by Paul Carr
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Perhaps the most unfair of all realities is that being a Christian does not entail your best life now. It's almost shocking when you ponder this; that you become a child of God and place your full trust in him for your life and soul. You love and obey God, struggling to live a life pleasing to him, forsaking the world and all of its vices and wisdom. Yet, the bible tells us that tribulation is to be expected along with heartache, failure, sorrow, and persecution. How is this fair? Shouldn't God ensure you peace, stability, and a life free of tragedy and anguish? After all, you are a Christian; shouldn't things be easier for you as opposed to people who don't revere God, or accept that Jesus is the savior of humanity?
According to the health and wealth gospel people, it should be. They teach because you are a Christian, that blessings in abundance and a pain-free existence should be a reality. But it isn't, is it? A lot of us are in the very grip of despair over various circumstances and predicaments never knowing how or when it will all end. We expect God to fix it because, well, we're Christians and we love him. But when he doesn't, we become despondent and frustrated. We see wicked people all about who seem to live without agony, and have these blessings that, darn it, we should have. They don't love God, or sometimes even believe in him. Is it fair that Christians should have to suffer as much as the wicked do? Is it fair that Christians should have to endure tribulation at all? When we crack open scripture, we find out that not only do people who love God suffer, but often they suffer the most of anyone.
One of the most remarkable stories in scripture is that of Job. Besides Christ himself, no man suffered more then he did. Job faced the onslaught of every type of sorrow there is: family, financial, emotional, social, health, spiritual, and marital. In a very brief period of time, he lost all of his children, his assets were brought to ruin, he became sick beyond belief, he felt estranged from God, he was blamed by his friends for his troubles, and his wife wanted nothing to do with him. Can you name anyone you've ever known that has been hit with that much trouble in such a short time? But what makes this even more incredible is that in Job 1:8, God tells Satan that no man on earth is more righteous then Job. No sin of Job's brought this on him, and this is a painful enigma he spends the entire book trying to figure out. Why him he wonders? He asserts to his three friends that he is sure he didn't bring this on himself.
Job is an example to us that no matter how blameless we strive to be, we cannot escape suffering in our lives. Job couldn't have been more godly, yet he endured the most profound tragedies that befall us all. He also exuded the same reactions and feelings we often do when in the vice of hardship. Have you ever wished that you were never born when in tribulation? I think we all have, and Job did too:
3 "May the day perish on which I was born,
And the night in which it was said,
‘A male child is conceived.’ Job 3:3
Job also in his grief begins to feel estranged from God, and believes maybe God has it in for him:
20 "I cry out to You, but You do not answer me;
I stand up, and You regard me.
21 But You have become cruel to me;
With the strength of Your hand You oppose me.
When we're in the thick of trials, we want immediate help from God, and when we don't get it, we feel he isn't interested in our plight. The only thing that will ease our pain is if it all ends, and trusting God was just as hard for Job as it was for us. The most helpless feeling imaginable is when we pray for deliverance and don't get it. Job also, like us, found the advice of his friends to be of no help. Not that the advice of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar was any good anyway, but like us, we believe our friends mean well, but we don't want to hear it even if what they say to us is good advice. Nothing short of complete annhiliation of the sorrows we are experiencing will do. We can't be comforted and we can't be appeased. Job couldn't either, and he isn't some distant storybook character we cannot identify with. He wasn't supernatural and he wasn't equipped with anything we don't have. He was a real person who feel the same things we do living under the same God that reigns now.
Job didn't know what to do, nor did he know what his fate would be, but he knew this:
10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10
Unbeknownst to Job, God was testing him, and the test was to determine whether or not Job would fall into sin. Despite his entire life and health crumbling into powder with no apparent hope, Job knew the single most important thing he couldn't do was to sin against God. Tribulation is going to do one of two things to a Christian: either bring them closer to God, or take them farther away from him. When a Christian starts to drift from God because of trials, sin will almost surely follow. And the more sin we fall into to, the worse the situation becomes. Job understood somehow that his predicament would worsen should he sin, and knowing the only avenue he could take was to remain faithful. We often say that things couldn't get any worse when we're oppressed by affliction, but Job knew that they could, and should he turn from God into sin, he would have greased the slide into his own destruction for certain.
We grow tired of hearing "Trust God" all the time because we are too urgent to gain relief, and what we miss, like Job did also, is that things could indeed be worse, and the reason they aren't, is because of God. Job could have lost his wife and his own life to boot, but he didn't, because God was in fact in control. In chapter 38, God speaks to Job, and it is in the proceeding chapters where Job is tutored by the creator of heaven and earth. God asks him many questions with the purpose being to demonstrate to Job his sovereignty, and that all things happen because God permits it to be.
4 " Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding. Job 38:4
As blameless as Job was, what he didn't fully understand up until this point, was who God really was. As Christians, we have to understand that God sits on the throne, and he is in complete charge of all human events. What he asks of us is blamelessness; righteousness; a life forsaking sin. He commands that we be appreciative of salvation, which he gave to us, and let him deal with our troubles in his own way in his own time. God gives Job a crash course on exactly who he is, his power, his sovereignty, and his control over human affairs. This is what we as Christians need to see: that God is in control, and that God is good. And if God is good, as we believe, and we trust in him, then eventually, in time, if we remain faithful and obedient, he will come to our aid and lead us through the darkness to light.
When Job finally realizes who God truly is, he says:
5 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You. Job 42:5
Job saw for the first time the incredible majesty of God in his heavenly glory. Like us, he knew all the theology about God, but never was able to see him until his life was turned upside down. Knowing now what was happening to him was in God's hands, and being schooled by him concerning his magnificent power, he stood in awe and conceded that now "my eyes see you". If you believe God to be who he says he is, then no protest of ours makes a lick of difference, and like Job, we will find out that no matter how often we try to bully God into working fast enough for us, or how much we complain, he will remedy our situation as he sees fit in time. Our job is to be faithful and trust him, and if we can't do that, then no hope for us exists because no one else cares as much as God does to help us. The world will not deliver us. Without trusting God, we will plunge into sin and an oblivious pit of hopelessness by which we'll never escape.
And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the LORD had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold. 12 Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. 15 In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. 17 So Job died, old and full of days. Job 42: 10-17
God did indeed deliver and restore Job for his faithfulness and obedience. God is the same God then as he is now, and we are the same human beings now as Job was then. Don't give up, follow the example of Job.
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