Over the past few weeks, the Covid-19 virus has hit much closer to home for our church family. If you contracted the virus, perhaps you have thought, “I wasn’t careless. I washed my hands, I stayed away from others (safely), and wore my mask! Why did I come down with this sickness?” I have found that you can make all the right plans and ‘follow the rules’ and life’s trials will still find their way onto your path.
As I have begun to read through the book of Job, it is clear that you can do all the right things – honor God, by being faithful and obedient to Him – and unexplained tragedy can still come your way. In Job’s case, from out of the blue, he loses all the possessions, family, and good health that he had been blessed with. How incredibly devastating! We have all tragically lost something we had enjoyed in life. I am pretty sure it was not the degree of loss that Job experienced.
Most often when something tragic happens to us, the first thought that enters our mind is, “What did I do to deserve this?” Many of us would say we are ‘rule-followers’ to some degree. We believe that if we live ‘by the rules’ then life will go much better and it will be somewhat free of challenge and conflict. Often that is true.
Example: if we drive at or around the speed limit, we will be safer. That is often true, but everyone else would have to ‘play by the rules’ to help that become a reality. Nature would have to cooperate as well in order for roads to always be safe. But as we know, sometimes no matter how well we ‘do the right thing’, the unexpected events of life can catch us off guard.
In chapter 3, Job laments. He mourns and grieves. It is the needed and normal thing to do when we suffer loss. He wishes he had never been born! Of course, if that really were the case, he would also never have enjoyed the blessings of the Lord. But in this moment, his grieving is so deep and painful, he would rather not have experienced the pain of loss than to be born. This is deep lament.
Over the next chapters (4-27), we have recorded the comments from Job and his three friends. They are trying to give an explanation and reason for why all these things happened to Job. Of course, the reasoning “There must have been great sin in your life.” was brought up and debated. Truthfully, they are not doing a good job of comforting Job!
The theology of the three friends was partially solid. They believed God was absolutely in control. They also believed God was fair and just. So far, I can agree with their beliefs. But then what we see is this; if those two are true of God, therefore, He always punishes wickedness and always blesses righteousness. Therefore, if we experience suffering, we must have sinned and are being punished for our sin. Our suffering, in one sense, is God’s discipline and because He loves us, He is disciplining us. Psalm 32 and Hebrews 12 do speak of God disciplining us in love because of our sin. But, is our suffering, always a result of sin in our lives, as Job’s friends seem to believe?
What his three friends are missing in their theology is what we read in Job 1, 2. They do not consider the unseen spiritual battle going on. They are totally unaware of a bigger story being written in Job’s life. We have the benefit of knowing that God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith in God.
In Ephesians 6, we read of the armor of God. In the reality of our spiritual battle, Paul challenges the believer to ‘put on the armor of God.’ Why? It is what keeps us standing firm when life’s unexpected challenges come our way. The piece of the armor I think of especially is the ‘shield of faith.’ Throughout the Old Testament we see God referenced as our shield (Gen. 15:1; Prov. 30:5; Psalm 3:3; Psalm 91). For the child of God, biblical faith finds its strength in the truth of God.
As you read through Job, you will find that Job, after all his lamenting and sorting through his thoughts and feelings, will hold fast to his integrity (27:1-6). Job also holds onto a theology of God that is different than that of his friends. Yes, he searches for reasoning and questions it all, but he never lets go of what he knows to be true of God (Job 26, 27).
Yes, ultimately, we suffer because we live in a world marred by sin. Yes, we can suffer the consequences of our sin or the sin of others. But also know that sometimes our suffering comes as part of the testing of our faith. The question is, who or what will we hold to when the suffering comes?
In HIS hands,