Have you ever heard or read a story more times than you can remember, yet all of a sudden it just hits differently? I find this to be true often with lyrics of a song or certain scriptures… I can be undergoing circumstances where it is like I am hearing for the first time, with new revelation!
I recently had this experience while reading through the book of Job. I have set out to read the chronological Bible for a few years now, and while I haven’t made it through every book, I always make it through Job. Yet, this time was different. I always looked back and knew Job endured great pain, yet I never really got into the pages and sat in that pain… trying to fathom what that experience was like… walking a mile in Job’s shoes.
Coming out of 2020 gave me new eyes, as I am sure it has many others… I watched my bonus (step) dad suffer for weeks through cancer… it was my first time witnessing a loved one take their last breath on this earth. I watched as others around me mourned the loss of loved ones, many times suddenly and unexpectedly. I witnessed hatred, injustice, deception and division happening all around my country, even amongst many whom I love dearly.
Grief, hurt, and disappointment (to name a few) just gripped me. My mind was being pulled from more meaningless day to day things, to compassion towards so many who were hurting, fearing, and struggling. So as I sat down to go through these stories I thought I knew so well, new insights started leaping from the pages.
Here are the new perspectives gained from journeying with Job with 2020 vision.
God Allows Pain
I learned that God didn’t inflict Job’s pain, He allowed it.
Hear me out on this one . . .
I understand that Job was a righteous man in the eyes of God. He was the perfect candidate for the enemy to try to derail (Why pick on an easy target?) So that’s just what he tried to do. The enemy told God that Job was only righteous because God had blessed him with riches. He (the enemy) wanted to test Job to “prove” that he would, indeed, curse God when harm fell upon him.
So, God allowed it. Yes that’s right; God allowed bad things to happen to a good person. As the reader, knowing how the story ends, I feel like we can almost miss it… Seeing the full spectrum, we know that God was NOT the one inflicting the pain. God was not punishing Job by killing off all of his children, livestock and producing boils on his body (just to name a few).
The reality of what is revealed here is that Satan did that. But how many times have we been like Job, so caught up in our own pain and agony, that we do believe God is inflicting pain on us? Believing that He has forsaken us?
But, I Don’t Deserve this God
One of the lessons that I have learned along the way is to be aware of what mindset I am operating out of. Anytime we partner with religion vs relationship and logic vs love, our perception of God can be so skewed. Religion is often centered on works to earn our inheritance, but we know that through Jesus’ death on the cross, we get to enter into relationship and love that is freely given, despite our messes. Getting stuck in religion can make us feel like we “get” good things when we are doing enough to please God. While He does reward, we can also be deceived in thinking that an agonizing situation or unanswered prayer means we messed up and are being punished.
Job’s friends were partnering with this mentality… logic instead of love for their dear friend. Rather than sitting in the pain with him (seated in love), they were trying to figure out the why (rooted in logic) behind his suffering. They made accusatory statements towards Job, claiming he couldn’t be that righteous or he wouldn’t be suffering punishment from God. I surely have discovered just how dangerous it is to fall into logic and reasoning! How about you?
Not only did they falsely accuse their friend’s character, they also falsified God’s nature, based on their own perceptions.
My six-year old son loves McDonald’s and chocolate. He has a regular habit of asking for happy meals or candy as a treat “because he has been good.” I had to have the conversation with him, letting him know that, just because he doesn’t get a particular treat, it is not a reflection that he was bad, or did something wrong. It isn’t a punishment.
I explained to him that we need to be wise with our money, for one thing, but more so, we need to be wise with our health. Yes, those things are fun in moderation, but as his mom, I know a happy meal a day will absolutely not keep the doctor away. So yes, I say “no” to what he wants, not to be mean, but because I know what seems so good to him, is actually not. Imagine this teeny tiny example on God’s scale. He knows what is best for us, far more than we do! And don’t we want that? What IF there was better out there than what we could even imagine is the best?
So it may seem natural to ask the question (as Job’s friends did): Did Job deserve to walk through all the pain he endured? Our human nature response would be “no”, but that’s where we learn to take those thoughts captive… to seek fresh perspective.
In chapter 24, Job actually alludes to good things happening to the wicked and bad things to the righteous, which at first can seem disheartening. But Job continues to worship God throughout his trials and pain, and his new perspective is that he indeed IS righteous because of the pain he is enduring.
Possibly one of my favorite truths is in Job 33:29-30 – Elihu claims, “God certainly does all these things two or three times to a person in order to turn him back from the grave, so he may shine with the light of life”
When you reflect back on some of the greatest transformations you’ve experienced in your life, was it a lesson from a textbook or walking down an easy road? I can say, personally, mine have most often come from walking through a painful experience. Almost always, our greatest treasures come through the tribulations we face.
Are we ready?
So, instead of asking for God to bring a swift end to uncertainties in our lives… to allow us to see the victory… the ending we want, when we want it… let us come up higher.
What if instead of asking when something was going to happen or why something happened, we thanked Him for the opportunity to grow our spiritual muscles and trust Him even more? What if we could walk in faith knowing this was only preparing us to be stronger in the next battle? The longer we must wait, the greater the opportunity is to grow deeper with Him, leaning more on Him, and finding joy through hardships, knowing victory is already His.
Temporary Pains for Eternal Gains
The truth is, we will never ever grasp the vantage point that God has. I mean just look at the night sky alone! Can we even?! We are still part of HIStory, as wild as it seems! He will allow bad things to happen, so that His perfect will can be carried out, even when we feel helpless to know what that is.
I know God may allow bad things to happen, and I sure don’t understand, nor will I pretend, to know everything. But I do know this, and I’ve said it before, NOTHING can keep us from the eternal inheritance He has. And, you know what? I think that is why He’s not afraid of the bad things. Which brings me comfort, and I hope it does you.
So whatever fires we are facing, we have two choices:
We can stay in the pain and burn
We can choose to be fireproof, putting on our armor and coming out purified, “shining with the light of life” as Elihu so beautifully said.
Let’s do the latter. Lay down the fear.
Let’s Walk boldly through the fire, friend!