The book of Job is striking in many ways. We find Job a righteous man, a conscientious parent, defender of the helpless, living an upright life before the Lord. A lot is revealed about Job’s life in retrospect, as he defends himself before his friends. He appears to have lived with a level of dedication to righteousness that is likely foreign to many. However, far from a rosy righteous life, the narrative of Job offers an account that is difficult beyond words. The book contains not only a story but a dramatic, climactic struggle.
When Job loses everything including his health, his words begin with simple trust despite the pressure from his own wife to “curse God and die.”
Enter Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, a distinguishable set of friends. Not content to sit back and let the awkward silence of pain eat everyone alive, they’re also not content to let Job vent his feelings while only offering sympathy. They have an opinion and are ready to express it, regardless of whether it may offend.
The drama plays out, Job defending his righteousness while the trio of friends insist on his sinfulness. There is also the young Elihu who does not speak until the others have finished. When he does, his words are full of passion and reverence for God, insisting that God and His ways are above those of men.
Finally, it is not man but God Himself who speaks:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding… Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it… Will you even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His?”
Picture the terror and humility Job must have had when he finally spoke again:
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 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 experienced something that looks dramatically different from what we can fathom, but still there is a trace of familiarity. Job was tested, his faith put through a furnace of affliction; all Christians are likewise to be tested. Job’s testing was all encompassing–every aspect of his life was affected as he lost everything, and the agonizing torment of the trial did not let up until the ordeal was completed. Many times we are not engulfed in such hardship as Job endured, but this is the only difference.
My flesh does not relish the thought of trials, tests, or anything difficult. I am drawn to being comfortable, and the lives we have created for ourselves make this so easy. But if we would choose to do without trials, what are we choosing instead?
Trials are not easy, but they are good: beneficial, healthy, and right. Job acknowledged that before his testing, he knew of God, but afterwards he truly knew God. I cannot resent trials now and still assume that I will still grow and be prepared to meet the Lord.
The book of Job encourages me to take heart. What I face may not be anything like Job endured (though it could be), but the God who spoke to Job from the whirlwind is speaking now in The Word, with assurance that testing is His wise plan. God is doing all things well, growing, refining, and purifying our faith through difficulty. Look up. Walk through this testing now, even though it is painfully hard. There is breathtaking glory ahead through the cleansing, with the most tremendous Glory of all to be met in the process: God Himself.
But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.