Job 1:12 “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well then! Everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself, do not lay a finger.’”
Oh no. Several important truths emerge from this scene, not the least of which is that God is sovereign in all things. He is on the throne of heaven, the angels do His will and report to Him, and even Satan can do nothing to God’s people without God’s permission. “The Almighty” is one of the key names for God in Job; it is used thirty-one times. From the outset, the writer reminds us that, no matter what happens in this world and in our lives, God is on the throne and has everything under control.
Satan can touch God’s people only with God’s permission, and God uses it for their good and His glory. Phillips Brooks said, “The purpose of life is the building of character through truth.” God is at work in our lives to make us more like Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29), and He can use even the attacks of the devil to perfect us. When we are in the path of obedience and we find ourselves in a severe trial, let’s remind ourselves that nothing can come to our life that is outside His will.
Because God gave Satan permission, he attacked Job.
Job went from the greatest man in the East—“Time Man of the Year”—to a pitiful beast that had lost everything! He lost his money, his savings, his 401K, his job, his company, his employees, and most importantly, he lost every single one of his children—dead in a moment! He had nothing left, except his wife and his health. Unbelievable! Suffering that pounds down on you like a relentless storm, or a rushing flood that keeps coming, and coming, and coming, and coming has been going on since the dawn of mankind. The reality of suffering is tough! It’s harsh! It’s real! It’s painful…It pushes us off into the deep end of life and makes us start asking questions, and making decisions that we never dared dream we’d have to make.
There are all kinds and varieties of loss and suffering. Suffering that is from the consequences of our choices, suffering that is the consequences of other’s choices, our fallen world that is broken, and there is the kind of suffering that is hard to explain where it came from. In the book of Job we’re looking at the kind of suffering that comes out of nowhere. Job’s kind of suffering is not deserved or explained to him. We too may face something we don’t deserve it, and we can’t figure it out! We’re mad, and we’re angry, and we’re in pain, and we’re wondering why it is happening? Primarily, “Why is it happening to me? God, where are You?”
As I’ve walked this journey with God on earth, I’ve discovered that suffering is a part of the package. It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist, or an agnostic, or a Christian, a Buddhist, or whatever your religious perspective is, we’re going to have to deal with suffering, pain, and tragedy.
From the Christian world-view, I’ve discovered that suffering is a part of the package, but it’s not only a part of the package of following God; it’s also somehow a part of His wonderful, terrible, awful, beautiful plan for our lives.
Job lost it all! It was all gone! The company was gone. The money was gone. The sounds of his children laughing—gone. How was he going to respond? All Heaven and all Hell were waiting to see how Job was going to respond.
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
How did Job respond when he was pushed out into the deep end of life? He responded with raw worship. Not “Zippity-do-dah! Praise God! He’s going to make everything better” worship! No! Raw worship! He looked to his beginning. He said, “I came into this world naked.” He looked at the very end—“I’m going to die naked” and he said “In between, I’m going to hold on to God! I’m going to hold on for His wonderful, mysterious, painful plan, no matter what, because I trust in Him!” Basically what Job was saying was this, “You know Lord, despite the fact that I’ve lost everything; somehow I believe that You are in this. God, somehow, You’re in this mess. God, somehow, You are in this pain that I am facing and going through. Somehow, You are in the middle of it.”
We can’t control the level and the amount of pain, suffering and loss we’re going to experience in life. We can’t control it! Suffering is a reality. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when and how much… But one thing we can control, and that is our response to suffering. We can control our response to pain. One of the realities and truths I want write about in the following few weeks is, How do we respond? How do we make wise choices? Godly choices? Healthy choices that allow us somehow to transcend, and in some circumstances, allow even the pain and the hurt, and the chaos to actually transform our lives?
“It is not the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives; for that is as inevitable as death. It is how we respond to loss that matters. That response will largely determine the quality, the direction, and the impact of our lives.” Jerry Stitzer
It’s interesting as we look at Job, as we read this ancient story, this ancient piece of literature, or poetry. We have an advantage that he didn’t have. First of all, we can read the story, and like when we rent a DVD, we have the behind-the-scenes, how-they-made-the-film version. The director is talking, “Well, what’s really going on here is this cosmic wager that doesn’t make very much sense between God and Satan.” But we know that. Job doesn’t know that! Job is just experiencing the raw, rugged reality of suffering like we do—cold, tough, and seemingly random.
We also have another advantage that Job did not have. We know God’s response to our suffering. Christianity teaches that God has become a Man in Jesus Christ. He has entered into our world. Jesus entered into our pain; He entered into our loneliness; He entered into our rejection. He took the rejection; He took the pain; He took the violence upon Himself. He took all evil upon Himself on the Cross. He died, but He rose again.
Now, when we pray and cry out to God like Job did, in the middle of our pain, in the middle of our suffering; we know that we have a God who can relate to what we’re going through, because He Himself has been in the middle of it, and He has passed through the pain and suffering. So Jesus knows what it’s like.
How did God respond to our pain and suffering? He responded with a suffering Savior who can give us strength; who can give us power; who can empathize, and sympathize with whatever we’re going through! That is the kind of God we worship! We don’t worship some impersonal force; some God who is way up there from a distance who is remote! We worship a God who has actually come near and entered into our world, and entered into our pain. It doesn’t solve the riddle; it doesn’t solve the mystery of the big question; but we know that God understands.
It’s not so much that God has a wonderful plan for your life and mine, though I believe He does have a plan! He does have a purpose. Maybe a better way to phrase it is that God doesn’t so much have a wonderful plan for our lives; but God has a wonderful Person for our lives. That Person is the God-Man, Jesus, the One with the scars on His hands, and feet, and side; the One who has conquered even death and the grave for us. He’s with us even when life pushes us out into the deep end. He’s with you, he is with me. Thank you Lord Jesus.
Additional Sources: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry, Life Application Bible Notes, Dr. Ben Young