Okay, so this is probably what everyone expected to read about at the very beginning when they saw I was talking about Job; but I wanted to show that the book of Job about much more than just suffering. And today, I would actually like to disprove the biggest myth of all concerning Job.
Job is a book about victory.
Haha…this idiot hasn’t even read what he’s been writing for the past 3 blogs! Obviously Job is about suffering. That’s all the whole book talks about! That’s all he’s been talking about!
Yeah, I’m probably an idiot, but I have a valid point. Please continue reading. Oh, and I forgive you for calling me an idiot.
In all actuality, the book of Job can be well compared to the books of Joshua, Judges, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, and I & II Chronicles. All of these books are filled with the battles of Israel (and Judah) and their victories and defeats.
But in order to understand this concept, we have to go back to the very beginning, when Satan and God had their discussion. As we determined in an earlier blog, Satan may have thought he was making a bet with God concerning Job, but God knew better than to think this was a bet. We already talked about how God’s purpose for Job’s suffering was so that we could learn how to conduct ourselves in times of suffering. But why couldn’t God have had a purpose for Job’s suffering that could be fulfilled in Job’s time?
I think He did actually; but it’s a lesson we can learn for ourselves, too.
You see when Satan was first brought before God and God bragged on Job, his discourse was as follows:
“Does Job fear God for nothing? …Have you not put a hedge [possibly meaning a protective shielding of angels] around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will curse You to Your face.” Job 1:9-11
And the second time Satan is brought before God:
“Skin for skin! …A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face.”
I sense a theme in here – there is something that Satan is pointedly trying to make Job do. Satan seems to be specifically aiming for a way to make Job curse God.
The Spiritual War
There is an ongoing war between God and Satan – the same kind of good-versus-evil war that we see in many of Hollywood’s productions. But it seems to me that God frequently allows mankind to fight battles on His behalf, and we don’t always win.
All throughout the Old Testament, this war presented itself in physical, bloody battles. God chose to let the nation of Israel represent Him on the spiritual battlefield, and this carried over into the physical world. When Israel followed God, their victory over evil was reflected in their victory over their physical enemies – the surrounding nations. But when Israel did not follow God, their defeat at the hands of evil was reflected in their defeat at the hands of their surrounding enemies.
In the particular case of Job, it seems as if God decided that it would be good for Job to take up his spiritual sword and shield against Satan – a daunting feat. Satan tempts Job to curse God in the most malicious ways. Yet throughout the entire text of Job, he does not curse God once, even when his wife tells him to. So Satan does not succeed in his scheme to make Job sin. Job is victorious over Satan, not succumbing to his temptations; and in his victory, God is glorified. Then God rewards Job with vindication, reconciliation, riches, and descendants.
Think about that. When you have gone through suffering, what seemed to be the underlying evil purpose of it all? Was it meant to turn you partially away from God? Was it meant to cause you to blame God for something? Or maybe was it an underlying evil effort to defeat your will against a second, separate temptation. Perhaps it was meant to be that last straw – that point of no return at which evil desperately desired for you to reject God completely.
Whatever trials we go through, I am convinced that our suffering is a version of temptation – bent on turning us away from God in one way or another.
So whatever we go through, I think we should keep this idea of a spiritual war in mind. We should also keep in mind that when we overcome our suffering, we simultaneously defeat temptation – that is to say, we defeat evil. This may sound easy now, but it’s not so simple when our times of trial and suffering come.
Joy in Suffering
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2
Consider it pure joy when you face trials. Why? Well according to Job, we are able to consider our trials in pure joy because it means that God has entrusted to us a part of His war on evil. This is quite a grand gesture of faith in us, especially considering how many times we have failed Him and will fail Him again.
And there are other ways to find joy in suffering. Paul found joy in suffering because Christ suffered, and Paul considered it an honor to suffer as Christ did. And then James says to find joy in suffering because it is a testing of our faith.
However, if you find it hard to find joy in a situation that you still think is undue you, remember the words of Job himself, after losing literally everything including his own good health: “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”
Or remember what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 7:14a,b:
“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.”
God has control in both bad times and good; and He has His purposes in both times – purposes which we may never know. Regardless, it is important that we understand the role that God asks us to play in the grand scheme of eternity when considering the trials we go through.
I know this is a tough lesson to grasp or accept, but I think it holds true nonetheless. I also know that you were probably hoping for me to have some genius revelation about how our suffering really isn’t suffering and God never lets bad things happen. But that’s kind of a ridiculous thing to hope for, now isn’t it? Suffering does exist, and God does let bad things happen, because we live in a sinful world. Why should any of us be exempt?
I don’t say this in self-righteousness. I don’t even pretend that I am any better than anyone else. I simply want us both to understand that when we give into the temptation behind our suffering, we hurt ourselves and we dishonor God on the spiritual battlefield. So let us try to focus on God’s purpose in our suffering, and He will rescue us from the hardest times just as He did with Job in the end.
I plan on concluding this series tomorrow. Be sure to stop by, because I want to close this discussion with a strong reminder for us all. Until then, I pray that God will give you His strength when you have nothing left.