Job 23:8-10 (NIV)
8 “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him.
9 “When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
10 “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
Job was having more than just a bad day. His business had failed, his children had died, his wife left him, and his health was failing. Added to that, Job’s friends were accusing him of being unrighteous, and no matter how loudly Job lamented, he had received no response from God. Yes, Job was having far worse than a lousy day.
We’ve all been there at one time or another, going through times that go beyond “troubled” and into “tragic.” At times like those, we feel we know what Job was going through. We think we know that feeling of having the rug pulled out from beneath our lives. We’re sure we could have commiserated with Job far better than his three so-called “friends.” And, like Job, we often feel like God isn’t listening to us, that He isn’t even aware of our sufferings. We don’t see God moving in our lives, and so even in the midst of our enduring faith there is a note of despair.
In today’s verses, we see another facet of Job’s great faith. Earlier in the book, we have seen that Job still loves and trusts God, but he just wants to know why God would allow so much tragedy to befall a faithful servant. Job’s friends mourn with him a while and then they answer Job’s question with accusations and false notions about God’s will and ways. Eliphaz the Temanite has just told Job:
Job 22:21-25 (NIV)
21 “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.
22 “Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart.
23 “If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored:
If you remove wickedness far from your tent
24 “and assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines,
25 “then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you.”
Of course, by telling Job to “return to the Almighty,” Eliphaz is implying that Job had LEFT God, that Job had turned away from God and His righteousness. Eliphaz is also implying that prosperity ALWAYS follows faith and righteous living. Job responds that he would love to face God, but that, try as he might, he hasn’t found God nor His dwelling place.
And yet despite not having found God, despite no clear evidence of God either working in his life or ignoring him altogether, Job still believes he will be restored. More than that, Job believes he is being refined by his troubles, that on the other side of his tribulation lies glorification. Peter expresses the same idea in his first epistle:
1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV)
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
7 These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Job and Peter both understood that the trials of this world are temporary. We will undoubtedly face troubles in our lives, but those troubles are not the be-all and end-all of our existence. We have to trust that God’s greater will shall be done in our lives. Like Job, we may moan and complain and cry out to God for redress or relief, but we must hold fast to our faith. In the end, Job’s faith redeemed him in the eyes of the Lord, because Job never stopped believing that God would restore him.
Yes, we’ve heard the admonition before, that we all suffer and yet we must cling to the hope of Christ. We have heard it before, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear it again and again. We have probably even had friends like Eliphaz tell us our God is vindictive and that our faith is too small. Don’t you believe Eliphaz in your life! If we have repented of our sins and believe on Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we can rest assured that nothing Satan or the world throws at us will ever take away God’s love. (Romans 8:31-39) In fact, if we cling to Christ in the face of troubles, we can be even more sure of our salvation, because we can know our lives are being refined by the fires of tribulation. Even if we never see God working toward our restoration in this mortal realm, we can rest assured that He has already done the work of our eternal salvation. More than that, despite our present and temporary troubles, we should be filled with joy in our salvation and in the present and future glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, such trials as are in my life must pale in comparison to the rebellion of Your sons and daughters here on earth. Refine me, O Lord, and restore my heart and my strength. I would be lying if I said I welcomed trials, and yet if it is Your will and if it glorifies You, then I will accept trials and still rejoice in You. Thank You for redeeming me and for bringing me through my troubles. Amen.