But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
My foot has held fast to his steps;
I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.
But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
What he desires, that he does.
In my personal devotions I have been going through the book of Job. I wanted to share with you a few things that have been an encouragement and a challenge from this.
Job’s situation was very personal in that it was a very specific trial directed at him as an individual. We can’t take a direct comparison. Yet we can learn lessons and take encouragements.
It’s easy at the moment to see the obvious trials people are going through as some are very much alone while others face their situations with family. Although not everyone will make it obvious they are struggling and the struggles they have may not be the obvious ones. On top of this there are the daily personal struggles people have.
Here are just a few thoughts on how we can help ourselves and support others whatever the trials and testings.
1. Trials are to be Expected.
I’m sure we don’t need convincing of that but Job 5:7 reminds us “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”
2. Trials Elicit a response!
We see first Job’s response to his own trials as he turned to God with his pleading, his complaints and frustrations. Although on occasions he does respond to his friends, mostly he directs his responses at God. Why? Because even in his confusion he recognises who God is.
With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. (Job 12:13).
Even when he can’t see where God is, he recognises God’s hand on him.
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind (Job 23:8–14).
There is a challenge here for us – What is our first response when things go wrong? Is it to turn to God or turn to others?
Secondly we see how Job’s friends responded. On the whole Job’s friends get a bad press, so much so that is a common phrase even outside of Christian circles to talk of a ‘Job’s comforter’ However I think there are a few things we need to give them credit for.
i. They came!
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.” (Job 2:11)
They came a long way, they didn’t just send a little note saying “thinking of you” (not that that is necessarily always wrong) and then think their job was done, they took sacrificial action. When a friend is in need are we willing to take sacrificial action, whatever that looks like?
ii. They were there!
What’s the difference been going somewhere and just being there? Its a subtle but real difference. Sometimes we can be so busy when we visit someone taking action like making tea, talking to them and others but are we really there with them?
“And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven
nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” (Job 2:13).
Romans 12:15 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” So the Challenge here is – Do we take time to just be with people?
iii. They spoke!
This is where things went a little wrong! If you look at where they draw their lessons from actually on the surface it seems good. They drew on theology and history. Not a bad starting place but there were a few problems with their approach. The first problem was their theology was lacking, they had an all Law and no Grace approach. The second problem was a lack of understanding. They couldn’t understand what was happening, so they desperately searched for a way to explain it. Job must have sinned. Sometimes as in Job’s case we do not know the reasons, only God does. We should not invent an answer where there is not a clear one. The third problem was that they listened to Job’s words without really trying to understand what he was feeling. Sometimes the two are not the same!
What lessons can we learn?
- Sometimes there is place for talking. Ecclesiastes 3:7b “ a time to be silent and a time to speak” also the Preacher says “ there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing” The writer didn’t have in mind our very current situation!
- A good friend needs more than theology, they need the wisdom to know how to apply it. God rebuked Job’s friends for the way they applied their theology. Job 42:7 “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
- A wise friend listens with their heart and responds to emotions as well as to words.
3. Trials have an Effect.
Trials can have a huge array of effects on us, we have all seen people who have become so bitter they have turned away from God, friends or family. Yet trials caused Job to turn to God in a new and fresh way and it enhanced his relationship with God:
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now
my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5).
He then ends in prayer for his friends. (Job 42:10) “And the Lord
restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.”
Will our trials draw us closer to God or cause us to turn away? Tim Keller says “The more true Job’s knowledge of God, the more fruitful his prayers become and the more sweeping the change in his life”.
The above is by Tirzah Jones. Shared recently in a Malpas Road Ladies Meeting (via Zoom!)