For some of us who are in a love-relationship with Jesus, these are the “best of times.” God seems to be showering us with undeserved spiritual peace, emotional vibrancy, sensual pleasure, earthly possessions, physical health, ecclesiastical joy, and relational peace, and it is incredibly easy for us to sing songs of praise with a bounce in our step and a smile on our face. There is no need for us to feel guilty about our present condition. It is a gift from God. Therefore, let us be happy, thankful and humble. It is good to enjoy the fun days ordained and gifted by our Heavenly Father.
There are others of us who are also in a love-relationship with Jesus, who fins ourselves experiencing the “worst of times.” We are suffering as:
- Family members and loved ones are deceased.
- Mental faculties of dear ones are deteriorating.
- Bearing healthy children has not been a gift granted to us.
- Our financial trajectory is trending in a negative direction.
- Our “better half” is abusive, adulterous, apathetic, or absent.
- Governmental or social injustice weighs heavy upon us.
- Personal temptations have come back with a vengeance.
- Our life-goals are proving to be unreachable and unrealistic.
- Prodigal children and friends are adding scars and causing grief.
- Our bodies are aging and wearing out.
- The number of your days seem to be coming to an end, and for some of us, they are not coming to an end as quickly as we might desire.
- Hope is gone.
Well friends, welcome to the world of Job. Like you and me, Job too started off his journey as a totally depraved man at enmity with God. However, due to the sovereign love and election of God, he found himself entirely transformed by the gracious performance of his Creator, Lord, Judge, and Savior. Because of what God had done, was doing, and would do in his life, Job was declared to be “blameless and upright.” (1:1, 8) He became one who feared God and turned away from temptation. (1:1, 8) This man of God was diligent in passing along his faith to his children as he continually sought God’s sacrificial, substitutionary, and unmerited grace for them. (1:5) And he seemed to be a godly husband, father, and business man who had his act together. He was one who enjoyed a love-relationship with the Lord, and he seemed to be enjoying the “best of days.”
And when God began the process of allowing certain material blessings to be taken away from him, Job started off worshiping so well. His words of worship became famous,
“Naked I came from may mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord … Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 1:20; 2:10)
However, despite God’s unwavering and perfect love for Job, and despite Job’s attempt at having a faithful love for God, Job’s bad days became bitter days. For Job, these were the “worst of days.” Job became traumatized by unbearable physical, emotional, mental, material, spiritual, and relational pain. As a result, his wife encouraged him to curse God and die. (2:8) And as will be seen throughout the book, Job began to lament the day of his birth before finally questioning the goodness of his God. By the end of the narrative, Job will not be found without sin. He will need to repent of his very understandable but very ungodly sentiments and statements.
Therefore, as we read through this poetic history of a sorely oppressed man of God, what ought we to keep in mind? Here are some big themes for us to keep before us as we review Job’s trials and experience our own:
Bad beings we are. Left to themselves, Adam, Able, Seth, Enoch, Noah, and Job were not inherently righteous. They were all horrible sinners who deserved nothing but God’s curse on earth and for eternity. They deserved not one iota of the blessings they received. None are righteous; no not one; no not Job; no not us.
Bad beings become God’s friends by grace alone. Just as Job was declared blameless and righteous when he was not, so too is that the situation for many of us today. Anyone who turns from their own “pretended holiness” and trust whole-heartedly in the “provided holiness” of Jesus Christ, they can instantly, entirely, and permanently find themselves to be blameless, righteous, and holy friends of God.
Bad things happen to God’s friends. Prosperity Theology is a quack! Able suffered. Noah suffered. Job suffered. Abraham and Sarah suffered. Joseph suffered. Need I continue on throughout the Old Testament? Jesus suffered. All his disciples suffered. What is this “Name it and Claim it” junk? Do not be naive. Do not be surprised. Do not be misled. It is God’s will for all his children to suffer in various times and ways and for various reasons.
Bad things and bad beings who do bad things are controlled by a good and sovereign God. God does not do evil, but God does control the evil done by Satan, the Chaldeans, and the Sabeans. Undoubtedly, there are many who lust to do us harm — some are on the earth, some are of the demonic brand. But they cannot harm us apart from the good decision of our Good Heavenly Father. They are evil. God is good. And God uses their evil to accomplish his good purposes for his people and his kingdom.
Bad responses do come from the best of God’s friends. Throughout this book, we see God’s friends responding wrongly to the suffering he has ordained and allowed. Job’s wife encouraged him to curse God and die. Job’s friends gave him foolish counsel. And Job, though he started off so well, ended up having to repent to his response. As God allows harm to befall us, let us not sin, but as we do sin, let us not doubt the unwavering affection of our Heavenly Father towards his sinful sons and daughters.
Bad beings, who are not God’s friends, have their worst of days ahead of them. God has created the Lake of Fire for the devil, his demons, and those who perish in their totally depraved condition. Let us never question that all will be made right, and let us make sure that we are found in Christ before the woeful day of judgment. We do not want to receive that which we have earned.
Bad beings who are God’s friends, have their best of days ahead of them. This world is the only “heaven” the unbeliever will ever experience, but this world is the only “hell” the believer will ever experience. How sweet will be the day when we enjoy and glorify God without any hint of sin in us or around us. Let us keep our eye on the prize while we are suffering so.
Bad responses from God’s friends do not thwart God’s sanctifying and comforting affection. Regardless of how we have responded thus far, God is an ever-present help in our time of trouble. He is present right now in his Word. He is present as you find your prayer closet and communicate with him. He is present in his worship services as friends gather around the Word, Prayer, and sacraments. And he is present through the fellowship of saints that are gifted by him to help you carry your load. Friends, God’s painful days are not to be endured in isolation. Therefore, bring your sorrows to Christ and his church. The family of God exists for far more than singing happy songs to Jesus in a perpetual pep-rally. Sometimes we worship properly and encourage best by crying together. It is good to encourage. It is good to counsel. It is goods to lament. And sometimes, it is good to sit in silence together, holding one another in our arms, as we wait for God to make all things right — either in this life or the next.