“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” -C.S. Lewis
The book of Job is not one we turn to lightly. It’s a somber, haunting reminder that life as we know it can turn upside down. It’s the go-to place for when our hearts hold some sort of pain, some form of grief. If you face loss of any kind, people say “read Job.”
At the same time, the book is easily overlooked. We marvel at Job’s unparalleled devastation at the beginning, and then skip forward to the final chapter where God confronts Job’s confused lamenting and generously restores Job’s life.
While it is encouraging and necessary to see that Job has a happy ending, there are far richer truths to glean from Job’s true story and this Old Testament masterpiece of wisdom literature. Job juxtaposes profound descriptions of God’s character with musings on the fleeting and fickle nature of the universe.
As my pastor as Grace Community Church preaches on Job, I’ve been taking notes and wish to share his opening takeaways with you. They have been of great encouragement to me as my own little girl battles leukemia.
From Job we see:
1. Suffering is inevitable and unavoidable in this fallen world.
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job 1:1
Is hardship we face always a punishment? No.
The opening lines of Job make it clear that no moral failure in his life provoked his suffering. In fact, one could argue that it is because of His righteous walk with the Lord that He ends up facing disaster as a test of his faith that God knew he would pass (Job 1:8-11).
Throughout the book Job’s friends insist he must have brought this upon himself through sin, but as we’ll discuss later, their over-simplistic theology was wrong. Job was by no means perfect, but he was a man of God. His suffering was not punishment but intended to be prove and purify his faith.
When we experience difficulty, we can be quick to think God is lashing out at us for something we’ve done. But life isn’t so black and white. Though there are natural consequences for sin – like a crime will put us in prison – not every trial is linked to disobedience, and this is especially true for those in Christ.
In suffering believers must recall with relief that Jesus absorbed the full wrath for our sin upon the cross.
The truth is suffering shouldn’t shock us. It is not an interruption into the normal, but part of normal in the sin-cursed world we live in. This reality is not welcomed in our comfort-idolizing culture, where difficulty is seen as the enemy. Suffering seems offensive because the meaning of life is the pursuit of pleasure, not God.
Society tries to ignore pain, but as Lewis said, it cannot be ignored. Job’s extreme story shows us that in this life bad things will happen to “good” people, and at the same time addresses the doctrine that no one is truly “good” – all have sinned and can’t stand before God’s judgment without the Redeemer, Jesus.
Moreover, Jesus told His followers “to take up your cross” and that we would “have tribulation.” If we embrace Jesus, we embrace suffering as a consequence for following Him. Whether its persecution or forsaking worldly comforts, His Lordship over our lives invites hardship and requires perseverance. Jesus’s disciples also assure us that trials can be blessings because they refine our faith and make it mature, to God’s glory and our good (James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28-29).
“You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
Maybe your life has been fairly uneventful so far, but suffering will touch it somehow. The question is, are you going to let it pull you further from or nearer to God?
2. The worth of God is not dependent on our comfort. The worship of God should go beyond His blessings.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10
God’s glory is unchanging. Our reverence of God should be too. He sits upon His throne in splendor and absolute holiness. In the 42 chapters that is Job one fact is poetically asserted again and again – God is the omnipotent and authoritative Creator.
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:10
He is every bit worthy of our respect simply because He is the Lord, the great I AM, the One over every living thing.
Even at rock bottom, even with all his pleas for understanding, Job understood this.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:20
One of my pastor’s most striking comments was this: “Can you worship God on the ash heap? When all you have left is God?”
We don’t worship God because of His gifts, but ultimately because He is the Giver.
It is in our suffering that we’re forced to recognize that no earthly thing can permanently appease our pain, end our plight, or soothe our souls. Our need demands God – His hope, His salvation, His redemption. We find all of that in the person of Jesus.
3. You can have the right theology but still make wrong conclusions. Words matter.
And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Job 2:13
Most of the book of Job is his dialogue with his friends. We first learn from them the power of silence.
Sometimes we rush to give words when quiet mourning and meditation is far better. In a word teeming with social networks, television, and phones, we communicate constantly and often miss out on the connection to be had with the Lord through “being still.” We can distract ourselves from pain with white noise of worldly entertainment and superficial conversation, instead of quietly seeking and praying to God.
And yet, these same friends eventually break the silence, and end up saying rash words. As they go on to accuse and attempt to explain Job’s demise, we see the futility of human thinking.
Although these men share brilliant pieces of truth, they go on to foolishly apply them to Job’s situation. They assume the worst of Job and underestimate the workings of God. What does this teach us?
Though we may be educated in the Scriptures, we still must be slow to speak and humble in our hearts. Sometimes we cannot give an explanation for a situation, and that’s okay. We cannot presume to know the mind of our infinite God, whose most “foolish” thought is wiser than the wisest one of men (1 Corinthians 1:25).
4. Even in the most appalling suffering God is still there and still faithful.
Yet he knows the way I have taken; when he has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold. Job 23:10
During Job’s wrestlings of faith he and his friends never question the existence of God or the sovereignty of God. Instead, they must come to terms with His motives, and this requires seeking God with earnesty.
Job’s process of mourning and wondering reveals that there’s one blessing always offered in trials – they can push us closer to Christ.
We can cling to beautiful future promises that God can redeem, restore, and work together victory out of the evil upon us, but there is also a precious good we can experience now – a more intimate walk with Him.
In suffering we’re humbled to our knees in prayer, and stretched to be sanctified. Even righteous Job realized his own self-righteousness, coming out with wisdom he wouldn’t have had otherwise.
As Charles Spurgeon comments: ” “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
5. Job sets us up to embrace a Savior who suffers.
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. Job 19:25 ESV
Job asks the questions we all ask in suffering – why? why me? what next? how can I endure?
Even as he struggles to come to terms with his suffering, he knows this life is not the end.
His story of endurance, even in the midst of the most crippling emotions, makes us too long for a Savior. We realize that in Christ’s perfect obedience and personal suffering the questions of Job and all of us find their final answer.
Jesus, the Son of God, didn’t shy away from suffering, but took it upon Himself to eliminate it forever. He met it head on, giving Himself so that it would not be the last word for our souls.
He knows our pain not only in His mind, but in His heart. He knew pain in His body on the cross, and in the worst form as He was forsaken by the Father for our faithlessness. He is a Savior who we can turn to, a Savior who suffered to end suffering once and for all.