Suffering and it’s Purposes… a Hard Look at the Job Story

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Recently a good friend had their car repossessed. God has placed me near them right now to help them walk this through to victory.

This was after they were unfairly fired from their job because of health problems their employer wouldn’t acknowledge (even after a doctors report), a long trial with an abusive, controlling person, and a series of unfair slanders in their community from people who were supposed to be friends.

This happened not because they were negligent, but because they were brave enough to walk a difficult journey with the Lord. They have been on a multi-year journey of saying “no” to the traditional wisdom of the world and say “yes” to God’s Aslan-like, wild heart invitation to step out of the boat and trust that God is leading them to somewhere better than they could ever get through natural, step-by-step, worldly promotion.

God has been taking them on a deep dive – emotionally, physically, and spiritually – to bring about healing and cleansing, ultimately preparing them to be a good leader in their life.

So often in our Christian world our friends are supportive of us and cheer us on when things are “going well”… no debt, good job, relationships look healthy, etc etc. But as soon as things seem to fall apart they often turn and begin to doubt if we are “really hearing God clearly.”

This breaks my heart. It’s not biblical. Just about every major biblical role model we admire had to go through seasons of extreme testing, testing beyond belief at times, stripping them of everything so what’s deep down in their soul could be revealed, allowing God do what only He could do in them. Jesus in the wilderness, David living in caves, Paul away in Arabia, Elijah under the broom tree, the list goes on and on. So why should we expect today to be any different?

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9.

In order to help my friend through their testing God had me go back to the Job story. To be honest I’ve avoided the Job’s story. “Oh no could that happen to me?!” I confess I didn’t really want to go back to it this morning.

But as life has gone on I’ve found it’s actually nothing to be afraid of. For the simple answer is, YES, it will happen to us. Maybe not to the depths it did to Job, but in other ways just as serious. And it will be used to produce the same character development and grace it did for Job. Which was A GIFT from A LOVING FATHER.

A good friend of mine likes to say that before God multiplies things He subtracts things, but the subtractions prepare us to receive the multiplication.

Let’s dig into the story.

At the beginning Job has it all, loving wife, many children, a thriving business and he loves God.

“Job was a man who lived in Uz. He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion. He had seven sons and three daughters. He was also very wealthy—seven thousand head of sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred teams of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a huge staff of servants—the most influential man in all the East!” Job 1:1-3 MESSAGE VERSION (here after abbreviated “MSG”)

But then we see this fascinating conversation between God himself and Satan, the accuser. It goes like this-

“One day when the angels came to report to GOD, Satan, who was the Designated Accuser, came along with them. GOD singled out Satan and said, “What have you been up to?” Satan answered GOD, “Going here and there, checking things out on earth.”

GOD said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.” Satan retorted, “So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can’t lose!

“But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.” GOD replied, “We’ll see. Go ahead—do what you want with all that is his. Just don’t hurt him. ” Then Satan left the presence of GOD.” Job 1:6-12 MSG

Did you notice that God FROM THE BEGINNING was proud of Job? This is so important to realize. When bad things happen the accuser usually sends with it feelings of condemnation and doubt of your worthiness. That maybe you did something wrong. It doesn’t say that Job did ANYTHING wrong. In fact God says “there’s no one quite like him”!

It’s also important to observe that God ALWAYS puts boundaries on what can happen to you. This isn’t to say His boundaries are necessarily where you want the boundaries to be. But you can be sure that they are there, and He knows best.

Ok back to the story…

It says Job received 4 messengers back to back telling him that everything was stripped away from him:

  • the first says that enemies stole his oxen and donkeys and killed his field hands
  • “while [the first messenger] was still talking” another messenger arrives and tells him that bolts of lighting struck the sheep and the shepherds
  • “while he was still talking” another messenger arrives and tells him enemies came and raided his camels and massacred the camel drivers
  • then he received the worst news… “while he was still talking,” another messenger arrived and said, “Your children were having a party at the home of the oldest brother when a tornado swept in off the desert and struck the house. It collapsed on the young people and they died. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”” Job 1:13-19 MSG

This may seem harsh beyond words but let’s finish the story before judging…

Look how Job responds,

“Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth. GOD gives, GOD takes. God’s name be ever blessed. Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.” Job 1:20-22 MSG

When everything seems to be falling apart it’s VITAL to learn to get before the Lord and worship. And do this IMMEDIATELY when you face bad news. The quicker you can worship and give thanks to God for His goodness the less poison will get into your system from the onslaught. (This doesn’t mean you have to feel thankful for what’s happening, but if we can trust that there is a big picture and say thank you for the good our Good Father is going to bring out of this we can move forward).

Satan wasn’t finished with Job, but neither was God. Let’s see what happens next…

“One day when the angels came to report to GOD, Satan also showed up. GOD singled out Satan, saying, “And what have you been up to?” Satan answered GOD, “Oh, going here and there, checking things out.” Then GOD said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him, is there—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil? He still has a firm grip on his integrity! You tried to trick me into destroying him, but it didn’t work.”

Satan answered, “A human would do anything to save his life. But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away his health? He’d curse you to your face, that’s what.”

GOD said, “All right. Go ahead—you can do what you like with him. But mind you, don’t kill him.”” Job 2:1-6 MSG

Again there’s boundaries God put. And again we see God’s cunningness with Satan. We are called to be “cunning as the serpent, tender as the dove” (Matt 10:16). Satan is NOT all knowing or all powerful, like God is. Satan is blinded by rage and hell bent (literally) on destruction. God uses that to fulfill His own purposes. Remember God knew what was going to happen with Satan, and He still created him. Why? Because God knew Satan’s destructive actions would play right into God’s plan to save us and bless us.

Let’s keep reading…

“Satan left GOD and struck Job with terrible sores. Job was ulcers and scabs from head to foot. They itched and oozed so badly that he took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself, then went and sat on a trash heap, among the ashes.” Job 2:7-8 MSG

(SIDENOTE: Whatever we’re going through I am pretty confident what Job went through can give us perspective. So often when we are suffering God will give us the opportunity to minister to someone in worse shape than us. This is a mercy gift from God. He is HELPING us see the big picture and help us to move forward. For when we minister the blessing pipeline is filled by God through us to the individual and we get encouraged through the blessing flowing through us. So don’t be afraid to step out and minister when the opportunity arrises, even during your darkest times!)

Now the story gets really heart breaking, and it’s the topic that prompted me to write this post today. Here’s where the people who should be Job’s biggest supporters through thick and thin begin to abandon him because it looks so bad.

Job’s wife says, “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!” Job 2:9 MSG

Yet Job still remained faithful to God,

“He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?” Job 2:10 MSG

Now we have a faithfulness barometer check from God again in the story. It says, “Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.”

Job 2:10 MSG

Now here come Job’s friends…

“Three of Job’s friends heard of all the trouble that had fallen on him. Each traveled from his own country—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuhah, Zophar from Naamath—and went together to Job to keep him company and comfort him. When they first caught sight of him, they couldn’t believe what they saw—they hardly recognized him! They cried out in lament, ripped their robes, and dumped dirt on their heads as a sign of their grief. Then they sat with him on the ground. Seven days and nights they sat there without saying a word. They could see how rotten he felt, how deeply he was suffering.” Job 2:11-13 MSG

After 7 days, and in the company of his trusted friends he lets it out. For those of you who think it’s unhealthy to pour out your frustration at times, well look at Job. Here’s what it says,

“Then Job broke the silence. He spoke up and cursed his fate:

“Obliterate the day I was born. Blank out the night I was conceived! Let it be a black hole in space. May God above forget it ever happened. Erase it from the books! May the day of my birth be buried in deep darkness, shrouded by the fog, swallowed by the night. And the night of my conception—the devil take it! Rip the date off the calendar, delete it from the almanac. Oh, turn that night into pure nothingness— no sounds of pleasure from that night, ever! May those who are good at cursing curse that day. Unleash the sea beast, Leviathan, on it. May its morning stars turn to black cinders, waiting for a daylight that never comes, never once seeing the first light of dawn. And why? Because it released me from my mother’s womb into a life with so much trouble.

“Why didn’t I die at birth, my first breath out of the womb my last? Why were there arms to rock me, and breasts for me to drink from? I could be resting in peace right now, asleep forever, feeling no pain, In the company of kings and statesmen in their royal ruins, Or with princes resplendent in their gold and silver tombs. Why wasn’t I stillborn and buried with all the babies who never saw light, Where the wicked no longer trouble anyone and bone-weary people get a long-deserved rest? Prisoners sleep undisturbed, never again to wake up to the bark of the guards. The small and the great are equals in that place, and slaves are free from their masters.

“Why does God bother giving light to the miserable, why bother keeping bitter people alive, Those who want in the worst way to die, and can’t, who can’t imagine anything better than death, Who count the day of their death and burial the happiest day of their life? What’s the point of life when it doesn’t make sense, when God blocks all the roads to meaning?

“Instead of bread I get groans for my supper, then leave the table and vomit my anguish. The worst of my fears has come true, what I’ve dreaded most has happened. My repose is shattered, my peace destroyed. No rest for me, ever—death has invaded life.”” Job 3:1-26 MSG

When someone is going through hell and they begin to pour out their anger and hurt it is really easy to become overwhelmed as the listener. Out of fear of the bad thing happening to you it’s easy to begin making excuses and assigning blame to the person suffering to make yourself feel more secure that this kind of bad thing won’t happen to you.

““I’m ridiculed by my friends: ‘So that’s the man who had conversations with God!’ Ridiculed without mercy: ‘Look at the man who never did wrong!’ It’s easy for the well-to-do to point their fingers in blame, for the well-fixed to pour scorn on the strugglers. Crooks reside safely in high-security houses, insolent blasphemers live in luxury; they’ve bought and paid for a god who’ll protect them.

“But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you; let the birds tell you what’s going on. Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics. Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories. Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree that GOD is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand— Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature? Isn’t this all just common sense, as common as the sense of taste? Do you think the elderly have a corner on wisdom, that you have to grow old before you understand life?

“True wisdom and real power belong to God; from him we learn how to live, and also what to live for. If he tears something down, it’s down for good; if he locks people up, they’re locked up for good. If he holds back the rain, there’s a drought; if he lets it loose, there’s a flood. Strength and success belong to God; both deceived and deceiver must answer to him. He strips experts of their vaunted credentials, exposes judges as witless fools. He divests kings of their royal garments, then ties a rag around their waists. He strips priests of their robes, and fires high officials from their jobs. He forces trusted sages to keep silence, deprives elders of their good sense and wisdom. He dumps contempt on famous people, disarms the strong and mighty. He shines a spotlight into caves of darkness, hauls deepest darkness into the noonday sun. He makes nations rise and then fall, builds up some and abandons others. He robs world leaders of their reason, and sends them off into no-man’s-land. They grope in the dark without a clue, lurching and staggering like drunks.”” Job 12:4-25 MSG

Though job let’s out hot anger, he never ceases to recognize that God is God. And though he does complain (and a lot) he recognizes the only person to actually complain to is God, this is good advice, go to God directly.

For the bulk of this book, 34 chapters, we now see a long and painfully drawn out dialogue between Job and his friends.

Job’s friends who had been with him through the good times, began well when things fell apart for him. They sat with him quietly for 7 days. But then their patience ran out. They began to “quote scripture” at him without inspired revelation of if that scripture was accurate to what Job was going through.

They claim to understand his situation and claim to be in a place to pass judgement.

Having gone through my own stripping journey I can say that is truly one of the hardest parts of the journey. Good believing friends giving you misplaced bad advice and saying it is from God. It is salt in a wound.

But even that becomes part of the strengthening process. God allowed Job to go through that until the appointed time when God Himself defended His friend Job. Job got a much deeper revelation of God’s goodness in ALL circumstances and a trust like he had never had before, childlike trust.

“And now, finally, GOD answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much! Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that! Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? How was its foundation poured, and who set the cornerstone, While the morning stars sang in chorus and all the angels shouted praise? And who took charge of the ocean when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb? That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds, and tucked it in safely at night. Then I made a playpen for it, a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose, And said, ‘Stay here, this is your place. Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.’” Job 38:1-11 MSG

God continues to lay out case after case of how He sees and knows more than Job.

“GOD then confronted Job directly: “Now what do you have to say for yourself? Are you going to haul me, the Mighty One, into court and press charges?”

Job answered: “I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen.”” Job 40:1-5 MSG

God then proceeds to ask Job some questions,

“GOD addressed Job next from the eye of the storm, and this is what he said: “I have some more questions for you, and I want straight answers.

“Do you presume to tell me what I’m doing wrong? Are you calling me a sinner so you can be a saint? Do you have an arm like my arm? Can you shout in thunder the way I can? Go ahead, show your stuff. Let’s see what you’re made of, what you can do. Unleash your outrage. Target the arrogant and lay them flat. Target the arrogant and bring them to their knees. Stop the wicked in their tracks—make mincemeat of them! Dig a mass grave and dump them in it— faceless corpses in an unmarked grave. I’ll gladly step aside and hand things over to you— you can surely save yourself with no help from me!” Job 40:6-14 MSG

He then goes on to lay out how he created creation with specifics. God is giving Job perspective again. This is fear of the Lord. When all is burning down it is so easy to get tunnel vision and cease to see the big picture. Remember that “this too shall pass” and your life isn’t over. This is selfish, only looking inward instead of keeping our eyes fixed on God. So what God does out of his great mercy for us is remind us how big and strong and yes even scary he can be. This reminds us of our place, and our place protects us. But we see through this our place isn’t lowly and small. Our place is “friend” of God.

Job says to God,

“Job answered GOD: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”” Job 42:1-6 MSG

This is after God had allowed Job to lose his children, his home, his health, and his entire livelihood. Then add on top of that his own wife and friends turned against him.

“After GOD had finished addressing Job, he turned to Eliphaz the Temanite and said, “I’ve had it with you and your two friends. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me—not the way my friend Job has.” Job 42:7-8 MSG

“My friend job”. Though we see God address Job’s pain and anger, when it comes to Job’s friends God makes it very clear what His relationship with Job is. He is Job’s friend.

God then does something striking. After all this, and IN THE MIDDLE of Job’s trial God has him minister before the Lord on behalf of his friends.

“So here’s what you must do. Take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my friend Job. Sacrifice a burnt offering on your own behalf. My friend Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer. He will ask me not to treat you as you deserve for talking nonsense about me, and for not being honest with me, as he has.”” Job 42:7-8 MSG

“Not being honest with me as he has”. This is so striking to me. Job lost it all. Job glorified God, Job hit his limit. Job lost it at God and God came near to Job, helped him get recentered on the truth and then reaffirmed his identity as “friend” of God and asked him to intercede for his friends who has just been hurting him. This is so what ministry on this earth looks like!

God gave Job perspective, then with proper perspective God had him minister, and then look what happens…

“After Job had interceded for his friends, GOD restored his fortune—and then doubled it! All his brothers and sisters and friends came to his house and celebrated. They told him how sorry they were, and consoled him for all the trouble GOD had brought him. Each of them brought generous housewarming gifts.

GOD blessed Job’s later life even more than his earlier life. He ended up with fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand teams of oxen, and one thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first daughter Dove, the second, Cinnamon, and the third, Darkeyes. There was not a woman in that country as beautiful as Job’s daughters. Their father treated them as equals with their brothers, providing the same inheritance.” Job 42:10-15 MSG

AFTER Job agreed to get up and intercede for those who had hurt him he saw the breakthrough. That was his final task. The key that unlocked the door to his restoration.

When you do the math everything listed here IS double what is written in the first chapter. It’s even written in the same order:

7,000 sheep (Job 1:3) —> 14,000 sheep (Job 42:12)

3,000 camels (1:3) —> 6,000 camels (42:12)

500 teams of oxen (1:3) —> 1,000 teams of oxen (42:12)

500 donkeys (1:3) —> 1,000 donkeys (42:12)

Everything is doubled EXCEPT his children…

7 sons, 3 daughters (Job 1:2)

7 sons, 3 daughters (Job 42:13)

Why? I had always wrestled with this. Losing property and things is one thing. I couldn’t understand how God could “replace” his children. Recently I heard a sermon on this subject. The pastor reminds us that it says, “GOD restored his fortune—and then doubled it!” (Job 42:10). 7 sons and 3 daughters isn’t double, it’s the same as what he originally had. But these children have different names. They are not the original children listed. So what’s God saying here? This minister believes that God actually raised his original children from the dead, THEN gave him ANOTHER 7 sons and 3 daughters equaling the DOUBLE blessing recompense it says he received.

I LOVE THIS. I can’t not see that solution now. God is a God who loves to bring the dead back to life. Job went on a supernatural journey. Satan was testing him. Why would God have not provided a supernatural solution to what was stolen?

Moreover it says Job named them all these playful flowery names. Why? HE’S SO JOYFUL! And after what he went through he simply doesn’t seem to care anymore about what people think. After everything I’ve gone through I can relate to this, and it’s one of the greatest gifts of this kind of difficult road, the freedom from what other people think.

Finally it says that he treated his daughters, “as EQUALS with their brothers, providing the same inheritance.” Job became so free from convention and cultural norms after everything that he went through that he managed to see back to the original intent of God’s heart in the garden of eden, that men and women have always been designed as EQUALS IN VALUE! He restored creation in his family!

This is what these trials produce in us! Such deep perspective that afterwards every part of life is sweetened, and your primary desire is to simply give thanks to our Lord for the goodness of it.

It says the Israelites knew God’s “acts” but Moses knew his “WAYS” (Psalm 103:7). In other words the suffering pushes us deeper into intimacy and we see God face to face in a way we just can’t from a distance. You can see His mighty deeds, the Egyptians saw them too in the 10 plagues. But only a “friend,” up close and personal, comes to experience His WAYS. The suffering trials we go through allow us opportunities to choose to get up close and personal.

They are ultimately gifts, as hard as they are in the moment. And on the other side we can say, like Job, “He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me [in the fire], I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 NIV

There is one more element to this story that is worth noting. If you remember this drama began with a conversation between God and Satan. Where Satan was trying to prove that he knew better than God about the true heart of Job. How did this turn out for Satan? In a powerful book written on the effectiveness of prayer, Dr. Ed Silvoso explains –

“A trial requires two fiercely opposing parties for its painful pressure to develop… We are one of those [parties]; the devil is the other one. However, in the midst of these frays, we tend to focus exclusively on the damage done to us or to our loved ones. We seldom, if ever, realize what the trial has done to the opposing party, the devil. Consider the way most Christians process Job’s tribulation. We concentrate almost exclusively on what Job lost and how much he suffered, and we fail to see the main point in this epic drama: The devil lost big to a mere human being. Satan ended up discredited and humiliated before his own demons. What the devil values the most, his pride, lay shattered at Job’s feet. Take heart. Even though we suffer, we always end up stronger than the devil.” – Prayer Evangelism by Dr. Ed Silvoso, pg. 25

If you find yourself struggling to give thanks in the middle of the raging storm, I hope you can find hope in the Job story. Don’t be afraid to pour out your heart as Job did to God. And know that sooner or later, this trial WILL come to an end.

2 comments

  1. Thanks alot for sharing this “in detail”. I was sharing God’s word/love with a non-believer this week and they brought “Job” up and asked how “our good God could do this to him and to other believers who truly love and worship and completely trust in Him, especially some with not a so happy ending as Job’s.
    I honestly struggled to find the right answer to their question except shared part of my personal story with them.
    But reading your detailed coverage of Job has given me ALOT of insight and truths to encourage this non- believer with.
    I pray for wisdom and more understanding as I share this with them.

    God bless you abundantly!

    Liked by 1 person

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