Welcome to your worst nightmare.
We all know the book of Job, or at least, we all think we do. Believers fear it (this God could do the same to us), while unbelievers loathe it (this monstrous, game-playing God, if He exists, is to be rejected). Job is a book of scant comfort, we feel. All of us would gladly avoid even a tenth of Job’s trials, regardless of the size of the rewards which might follow, earthly or eternal.
Job’s story is about faith, and about the agonies that come to people who believe – seemingly despite what they believe. The book is so important, though, because it takes us to the heart of reality. It probes our hopes and fears about what this world really is: is there any one or thing out there beyond us; is there justice; why do awful things happen, sometimes, to the best people; and is belief in God a childish impulse, or a fool’s wager? This book throws up many questions – and brings with it not a few answers, many of them quite unexpected.
So, welcome, brother Job, godly, wealthy, respected and enjoying a beautiful life (vv.1-5). His life is the envy of prosperity preachers. Everything is going his way. The trouble is, that Satan is coming his way, too. Satan enters the divine court, fixated by Job’s happy life, and convinced that Job is only a man of faith because his faith is paying rich returns, a faith he will quickly abandon if his life goes wrong (vv.6-11), And so begins this most dreadful misery, as God permits Satan to test Job to within an inch of his life (v.12).
Out of a seemingly blue sky disaster strikes, and it comes again and again – theft, devastation, death: all that is dearest to him, children included, is wiped out (vv.13-19). Think about it. All that you have worked for, worried over, enjoy and treasure, all ripped out of your hands and destroyed forever. Your heart’s deepest joy, your children – all gone, too. This is suffering. And it comes with no explanations, and no instructions.
Job somehow holds his faith, and confesses it – God, in all of this anguish, is in charge. Life is a gift, the grave is as empty as the womb, and none of us deserves anything (v.21). Job refuses to curse God (v.22), though heaven, it seems, is about to curse him again. Satan reasons that Job is only hanging onto his faith because he has his health: once that goes, faith will go with it (2.3-6). Job then loses his health, and sits down, a picture of wretchedness. Adding to his misery is his wife, who makes her only appearance at this point, urging Job to stand up, shake his fist at heaven, and curse God (v.9). Job snaps at her (v.10), but he will not speak up at God. God is in heaven, and though His ways cannot be understood, He is the All-wise giver of all that He sees fit – good as well as trouble.
So welcome to this book, and these uncomfortable chapters of tears, arguments, and their wise and foolish advice in the face of suffering. Sit with Job and his friends (vv.11-13), and weigh their words. Learn from Job. Keep in your sights the Man who took from God all of the trouble you deserve for your sin, in order to bring you all the good you could never deserve nor earn. The Lord Jesus is the Lord of suffering, and if we listen to and imitate Him as we learn from this book, we have make so find comfort in.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, I recoil and run from suffering. I am human. I treasure my comforts, and fear to lose even one of them. Teach me to consider Your servant Job, and to consider the One his suffering and faith point to. May I know more deeply the Man of Sorrows, and treasure Him as my lasting riches in an uncertain world. Amen.