The book of Job shocks its reader at almost every point. We avoid it, we are confused by it, terrified by it, scandalized by it, and certainly if we’re honest- we want no part in it. Who would? These are nice lessons for Job- nice lessons to read about- but keep it far away from my tent.
Some may sympathize with Job, others, shake their head in disbelief that a man God called “blameless” would desire to die and accuse God of taking pleasure in his pain. We might flatter ourselves, think Job a fool.
Well, I am of the conviction that there is far more of me in Job’s worst responses than I would like to admit. And when I read of his life I see that he had more good works in one week than I have had in a lifetime. In light of his deeds and God’s estimation of him- I think I’d be a fool to think myself better than God’s servant Job.
We come to the book of Job looking for a hero. Think about it- what words of Job do you ever hear quoted? “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21),” and maybe “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil (Job 2:10).” Very righteous, noble responses. Very little is ever spoken about the entire rest of the book.
My husband and I read the book through recently and at times I thought- should I even be reading this out loud? Some of Job’s responses seemed so close to blasphemy I was afraid to repeat them. Why don’t we hear about that?
As I’ve thought about this I’ve wondered if we not only desire a hero in Job- but also in all human sufferers. Especially righteous ones- the Christians we know who are going through pain.
How many times have I heard about the woman who always kept a smile in spite of her battle with cancer. The woman who had ten children and never once complained or raised her voice. The martyrs who joyfully sang while being burned alive.
Maybe. But perhaps all anyone ever saw was the smiles. The patience. The calm. The glorious singing. If we think that’s all there ever was for that soul- we’re wrong. We’ve fabricated a hero. A super hero even.
How do I know that?
One, I’m human also. I’ve known times of suffering. The weeping tarries for the night and the morning’s joy is hard fought for. The battle for faith can be ugly, the refiners fire excruciating, and yes- the praise, all the more heartfelt and sincere on account of it all.
But one thing I have come to see (and will come to see again and again)- there is no strength in myself. I am no hero. My willpower, my resolve, no- not even my “good” theology, is going to get me through the hardest days. God is my strength. His grace gets me through those days (and really every day). If it were left to me there are times when the only thing left of my day would be torn shards of defeat and curses. As Joni Earikson Tada often says, “I have no smile for these people. God give me your smile.” I appreciate her honesty and the God who grants smiles to downcast souls.
Secondly, I don’t see super hero humans in scripture, I see faithful, weak, men empowered by the Holy Spirit and upheld by God.
See David say “If the Lord had not been my help my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul (Psalm 94:17-19).”
Or Jeremiah speak so much like Job “Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame (Jeremiah 20:18)?”
Or Paul “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2Corinthians 1:8-9).”
When human strength is emptied and men despair of life- they come to rely on God’s power and not their own.
Third, the Scripture is pretty clear God uses weak men to display His power.
2Corinthians 4:7-11 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
So when we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and dying, we display the power of God and the life of Jesus. Against all odds we are not crushed, not despairing, not struck down, not destroyed- how? By Christ alone.
Remember God’s answer to Paul when he cried out to have the thorn removed from his flesh? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So Paul says “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2Corinthians 12:8-10).”
It appears again that weak, hurting, hated vessels are perfect for displaying God’s power.
Does this truth not go straight back to the point of salvation?
1Corinthians 1:27-29 “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
So what is the application for all this?
One, we should not boast in men- not in ourselves or in others. When tragedy strikes and we see a Christian family testify to the goodness of God in the face of debilitation or death, we often say: “Look how strong they are. I could never go through that.”
Yet do we really believe any mother is strong enough to bury her child? Or a husband clothe and feed his wife? No, I do not believe so. We are all made of this same flesh, this same overwhelming frailty. Instead, we must praise the God who sustains, upholds, and strengthens.
Two, do not be surprised by the weakness in yourself or others. When we see weakness in others (whether in the form of sin, depression, doubt, etc) it is easy to imagine ourselves dealing with circumstances far better than that person. But the fact remains- we are not that person, we are not in their circumstance, and we ought rather to sympathize and recognize the very proneness in ourselves to wander.
When we see weakness in ourselves in similar forms, we are dismayed, and ashamed. We seek to cover it up, pretend it isn’t there. Shouldn’t we have learned our lessons by now? Don’t we know God’s truth well enough to be beyond this point of weakness already? Really, it is pride that is surprised by our weaknesses. We need to stop thinking so highly of ourselves and rest on the mercy and power of God.
Thirdly, all broken saints can and must cast themselves upon the Lord.
If trials bring you to the point that you are certain only God Himself can bring you through another minute- that is exactly where God wants you to be. It can be a horrible place, yet a place of the most great spiritual blessings, faith, and intimacy with God.
As Charles Spurgeon said: “Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord who forsaketh not His saints. Live by the day—aye, by the hour… Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord.”
There is a place where Christians can lose sight of hope. Scripture evades you, pain envelops you, weariness sets in, and you are losing the fight. In fact, you are not sure you even want to shake off the dust and battle yet again. Like Jonah you have felt “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head (Jonah 2:5).”
As Elihu said to Job, God can “Deliver (us) from going down into the pit (Job 33:24).” The same God who spared not His Son to save us from our sins and hell- “how will he not also with him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?”
Remember “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:36,37).”
God’s strength will prevail to grant us power in our greatest weakness and need- yes, even and especially in the pain of our own sin and doubts.
Finally, we remember that the hero of every Christian’s story is ultimately God. It’s not that we don’t take comfort and find encouragement in the testimonies of faithful sufferers, from both the bible and from history. We do! But behind that conquering sufferer we see that the war was only won through Him who loved us. We see grace and mercy, ill-deserved, and lavishly poured out. That is what I saw in the book of Job, and that is why I wrote this poem. I think it fits well with James 4:11 “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
“Was Job a champion of faith?
Only, entirely, of grace.
What was the purpose of the Lord?
‘Tis care and mercy shown toward
Faltering, feeble, struggling saints
Rescued- in spite of our complaints.
Take heart, the hero of this story-
God- who works all things for glory.”
Read whole poem at: http://cometochrist.ca/job-a-champion-of-faith-by-grace/