The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.
Job never saw his troubles coming. In the introduction to his story, we find out the reasons behind Job’s suffering (Job 1:6- 2:7), but Job never had a clue when he endured each trial. As we read the account, we see that Job wondered why God a.lowed all these terrible things to happen to him. Some friends came by, but instead of giving Job comfort and wisdom, they insisted that he must have done something really bad for all this to have happened. (Thanks a lot, guys!)
Job kept asking God why, and God finally showed up, but not with the answers to his question (Job 38-41). Instead, God reminded Job that He was God and Job was not. There was no need to ask that question any longer. God told him, “Just know that I’m God, and you can trust Me,” He said. But at least God said to Job’s friends, “You’re no help!”
Job could have been really angry with his friends for giving him bad advice and assuming his problems were entirely his fault, but he chose a different course: He prayed for them. When he prayed, God opened heaven’s doors and gave Job twice as much wealth as he had before. He was twice blessed. He still didn’t understand all that had happened, but he trusted God anyway. And God really likes it when we trust Him.
Adversity is the diamond dust heaven polishes it’s jewels with.
Trying to figure out the whys of life is mostly a futile task as we learn from the book of Job. We get to read the behind-the-scenes story but there is nothing to indicate that Job as he was going through the trial had a clue about what was going on. What he knew was that one day everything was going well, his family was well, his health was good and his life successful and blessed and in a short span of time he lost everything but his life and that was hanging by a thread. Well-meaning friends came by to comfort him but they had no wisdom to offer that was helpful. Church of the book of Job is given to the three friends trying to tell Job why he was suffering. Their conclusion was that somehow Job had offended God in some way and they were sure that if he would repent then God would remove the curse from him. Job, on the other hand, maintained his innocence but eventually he begins to insist on an audience with God so that God will give him an explanation. But God never does to Job. We don’t know who wrote Job’s story, but God has given us the behind-the-scenes story. We read that Job’s trials came from the devil. We read that God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith. We read that God was confident in Job’s integrity and faith. And sometimes we may be going through a time of testing for the same reasons.
But for me the book of Job isn’t about the whys of trials and testing. It isn’t instructions about seeking out why something is happening to us. I hear often the phrase, “God has a purpose in allowing this and someday He’ll reveal that purpose.” I think that is a trite expression that has little or no meaning to those who are in a trial. I want to suggest that Job gives us far greater lessons than just trying to find the cause of suffering.
Job tells us that everyone is subject to times of trial and we may not always know why we are suffering. We waste a lot of time trying to figure out how we came to this place in our lives rather than asking God to help us find the lesson. More importantly, perhaps, than discovering why we are in a trial is to consider our response to the testing. We can react in many ways, not the least to act in an ungodly manner. Some passing through a trial become angry, mean-spirited, and difficult. Hurt and disappointment can cause us to lash out, to seek a scapegoat to blame. It can damage our relationship with God and others. Sometimes a trial can cause us to give up our walk with God and begin to engage in a sinful, reactive lifestyle. We can easily add to our misery by engaging in other destructive behavior. What we learn from Job when life has no understanding is to continue living a righteous life. As Job goes through his first recorded trial in which he lost all his possessions and all his children, he chose to continue his life of righteousness.
“Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”
That’s our first lesson. When life goes sideways how do we respond? It’s not easy because we are pressured to respond just as those around us do but as the children of God our response ought to be different. We will hurt like everyone else, we may be just as confused, we may feel discouraged and even at some point despair. Those are normal responses to trials, but what we do with these things makes a world of difference. We can bottle them up, internalize them, or try to muster up the courage to live with them. Most of us have discovered that none of that really works for while we might maintain for a while, everybody reaches a breaking point. What Job teaches us is to keep coming to God, to know that God is our only hope and help and though He may not instantly remove the trial, He will sustain us in it.
“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].”
1 Corinthians 10:13
Job learned and has taught us that even in our struggle and doubt, God remains faithful and though He may allow us to be pressed to the edge of the precipice, He will never let us be dragged over.
He second lesson Job teaches us is to be careful who we are listening to in the trial. There are a lot of “experts” in the world who will be glad to explain why life is as it is. Job’s friends were sure they had the insight into his suffering and that if Job would follow their instructions, he would be delivered. But they were of little help. As a matter of fact, their words were more discouraging than encouraging. Instead of bringing comfort and hope, they brought accusation and condemnation. It doesn’t matter why we are in a place of suffering at the moment. We may have time and strength to consider that once we have recovered but right now it’s more important to find relief. Imagine going to the emergency room with an injury that is life threatening and instead of the medical team focusing on helping you live, they begin an analysis of what you did to experience the injury. In the meanwhile, you’re moving closer to death.
When we are going through a trial, we don’t need an analysis of why. We need someone to sit with us, to intercede for us, to encourage us and to lift up our spirits in hope and comfort. Sometimes when we are trying to help those who are suffering, we would do well to say nothing. Sometimes those who are going through a trial just need someone to listen to them as they process. God hasn’t called us to fix people, that’s His job. But God has called us to comfort, encourage, and when possible to reconcile them to God.
The third lesson we learn from Job is that sometimes we just need to trust God. Often we forget that He has created everything and that there is nothing too big for Him to handle and nothing to small for Him to notice. Jesus reminded us that the Father took notice when a little sparrow fell to the ground and that He clothed the lilies of the field in beauty. Then He said that if God considered such things, how much more so did He consider us. In our trial, we need a revelation of the love and care of our Father. Like a little child who is frightened by a thunderstorm, we need to run into our Father’s arms and just let Him hold us. In the conversation with Job, God reminded Job of all the wondrous things He had done and as Job reflects on the greatness and the glory of God, he repents for making God so small. It’s easy to see our trial large and God in us small for usually the trial makes the most noise to get our attention, but if we will listen we will hear above the noise the calm voice of God.
The final lesson Job teaches us is that sometimes to get delivered from our trial we must pray for others, including “Job’s friends.” These men hadn’t been kind to Job. That had misrepresented God to him to the point that God was displeased with them. So God instructs Job to intercede for them. Again it’s not easy to pray for those who either caused the trial or escalated it, but I’ve learned over the years that little principle of “give and it shall be given unto you.” As we exercise our faith and prayers on the behalf of others, somewhere along the way, we too, find relief from our trial.
In Job’s case, God restored double blessing. He may not add back to us such material blessings but I know that He will multiply manifold blessings in our lives.
If you’re going through a trial today, I hope you feel the prayers of others. I hope those who speak into your life speak hope and encouragement. I hope you know that God knows and God cares. I hope you see today a glimpse of the sun peaking from behind the dark clouds of trial. I hope you choose trust in God and in this trial you make it your priority to seek Him more.
Dr. John Thompson