If you are working your way through a daily Bible reading plan for 2017, then you are likely entering the remarkable record of a man name Job. It is here that you can read the minutes of two meetings between the Holy One and the unholy one. The prologue, dialogue, monologue, and epilogue of the book is fascinating. This Sunday I’ll begin a three-part lesson series from it on the sovereignty of God over all suffering.
Typically, there are three questions on everyone’s mind when experiencing a terrible trial:
And why must it be so severe?
(Why, why, why?)
Sometimes, the answer is an easy one—especially when it is a result of our own sinful actions which have provoked a form of God’s divine justice. But we are told three times in the early pages of this ancient text that this is not the case with Job (1:1; 1:8; 2:3). His despair was not of his own doing. There are times when a man suffers innocently, and Job’s story is an example of one of them. He is a man above reproach.
The Lord calls Job “blameless… upright… who fears God and shuns evil.” Yet this is not to say that the man was sinless. He was a living and breathing son of Adam. Instead, God is referring to his character, devotion and virtue. It wasn’t the writer of Job, or even Job himself who made these observations. They came directly from the mouth of Almighty God, meaning Job’s calamities had no real connection to himself.
John Piper explains in a 2008 episode of Ask Pastor John:
I picture Job as a beaker of water. Job had been so worked upon by the grace of God that his life was pure. You could see right through the water. People looked at him and they saw a pure man. But there was a sediment of self-reliance and pride at the bottom. It wasn’t huge and it wasn’t damning, but it was there.
When God shook Job, the sediment colored the water, and you find Job saying some terrible things about God in this book. God knew that it was there, and he knew that in shaking this godly, blameless man there would arise some imperfection into his life, and that it would need to be purged. So the last thing is, therefore, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
God is so pleased with Job that he makes the three friends go and ask Job to pray for them instead of them praying for themselves. God loves this man Job.
Perhaps this is why Job laments for twenty-six verses in chapter three—he’s experiencing a spiritual depression that echoes the psalmist’s words, “darkness is my closest friend” (88:18). He simply cannot understand why this is all happening to him.
Everywhere he turns, Job only finds faulty reasoning: his wife is weary, his friends consistently give wrong counsel, and his health isn’t helping matters. Even the man’s pockets are empty! His emotional and physical suffering are indescribable. “Why did I not perish at birth and die as I came from the womb?” (3:11). Satan had lowered Job as low as he was allowed to by God.
And all he (and we) want to know is why, why, why?
Figuring out God cannot be done. But trusting Him can. In the darkness, He is there. In such difficult times there is only one place to turn. And it may be your only source of encouragement during a terrible time of discouragement. Don’t forget that in Job’s desperate cry for deliverance is the reality that there is One who can do so. One who is sovereign over your suffering. One who has a prescribed path for you filled with hope and strength.
We should be able to say to people, “I’m not looking for a specific sin in your life that God is punishing you for or chastising you for. God may be permitting this calamity to come into your life just to refine very beautiful faith. Your faith is like gold, but it does have straw in it, and God loves you so much that he is now going to burn out a little more straw.”
Any suffering person I’ve ever talked to bears witness to the fact that they have seen more of God and have come to know and trust God more deeply than if their suffering hadn’t come.
For an even bigger picture on the big book of Job, take ten minutes to listen to the complete episode: How Should I Read the Book of Job? here.