God's Question To A Sufferer
The patience of Job has become an idiom reserved for those with exceptional fortitude and self-restraint. As I read Job’s story, I’m not sure what he deserves more credit for; the way in which he persevered under the direct attack of Satan, or the manner in which he tolerated his four unhelpful, uncharitable and self-righteous friends. ‘Miserable sympathisers you are,’ was about as rude as he got.
It is possible that we don’t align ourselves with Job. He is one of those Bible ‘superheroes’; distant from us in time, and most unlike us in character; ‘he was obviously imbued with some kind of super-spirituality that we don’t have access to these days!’ What if it were actually the other way around? After all, there is Biblical support to suggest that it is us–Christians of this age–who are imbued with the ‘superpower?’ It is we that are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God (1 Cor. 3:16). This is a privilege reserved for believers of the Church age.
But, we still might not consider ourselves to be like Job. It is improbable that there has ever been a conversation between Satan and God about us (Job 1:7-12; 2:1-6): Or that divine permission was given to a satanic power to take everything from us except our life. But you might feel like Job. Crisis has hit. Your health has been taken, or your employment, or your wealth, or a partner, or your hopes and dreams, your aspirations.
Whether you feel like him or not, Job’s story has something to say to you. Job could have somewhat righteously felt aggrieved. He had done everything by the book. He was ‘blameless and upright’ (1:1, NET), he ‘feared God and turned away from evil.’ In addition, he would even offer sacrifices for his family when they held their parties just in case they had sinned. Job was one of those believers we all should wish to be like, and should all try to be. He put God first and sought to honour him in every aspect of his life. And yet, disaster struck.
Maybe you feel aggrieved. Something has happened in your life and you did everything to avoid it. You sought out the mind of God on a particular matter and followed His word to the letter, and yet things have not transpired the way you hoped, in fact quite the opposite is true. The child you brought up in the fear of the Lord has no interest in the things of God, and seems bent on disappointing you. That potential husband you thought would be your ‘forever man’ has let you down in traumatic circumstances. The job that you hoped would be the gateway to a career has evaporated leaving you with nothing. You are left confused and angry. All of your points of reference have been obliterated. You are left empty.
To make matters worse for Job, then came his friends. They spent a lot of time talking, but everything they said can be summarised in one headline; ‘Job, you must have done something wrong to be in a fix like this; repent!’ Sadly, fellow believers can also be miserable comforters. There are some that have walked Job’s way that can be a source of strength, but maybe you are feeling the critical eye of others as you muddle your way through the debris of your life. ‘Well, you didn’t do that right!’ Or, ’next time set your standards a bit lower!’ Or, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get over it!’
A wreck of a life, coupled with the critical advice of supposed friends. Maybe you have walked that path, maybe you are there right now. Where do you turn?
Nowhere. Turn nowhere and do nothing. Wait for the Lord to speak, for speak He will. After his friends had wearied Job (and the Lord) with their words, and Job had unloaded everything that was on his heart, then ‘the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind’ (38:1, KJV). ‘Great’ you say, ‘I wonder what His response was?’ Well He used that strategy we were all cautioned not to at school; He answered a question with a question, and not just any question, an existential one; ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?’ How unhelpful. Job wanted an explanation of what was happening: ‘If I have done wrong, I want to know when, where and how.’ But all Job got was an ironic inquiry about his location when the world was created, followed by another two chapters on a similar theme.
Maybe you missed the point the Lord is making. It is subtle, until you change your perspective. Here is a summary of the Lord’s argument spread across the last three chapters of the book: ‘Job, I designed and created this world–I am all powerful. To create it, I had to be there when it was made–I am eternal. Will you correct me (the all powerful and eternal One) in what I am doing?’ (40:1)
God had a purpose, but even after everything He didn’t tell Job what it was. Instead He proceeded with a line of rhetorical questioning that presented a proposition to Job that can be summarised like this: ‘will you trust me?’ Maybe this is a question for someone today?