If you’ve ever told God ‘I’m done here, you can just take me home now,’ you aren’t alone. In fact, you’re in pretty good company. Elijah in 1 Kings 19:4 told God he’d had enough. You see, there’s a reason why God didn’t answer Elijah’s prayer, and probably won’t answer ours. When a child tugs at their parent’s coat shouting ‘I want to go home, Mummy,’ mum doesn’t disagree that home would ultimately be better, safer or happier. But she knows there are places to go, people to meet and things to experience first. Then home. And so it is with the Christian life.
When suffering drops in for a visit, what can we do? Enter Job.
1. God is in it
When you consider Job chapter one, it is often rightly said that God had to give Satan permission to afflict Job. But that’s only half the deal; look carefully at Job 1:8 and you’ll see that God first mentioned Job.
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (1:8, ESV)
This is not a scary thing. In fact, it brings us great comfort. God does not just react to your suffering—the threads of His sovereignty are woven right through it. And such bitter threads they often are. Why on earth would God do this? Sometimes we just don’t know, but isn’t that better than a God who’s caught off-guard when our lives spiral out of control?
2. Silence is golden
Say what you will about Job’s ‘comforters,’ but they possibly got one thing right—they didn’t try to say anything.
And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great (2:13, ESV)
People become a strange thing in the land of trials. We often don’t want them near us, but being alone is a nightmarish thought. Perhaps it’s our often foolish and inadequate attempts at comfort that spew from our mouths. Sometimes, it’s enough to just be there. God is not annoyed when we have nothing to say to Him. Maybe He just wants us to listen to Him for a change.
When tragedy struck Job, his first consideration wasn’t the sovereignty of God or the beauty of silence.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. (1:20, ESV)
If anything, the fiery trials serve as a poignant reminder of our inability to do anything. When getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle, the thought of going and making disciples of all nations suddenly becomes the challenge that it is. But that’s the point. We can do nothing without Jesus. If all we ever learn through suffering is that we need to lean fully on Jesus, it’ll have been a class worth taking.
If you’ve ever been on a plane that has taken off during the day in bad weather, you’ll know that above the weather systems there is always a glorious blue sky. It’s never not there, you just can’t always see it. When the dark clouds close in on our mind and lives we can quickly begin to think that there is no sunshine ever to come again. Yet God often lets a flicker through. By the end of Job, those flickers had widened into a magnificent blue sky.
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you (42:5, ESV)
God has not left you. God will not leave you. Have you ever considered that God is giving you a bigger perspective? Once the storm clouds lift we will be able to say with Job that our understanding of the love of God is greater than ever before. This was the experience of so many Bible characters. So sing with confidence: ‘This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!’ (Getty and Townend).
And Job died, an old man, and full of days (42:17, ESV)
Job finally got home, and so will we. And looking into Christ’s face, not one millisecond will pass before we instantly know it was worth it all.