What we can learn from Job

In the book of Job, we read the story of a man who was deeply afflicted by various trials that take from him nearly all he held dear. Often, tragedy comes upon us because of something we have done, some poor choice we have made. In Job’s case, affliction did come upon him as a result of something he had done, but not something sinful, rather something good.  He walked in dedicated obedience to God. Having caught the eye of God as a faithful follower, he was offered to Satan as a pawn in a supernatural power struggle. God suggested that Job would remain faithful regardless of his circumstances. Satan, on the other hand, contended that should Job lose all the creature comforts he was so accustomed to, he would also lose hope in God, and curse Him.

God allowed Satan to take everything Job had, even down to his health, so long as he didn’t take his life. Thus in one day Job lost all his wealth and even his children. Shortly after that, he lost his own health, and was plagued with painful boils all over his body.

After days of sitting in sack cloth and ashes, which was the cultural way to mourn, he finally began to demand an explanation from God. In essence, he shook his fist at God and cried out, “You said You were good! Well if You really are, then why is all this happening to me? Haven’t I always been faithful to You? I haven’t done anything to deserve this. You are powerful!  You could fix it! So why don’t You?”     One might think that at this point God would feel appropriately rebuked for His handling of the “Job case.” He would regret having dangled such a loyal servant in front of Satan as a prize to be fought over. And with kind and loving words, He would woo Job back to Him, promising attentiveness and help in Job’s moments of dire need. This is not the response we find at all! After all, Job was right on two counts a least: God is loving, and He is powerful. Job was actually right in his assessment of his service to God. He had always walked uprightly before God. But Job was wrong in expecting that these truths would automatically result a in scripted response from God.

God’s response to Job was this: “Who is it that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?… Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?   Tell me, if you know so much. Who laid off its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? Who supports its foundations and who laid its cornerstone?…Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?…Where does light come from and where does darkness go?…”  (Job  38:2-13 portions)  And that’s just the beginning! For over seventy verses, God questioned Job, showing Job several key things about the character and authority of God.

First and foremost, He pointed out that Job answered to Him;  He did not answer to Job.  God’s vast knowledge, control, and power, are far beyond humanity’s ability to even comprehend, much less contend with. God showed Job that as the Great Creator and Sustainer of all things, He was ultimately responsible for the whole world.

This does not mean He doesn’t care for each individual part of His creation. The second thing God pointed out to Job was that His care is also far beyond our ability to understand. And because of that, we can’t quantify His care in human terms. We can’t demand the kind of care that we deem appropriate. What God does in the midst of our pain, may seem self-serving, upside down, or unfair according to human wisdom. That is where trust comes in. We can know on the basis of God’s Word, that He is “…good and does only good.” (Psalms 119:68)

Additionally God showed Job his own frailties. God’s vast wisdom and amazing power when pitted against the wisest of all human argument will show us to be frail, inept, needy, and without a case in the Holy Judgement Hall of God.

At the end of the story, Job found himself standing before God, stripped of all earthly blessings, even his own health, and repenting in utter helplessness. He no longer demanded of God a change in his circumstances. Instead, He begged a just God to forgive him. I find his assertion, “Before I’d only heard about you, now I have seen you face to face” (Job 42:5) at once confounding and yet somehow comforting.

Often I have read the book of Job and wondered the same things Job wondered. How could a good God involve Himself in bargaining with Satan? How could He allow such devastation apparently to prove some cosmic point? How could He be silent and watch Job suffer such pain?

Since God is God, there was no real bargain. He is all-knowing. He didn’t have to prove anything to Satan. And He certainly wasn’t looking to find out for himself how faithful Job was.

Although at first glance it may seem that the suffering Job experienced was flippantly allowed (or worse, instigated) by an aloof, proud authority attempting to show off, that is certainly not the case. Such an assessment flies in the face of all that God in His perfect character stands for. So what was God’s intention in allowing Job to face such horrible loss?

Never, until my present affliction, have I thought that maybe, just maybe God was giving Job a gift. And in the end, Job would find out it was a gift more precious than all the possessions, family, and health he’d previously enjoyed.

As a matter of fact, I think that is exactly what Job was saying when he responded to God with “…Now I have seen you face to face.”  Job was asserting that through the unbelievable pain of suffering and the ultimate confrontation of the Almighty, he had come to a deeper relationship with a Holy God. Before, his knowledge was untested, blind faith, as it were. After his trial, he had a deep and personal knowledge of God.

So what we are left with is this: God, in His awesome power and omniscience, knows exactly what each one of us needs to drive us into Him, and with loving hands He gives us those gifts, sometimes through tears as He watches our agony, but always with a smile as He anticipates our downfall into His loving arms.

5 Responses to "What we can learn from Job"

  • It is astounding to think that God offered Job to Satan for his own good! Can that be? And yet it seems to fit the whole of scripture since as you say there is no real power struggle between God and Satan and God certainly knew what Job’s response would be. Neither Job nor Satan knew the depths of Job’s faith, nor would we, without this book. So maybe it was for our good as well, that we might know a bit of the value of suffering, even when there is not explanation. Thanks for sharing this, I would have NEVER thought it was a gift.

    1 Tammy said this (June 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm) Reply

  • I remember saying to my Pastor once in my own despair “I hate this pain, but I have met with God in some of the darkest places, would I change that?” I just wish I could meet him so well in the happiness!!! One day He will wipe all our tears away. : )

    2 Suzie Foster said this (June 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm) Reply

  • You said, “Never, until my present affliction, have I thought that maybe, just maybe God was giving Job a gift. And in the end, Job would find out it was a gift more precious than all the possessions, family, and health he’d previously enjoyed.”

    I would never have thought about it that way – thanks for sharing. I’m so thankful that God has gifted you in being able to communicate in this way. Thanks for ministering to me! Love you!

    3 Josie said this (July 1, 2011 at 6:54 am) Reply

    • God’s gifts and His way of ministering to each of us, just tickle me to death. Love you, sis!

      4 Tabitha Joy said this (July 1, 2011 at 9:03 am) Reply

  • I’m reading in Job right now. As I was reading the beginning of the book it hit me – Job seemed to have “everything” – but he was missing the most valuable thing – knowing God! Philippians 3:7&8 have been particularly encouraging to me: “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” – It’s all about knowing Him!

    Thanks for this post, Joy.

    5 Dar Gail said this (July 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm) Reply

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