question sits in the back of my mind, “Will God allow this to happen to me?” The uncomfortable idea is that God will use my faith as a test between Himself and the enemy. How much pain is God going to bring into my life to grow me as His child?
We don’t like to think on these things- the pruning that brings growth. It is necessary, but I can’t bear to think what may be required to bring me closer to Christ. Job was devout. God was ultimately pleased with him in chapters 1 and 2. And yet Job suffered in such extreme ways that his name today is synonymous with suffering.
Yet, it is good for us as believers to periodically examine our motives for following God. Are we doing it because of the blessings it brings or because we truly love Him? If we lost everything, would we still praise Him?
Then comes the body of the book, where Job’s friends listen to his complaint and advise him. I read these portions of Scripture- words that God saw fit to be in His canon- and I often question where these guys went wrong in their analysis of Job’s situation. They seem to be saying good things. Right things. What was the issue?
We find that God was not happy with their broad brush strokes at His character. Their pat answers of “God judges sinners and blesses the righteous” speak of their superior understanding of God’s ways. The truth is no one is an expert on God. Not a single one of us can handle that kind of knowledge. These three friends were mistaken in believing that there is only one reason for bad things to happen to seemingly good people- they aren’t good people.
So we have Job bemoaning His existence and questioning why God would attack him so. On the other side we have Job’s three friends accusing him of things he never did and being the worst comforters in the history of the world. And in the middle comes Elihu- the over looked wise man.
Young Elihu first points out the foolishness of the old friends in their lack of understanding. Age does not always equal wisdom. Wisdom involves knowledge and understanding- seeing a situation for what it is and appropriately applying truth to it. Broad brush strokes and pat answers are not wisdom.
Elihu then points out that we cannot possibly know all of God’s ways or His purposes. The character of God proves that He always does what is right- and we may not always understand the big picture. Our finite minds must be subject to His perfect knowledge of every person and situation.
And then God comes and further elaborates on Elihu’s premise by a series of questions which leave Job repenting of his self righteousness and resting in God’s sovereignty. In the end, Job is restored above what he had before and was a better man for his season of suffering.
In walking away from such a heavy book, a story of chaffing truth, I can only meditate on a superficial level, it seems. Maybe some of these thoughts will help you in wrestling with this book:
1. There is a cosmic battle going on that we know very little about, yet we are a part of.
2. Is my love for God conditional? Will I bless God as long as He blesses me, or am I willing to praise Him though He takes away everything I hold dear?
3. What am I depending on in my relationship with God? My goodness or His? My faithfulness or His? My righteousness or His?
4. When I counsel it is not good enough to try to explain away everything with my limited knowledge. Listen, empathize, encourage. Do your part to turn the heart of the hurting back to the loving arms of God.
5. Rest in God’s sovereignty. He knows what He is about. He can be trusted.
6. God refines us in times of trial. This is the perspective we need when the road is rough.
Answers don’t come easy in Job, but that is okay. In reading it, we come face to face with our motives for our relationship with the Almighty and can use this mirror of Scripture to draw closer to Him. Embrace the discomfort of Scripture and you can find great truth still.
Read it for yourself! While the entire book of Job is talked of, chapters 1, 2, 33-42 are brought up.