It is the crucible of suffering that reveals your most authentic thoughts about God and others. Sometimes the Lord puts you in that crucible, even while doing good, to prove your authentic faith.
Say what you want about Job, but he was a good guy. He was a terrific guy who loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37). Listen to the description from the book titled after him:
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
I know, I know: there are no good people. I understand. But Job was a guy who tried to do the right thing. I am sure his sin struggles were more episodic than they were patterns. Every now and again he did wrong, but, for the most part, he did well.
You may want to read:
- Rick’s Articles From the Book of Job
- How to Experience Extraordinary Favor During Disappointment
- Three Things to Know When Life Does Not Make Sense
Everyone sins. We probably sin daily, but characterized by sin is not how things ought to be, and Job was not that way. He was a man who loved God. He was a saint who occasionally sinned.
He went about doing good. He had a biblically appropriate awareness about the importance of honoring the Lord (Job 1:5). And he was not fearful in his service for the Lord.
Job was faithful, sober-minded, and humble. God blessed him in profound and bountiful ways. And, as you know, his obedience did not automatically give him a free pass from trouble.
There is a trap when you think if you do good, God will bless or, even worse that God must bless because you have done the right things. Occasionally, you will hear it stated or implied this way:
He was a good guy. I don’t know why that happened to him. Of all the people to have something terrible to happen to them, I would have never thought it would have been him.
It is a mistake to think when you do good, God must reward you with blessings that fit your preferences. This kind of thinking will not only have an awful impact on your motives, but it will run your thinking off sound theological tracks.
It is a set up for anger and bitterness toward God. It can create jealousy in the heart, as the hurting soul thinks about others, who are not suffering as much. In some situations, it will motivate a person to walk away from God.
This latter outcome was the insinuation of the devil: Job only served God because God blessed him (Job 1:9). How about you? What are your motives? Do you serve God for something? For nothing? For self? For His glory?
When Turned Upside Down
Job was not allowed to know at the moment of his adversity that what he was receiving was from the hand of the Lord, though later he may have reflected on it as the blast of God (Job 4:9).
Though his troubles were a mystery to him, the fire from God did fall, and the winds from His breath did blow, and in a matter of minutes Job’s sacred and satisfied life was destroyed (Job 1:20-22).
I think at times there is a desire on our part to protect God’s reputation, especially in moments of deep trials. This reaction does not help God, us, or others. We must be honest with His Word: God blindsided Job while he was doing good (Job 1:16).
The radical-ness of God demands we understand how He will allow pain and suffering into our lives (John 3:16). Within minutes Job was sitting in the squalor of his brokenness, and everything that used to be was no more.
I think the first thing that would come to my mind in a situation like this would be something along the lines of “Why Lord?” It would be easy for me to not only question God about what had happened but be tempted to accuse Him.
Job was different from me. His response was stunning. Rather than accusing God, he took the opportunity during his darkest trial to offer praise to the One he loved most of all. Be amazed.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 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. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:20-22
When Job fell on the ground, he worshiped the Lord. It bears repeating: he worshipped the Lord. This response to God was not the case with me. When my devastation came into my life, I fell on the ground too.
The difference was that I did not worship God in that moment or in the days that followed. I cried and wailed, longing for God to return the things that I lost. Those things were my wife and two small children, who left, never to return.
As I began to submerge myself in the book of Job, my heart was simultaneously stunned and overwhelmed. Convicted and encouraged. Motivated and directed. Job taught me there was a better way–a better object for my worship. Rather than placing my faith in what I lost, the Lord was teaching me to reestablish my faith in Him.
- When unpleasantness comes into your life, what is your response?
- What do the “turnings of your heart” reveal to you after being cast into the throes of disappointment?
I do not ask these things as your critic. I ask them as a student, who has sat where you may be sitting (Ezekiel 3:15; Daniel 3:1-30).
What I have learned in the crucible of suffering is that how you answer those questions will reveal what has gripped your heart (Luke 12:34). There is a true and living God (or god) whom you worship, and you reveal Him (or it) during the dark times in your life.
Job did not have a worship disorder–at least not in the beginning of his trial. Though his soul went into a myriad of complexities later on, in the beginning of his crucible he was clear-headed. Though he was a saint who sins, which his later ordeal reveals, he knew whom he believed (Job 19:25).
And he said, Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. – Job 1:21
He immediately acknowledged his dependence on God as he covered the entire spectrum of his life: Job came into the world dependent (naked) upon the Lord, and he knew he would leave this world dependent (naked) upon the Lord.
Whether it was his past, present, or future, Job was self-aware how he was naked and open before God (Hebrews 4:13). He did not shrink back from a God-centered dependency by striving to rely on himself (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
He was weak and broken, but not a fool (2 Corinthians 4:7). To become self-reliant in your darkest hour is similar to speeding down the Interstate blindfolded as your steering wheel comes off in your hand.
For me, somewhere between my naked entrance into this world and my yet-to-be naked exit from this world, I became self-sufficient. In the beginning, I learned how to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, feed myself, and fend for myself.
In time, I drifted from a total state of dependency until I no longer needed God. It was a worldview that believed I was something when in reality I was nothing (Galatians 6:3). The fool says in his heart there is no God and he is doubly a fool to live as though he does not need Him (Psalm 14:1-7).
Job did not think this way. He was a God-centered, God-trusting man.
- Do you see the humbling value of God reminding you from time to time how you are naked and how you do need Him?
- What would you be like today without the humbling hand of God working in you?
“Blessed be the name of the Lord” is what Job said.
I love this statement. A great way of understanding it is by thinking about what he did not say.
Job did not say, “Blessed be the hand of the Lord.”
Do you see the difference? It is one of those transformational differences. Job was laser-locked on the right thing. His primary concern was not what the Lord gave him or took away from him. What mattered to Job was God’s name, not His gifts.
Typically, when I came home in the afternoons, and when my kids were younger, they would run into the garage to greet me. Inevitably, they were curious as to what I brought home for them as they look to catch a glimpse of a hopeful blessing from the hand of their daddy. Not so with Job. His eye was not on the hand of God, but on the name of God.
- Are you more interested in what God will give you or what He may take away from you?
- Do you typically praise the Lord regardless of what you receive from Him (Job 38:1-3)?
The best way for me to answer those questions is to think about how I respond when I do not get what I want. (I am still growing in this kind of reorientation of the heart.) Through the years, my Lord has reminded me of this truth during those moments, and each blessed reminder has nudged me closer to living more like His Son.
Just when you think his response could not be any more profound, listen to the final line, just before the curtain of the first chapter brings us to a suspenseful end:
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:22
Incredible! Some people have characterized Job as a whiny person. Let us not go there right now. How about if you hunker down here for a while and reflect upon how he responded to God before he crawled out of the epicenter of his tragedy.
- What is the one thing in your life you think you could not live without today? Name it if you can.
- If your answer is someone or something other than God, you could be only moments away from sinning and charging God foolishly.
When I lost the three dearest people in my life, it took me four years to fully adjust my thinking about God and the redemptive purposes of suffering.
The first chapter of Job one represents only part of the things the Lord wanted me to see, learn, and apply. It took me two years to process this chapter.
I felt as though I could not press on until I wholly owned what God was saying through my old friend, Job. His response to tragedy seemed to be an un-scalable mountain. Mercifully, the Lord buried me in this chapter because He was relentless in His love for me.
The Spirit of God persistently revealed to me how I could not move on to the end of Job’s book with a heart of transformed freedom until I singularly directed my worship to the Lord Jehovah alone.
I had a twisted heart. I was a two-master-lover. I wanted the Lord, and I wanted other things too (Matthew 6:24). In time, God restored my heart to Himself, and I began to see Him in previously hidden ways.
Knowing God and experiencing God are two different things. There are a lot of Christians who know Him, but only a few who have experienced Him in the way in which Paul longed to know Him (Philippians 3:10).
Most of us intuitively know the radical nature of God, and it scares us. It should. Our God is a terrible God–a person who wanted Job to experience Him beyond the intellectual know-how, and there is only one path for this kind of divine, experiential, profundity (John 12:24). Are you ready to suffer?
I am not sure if Job was looking for it, but he eventually got it. God blessed him in the beginning and transformed him in the end. My appeal to you is to give careful consideration to the things that blindside you. You do not want to miss the blessing of extraordinary suffering.
Eventually, through the crucible of suffering, Job saw what he was supposed to see, and he was set free.
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. – Job 42:5-6
Also published on Medium.