You may want to read:
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1).
I know, I know: there are no good people. I understand. But Job was a good guy who tried to do the right thing. Now and again, he did wrong, but you would characterize him as a good person. I am sure his sin struggles were more episodic than they were patterns. Everyone sins. I sin daily, but characterized by sin is not how things ought to be, and Job was not that way. He was a man who loved God. He was a saint who occasionally sinned. He went about doing good. He was aware of the wisdom of honoring the Lord (Job 1:5), and he was not fearful in his service to the Lord. Job is the kind of guy I want to be when I grow up, a man worth aspiring to.
Job was faithful, sober-minded, and humble. God blessed him in profound and bountiful ways. And, as you know, his obedience did not automatically give him a free pass from trouble. Occasionally, you will hear it stated or implied this way: “He was a good guy. I don’t know why that happened to him. Of all the people to have something terrible happen, I would have never thought it would have been him.” It is a trap to believe that if any of us do good, God will bless us or, even worse; God must bless us because we have done the right things. God does not have to reward us with blessings that fit our preferences.
This kind of thinking will entangle our motives and run our thoughts off sound theological tracks. It is a setup for anger and bitterness toward God, especially when bad things happen to us. It will create jealousy in the heart, as the hurting soul thinks about others who are not suffering as much, especially those who are not trying to walk with God. Sometimes, it will motivate a person to leave the Lord altogether. This response was the devil’s insinuation: Job only served God because God blessed him (Job 1:9). How about you? What are your motives for serving the Lord? Be honest. Do you believe in the retributive principle: “If I do good, God will bless me; if I do evil, God might get me for that.” I would appeal to you to slow down long enough to seriously consider these questions because they are trajectory-setting. Do you serve God for something? For nothing? For self? For His glory?
Job did not initially realize that what was happening to him was from the hand of the Lord. Though later, he seemed to have reflected on it, as he called it the blast of God, the implication of Job 4:9. Though his troubles were a mystery to him, the fire from God did fall. The winds from God’s breath did blow, and in a matter of minutes, Satan had destroyed Job’s sacred, sanctified, and satisfying life (Job 1:20-22). Sometimes, there is a desire on our part to protect God’s reputation, especially in moments of deep and mysterious trials.
When we cannot solve the mystery, and we feel pressed for an answer, the temptation could be to defend God. This response does not help God, us, or others. May I state it plainly: God blindsided Job while he was doing good (Job 1:16). There is no other way to explain it, and why would we because it is clear: there was a backstory conversation between God and Satan. The Lord removed the hedge surrounding Job and his family, and all hell broke loose on them. The radicalness of God demands we understand how He will allow pain and suffering into our lives (John 3:16). Within minutes, Job was sitting in the squalor of his brokenness, and everything that used to be was no more.
The first thing that would come to my mind in a situation like this would be, “Why, Lord?” It would be easy for me to not only question God about what had happened but yield to the temptation by accusing Him. Job was different than me. His response was stunning. Rather than blaming God, he took the opportunity during his darkest trial to praise the One he loved most. Read what happened moments after the dust settled. Be amazed at his response. Perhaps you can do as I did and aspire to be like Job should trouble come into your life.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:20-22).
When Job fell on the ground, he worshiped the Lord. It bears repeating: he worshiped the Lord. Job’s response to God was not the case with me. When devastation came into my life, I also fell to the ground. The difference was that I did not worship God in that moment or the days that followed. I cried and wailed, longing for God to return my lost things. Those things were my wife and two small children, who left, never to return. There could only be one human-centered response to my tragedy: God makes things right according to my interpretation of what should be right in my situation. Besides, all things work together for good, and God hates divorce, and so forth, and so on, so how could it be otherwise: God was going to give me what I wanted, the way I wanted it, and when I wanted it.
As the days ambled by and God was not answering my prayer requests the way I laid them out for him, my heart began to turn to that old suffering saint in the Old Testament. I did not want to go there because I knew enough about his story to know it did not align with what I hoped to gain from the hand of God. As I began to submerge myself in the book of Job, my heart was simultaneously stunned and overwhelmed, then convicted, encouraged, motivated, and directed. Job taught me there was a better way—a better object for my worship. Rather than placing my faith in what I lost or God’s ability to return my lost life, the Lord led me to re-establish my faith in Him, which was not contingent on the losses (Philippians 3:8).
When unpleasantness comes into your life, what is your response? What do the “turnings of your heart” reveal after being cast into the throes of disappointment? I do not ask these things as your critic. I ask them as a student who has sat where you may be sitting (Ezekiel 3:15; Daniel 3:1-30). What I have learned in the crucible of suffering is that how you answer those questions will reveal what holds sway over your heart (Luke 12:34). There is a true and living God (or god) whom you worship, and the object of your worship will rise above the rubble of your trouble, as it did during the dark times in Job’s life. Job did not have a worship disorder—at least not at the beginning of his trial. Though he was a saint who sins, which his later ordeal reveals, he knew whom he believed (Job 19:25). Though his soul went into a myriad of complexities after this initial worship time, right now—at the beginning of his crucible—he was clear-headed.
And he said, “Naked, I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return” (Job 1:21).
He immediately acknowledged his dependence on God as he covered the entire spectrum of his life. Job came into the world dependent (naked) upon the Lord, and Job knew he would leave this world dependent (naked) upon the Lord. From pillar to post, he was bum-naked, and any good thing between his entrance and exit was not a promise but a perk. Whether it was his past, present, or future, Job was self-aware of how he was naked and opened before God (Hebrews 4:13). He did not shrink back from a God-centered dependency by striving to rely on himself (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). He was weak and broken but not a fool (2 Corinthians 4:7). He knew what name to bless and the hand that brought forth both blessing and curse.
To become self-reliant in your darkest hour is similar to speeding down the Interstate blindfolded as your steering wheel comes off in your hand. Now you’re naked, totally dependent on a higher power. What will you do? Who will you turn to for help? What strategies are best for this situation? For me, somewhere between my naked entrance into this world and my yet-to-be-naked exit from this world, I became self-sufficient; I forgot about God, albeit subtly, but subtle enough to ignore robust theological necessities. As an infant, I learned to roll over and crawl. As a toddler, I mastered walking, talking, feeding, and fending for myself. As a young adult, I drifted from a dependency mindset, as though I no longer needed God.
It was a worldview that revered doing it my way when in reality, I was a nobody with no ability to manage anything well (Galatians 6:3). The fool says there is no God in his heart, and he is doubly a fool to live as though he does not need Him (Psalm 14:1-7). Job did not think the way I did. He was a God-aware, God-centered, God-trusting man. Do you see the humbling value of God reminding you how you are naked and need Him? Sometimes children need loving parents to remind them that they are not the center of the universe or king of the world. What would you be like today without the humbling hand of God working for you? Some folks in Genesis lived as though there was no God, hoping to establish themselves as a god, so they began building a tower to heaven (Genesis 11:1-9). Then the Lord gave them a Divine reminder that He is God alone, and only He can sit on the sphere of the earth (Isaiah 40:22).
“Blessed be the name of the Lord” is what Job said.
I love this statement. A great way of understanding it is by thinking about what he did not say. Job did not say, “Blessed be the hand of the Lord.” Do you see the difference? It is one of those transformational differences. Job was laser-locked on the right thing—the name, not the hand. His primary concern was not what the Lord gave to him or took away from him. What mattered to Job was God’s name, not His gifts. Typically, when I came home in the afternoons when our kids were younger, they would run into the garage to greet me. Inevitably, they were curious about what I brought home for them as they looked to catch a glimpse of a hopeful blessing in their daddy’s hand.
I would have a lollypop from the bank or something inexpensive that I picked up during my errands. It was fun to lavish them in simple ways. After a while, I noticed they showed more concern for what I brought to them than me. It was one of those small hurts as a parent that reminds you that it’s time to change things up a bit because I was unwittingly training our children to lower their sightlines to my hand, ignoring me. Job was not like this. His eyes were not on God’s hand but on God’s name. Most assuredly, he loved what God gave him; he’s human. But he was not managed by the gift but by the Giver. Because Job’s response was so different from mine, I had to settle into those final few verses of chapter one, thinking through how I had to change to maintain my sanity.
Perhaps you’re more like Job than me. If so, I rejoice in where you are with your walk with God. It’s a great place, no doubt. Perchance any of you are like me, it would be a fruitful time to self-assess. Are you more interested in what God will give you or what He may take away from you? Do you typically praise the Lord regardless of what you receive from Him (Job 38:1-3)? My questions fit nicely into Paul’s appeal to give thanks for all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The best way to answer my questions is to think about how you respond when you do not get what you want. I’m not asking you these things as though I have arrived. This battle in me is continual. It’s been many decades since the darkest night of my soul, and my sightlines can still lower to God’s hand rather than His holy name. My penchant for self-serving motives has necessitated the good Lord repeatedly reminding me of this truth, as any loving parent would. And with each blessed reminder, He is nudging me closer to living more like His Son.
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:22).
Some people have characterized Job as a whiny person. Perhaps later he was. When you think his response at the end of chapter one could not be any more profound, listen to the final line; just before the curtain brings us to a suspenseful end, we learn that in all these things, Job did not sin or charge God foolishly. Isn’t that incredible? May we linger here for a moment? May we hunker down while reflecting upon how he responded to God before crawling out of the epicenter of his tragedy? There are more complex intricacies to his trouble to talk about as we progress through his book, but it would be profitable to focus on this significant piece of grace operating in his heart as he staggers around the worst thing that had ever happened to him. What response would you have if you suffered such a great loss?
What is the one thing in your life you think you could not live without today? Name it if you can. If your answer is someone or something other than God, you could be only moments away from sinning and charging God foolishly. When I lost the three dearest people in my life, it took me four years to fully adjust my thinking about God and the redemptive purposes of suffering. The first chapter of Job represents only part of the things the Lord wanted me to discern and apply. It took me two years to process this chapter. I felt I could not press on until I wholly owned God’s words through my old friend, Job. His response to tragedy seemed to be an unscalable mountain. Mercifully, the Lord buried me in this chapter because He was relentless in His love for me. The Spirit of God persistently revealed how I could not move on to the end of Job’s book with a heart of transformed freedom until I singularly directed my worship to the Lord Jehovah alone.
I had a twisted heart. I was a two-master-lover. I wanted the Lord plus a few other things (Matthew 6:24). In time, God restored my soul to Himself, and I began to see Him in previously hidden ways. Knowing God and experiencing God are two different things. There are a lot of Christians who know Him, but only a few who have experienced Him in the way in which Paul longed to know Him (Philippians 3:10). Most of us intuitively know the radical nature of God, and it scares us. It should. Our God is a terrible God who wanted Job to experience Him beyond the intellectual know-how you can glean in a seminary or church Bible study. There is only one path for this kind of divine, experiential profundity (John 12:24). It looks like a crucible. For Jesus, it was a winepress called Gethsemane. Everyone’s context with God is different, but the purpose is always the same: to love and worship Him above anything else in our lives.
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:5-6).
I am unsure what Job expected from God at the beginning of his ordeal. He had a genuine but basic understanding of God. After you come to the end of his book, you hear him talking about his myopic experience with God and what it’s like when He rips the curtain back and allows him to see Him in the crucible. God blessed him in the beginning and transformed him in the end. Through the crucible of suffering, Job saw what he was supposed to see and was set free. My appeal to you is to carefully consider the things that blindside you. You do not want to miss the blessing of extraordinary suffering and the divine fruit that only God can produce through those unwanted challenges.
Keep in mind as you read this book that it’s a workbook, not “just another read” that you’re going through so you can get to the next one. This book is not primarily for the casual or the curious but for the concerned and convicted Christian who wants to experience change as they persevere in their crucible of suffering.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).