Job’s life makes sense. Blameless, upright, a man of integrity, Job is blessed. Cause and effect, right? Job does what is right, makes good choices, and therefore God favors him, protects him, blesses him. But when Job loses everything – his farm, his livestock, his kids – all of a sudden, life doesn’t make sense. Job spirals down into deep depression, grappling with the questions: “What went wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” Searching his life for some sin or failure that would cause this calamitous set of circumstances, he sees none. His heart broken and his faith shaken, Job’s mind is affected too. Why? Because we, like God, are integrated creatures; our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls are woven together. We are also, like God, reasoning creatures. We can think, question, consider facts, draw conclusions. Crisis brings us new information that we have to somehow fit in to our knowledge base, and if it doesn’t fit in, we have to process it and create new places for it to fit. But what if we don’t have all the facts?
Job doesn’t. He was never privy to the cosmic debate that was going on up in Heaven, of which he is the subject. God is holding court, and ol’ satan shows up. In Hebrew it’s a title: “the satan” or “the adversary”, meaning “one who opposes at law”, like a prosecuting attorney. Yet satan’s only goal is to harm humans. Prosecute us for anything and everything, real or imagined. The devil prowls around seeking someone to devour.1 And God says to him, “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?”
Think about this. God sends Job in as His first-string champion to stand against the adversary. Ironically, the devil doesn’t think it’s fair and says so: “Does Job fear God for no reason? You have put a hedge around him. But take away that protection, and Job will curse You to Your face.” Cause and effect – even the devil believes it! – that if God allows bad things to happen to a good person like Job, he will become bad, lose his integrity, and sin. So God withholds His protection, and layer by layer the devil assaults Job, removing his wealth, his family, his health.
Scripture tells us two important things here: God is in control – satan can’t do anything without God allowing it; and God trusted Job to pass the test. God didn’t send in Bildad, Zophar, or Eliphaz, because they couldn’t have passed the test. God didn’t send in Job’s wife, because she couldn’t have passed the test either. No, God sent in Job, the man of integrity, the man of faith, the man of worship, because God knew that no matter what, Job would not curse God to His face. God knew Job’s heart. God also knows our hearts.
Job is hurting and confused, yet still remains faithful to God. He trusted God when life made sense, he still trusts God when life doesn’t make sense. And in chapter 3, Job’s misery pours out, like burning hot lava. He curses the day of his birth, regrets that he ever survived birth and childhood, and grew to manhood to then suffer such loss. He longs for death, but will not take his own life. This is depression, deep depression, suicidal depression, but Job knows the boundaries for a man of faith. He is honest – brutally honest – about what he is experiencing and feeling, and all of us who have suffered such pain are tracking with Job right now.
God knows our hearts. When life makes sense, it is easy to praise and thank God; when life does not make sense, we are tempted to curse God. Sometimes in our faith-walk we are called into some pretty deep valleys, even the valley of the shadow of death. I’ve been there, too. Like Job, even if we don’t understand why something is happening, we can trust God. We know God sets the boundaries that the devil can’t cross, and we know God trusts us to turn to Him in worship, prayer, and for help when we are sorrowful. Also like Job, we who love and trust God will never curse God to His face, but will come to our God Who allows us to honestly vent our frustration, pain, and grief, before His throne.
God promises in Romans 8:28 (we all know the verse) that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. But it never says all things are good, but that they work together for good. Jesus said, “I have said these things to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Troubles are part of life. The question is not if we will face troubles, but when. How we respond to them will certainly determine our health: spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical. Pain like Job’s can unhinge our minds, and the solution is: peace. Christ brings the peace. Peace in the middle of the storm. “In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.”2
Cause and effect theology is too simple to explain the complexities of life. So whatever you may be facing today, worship like Job. Don’t blame God, don’t curse God, because chances are, you don’t have all the facts. Pray to Him, pour out your deepest sorrows to God, because God listens, God loves you, God has a plan, God is in control, and eventually all things – good and bad – will work together for your good.
1. I Peter 5:6-11
2. “The Solid Rock”, hymn by Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury