When thinking of all the people who suffered greatly in the Bible, it is not difficult to consider Job near the top of the list. His suffering was deep – loss of wealth, loved ones, and experiencing painful physical illness. And just when it seemed that things could not get worse, he was ridiculed and rebuked by his friends and wife. It’s not hard to imagine how Job went from stating that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21) to eventually questioning why God allowed him to be born (Job 3). His initial response reflects the righteous character traits we are introduced to at the beginning of his story, but as the grief, suffering, and ridicule weigh on him, he begins to question his life and, eventually, makes demands of God.
Certainly, I can relate to Job here. I’ve never experienced suffering like this, but I am well acquainted with “questioning” and even making “demands” of God. Despite the fact that I have no right to do this, God has been gracious with me and He was also very gracious with Job. He was patient with Job’s grief. When God did finally respond to Job, He began by reminding Job that He really didn’t know what he was talking about (Job 38:1-2). Job was making assertions and demands about things that were far beyond him, and God directed his attention toward this.
But what is really most interesting to me is Job’s response to God after all of this. When we first read God's answer to Job, it sounds forceful and maybe even harsh. Like, wait a minute God – don’t you remember what you allowed to be taken from Job? Give the guy a break! Who doesn’t have questions and demands after such heartache! But after God spoke to Job, rather than Job dissolving into a pile of bitterness or animosity toward God, the Bible says that Job repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:1-6). His response to God was to see the worth of God in the middle of his suffering.
We know that later in the story, God returns to Job even more than what was taken away. But at the time of Job’s repentance, he had no guarantee of his circumstances in this life changing. Job repented and chose to submit, worship, and follow God without hope that the circumstances of his life on earth would improve. He decided that following God was worth it. God didn’t even explain His actions to Job or give justification for the suffering he experienced, He simply revealed more of himself to Job than he had previously known – and in this revealing was enough beauty, goodness, majesty, and power that Job found what he needed. Is there anything more compelling than peace where there should be no peace? Deep hope when circumstances cry for despair? After God met with him, Job found that God, in Himself, was enough.
This life is filled with twists and turns, awful pain, and life-shattering loss. I have no guarantee of anything different... no promise of a “good” life on this earth. In the absence of this, I have to ask myself– is there something greater? Is there hope that extends beyond any sorrow that I may experience in this life? And if there is, is it real? Job’s story definitively tells me it is. Because when he encountered the living God in the midst of his pain, he stopped demanding answers and crying out to God in despair. His pain and loss were as real on the day he encountered God as they were the day before. And yet, after this encounter, he turned toward God because he saw that what God offered in Himself was hope and it was good and it was enough. It is for this reason that Job’s story compels me to seek God more and more. I believe that the God who met Job in his pain and caused Job to turn toward Him without promise of anything more, is the same God who calls me to Himself.
And He is the same God calling you. He is beautiful and He is enough. Just ask Job.
ARH Staff Writer