Signing on with God does not assure us we will have an easy life. If God loves us, why does He sometimes allow our lives to be miserable?
Any Christian who has ever suffered misery has grappled with whether God caused it. Even if God does not cause our suffering, surely He has the Power to stop it. Why doesn’t He? In an upcoming post, we’ll discuss why God did not stop the suffering of Jesus on the cross. But for now, let’s look in on Job.
If you mention the name Job from the Bible, chances are people will think of suffering. That man suffered! However, we frequently forget the end of the book in which Job “lived happily ever after.” But for now, let’s go back to “once upon a time.”
Meet Two of God’s Creations: Job and Satan!
Job was a good and righteous man. He loved God and was faithful in worshipping Him. One day the angels and satan were chatting with God. What? God still talked to satan? Wasn’t satan God’s Adversary? (See previous posts.) Yes, satan still chose to put himself in that position. But God still called to satan in love.
On this particular day, God asked satan where he had been. We know God already knew, but it sounds as if God wanted to talk to satan and He wanted satan to talk to Him. God is consistent in wanting to communicate with His Creations and wanting them to communicate with Him. Also, perhaps God wanted to be sure we knew where satan had been and is even now.
Satan responded to God’s Question,
“From roaming throughout the earth,
going back and forth on it.”
Why does that answer sound familiar? Refer to last post. 1 Peter 5:8 says,
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour!
After the initial pleasantries, God pointed out Job to satan. He noted Job’s positive qualities.
… “he is blameless and upright,
a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
Is it possible God wanted to once again call satan’s attention to the beauty of a surrendered-to-God Life? Perhaps God wanted satan to remember that time when he too had experienced the beauty of a surrendered-to-God Life? Was this God’s Call to satan once again to come home?
Game On! Satan Tries to Take On God Again!
However, satan only saw God’s Reference to Job as a challenge. God was bragging! Satan was sure he could take Job down, if just given the chance. Satan retorted that Job only served God because of what God gave him. The implication was, if Job was not getting all the good things from God, he would not love God as much or maybe not love Him at all.
Point to ponder:
If God gave you only His Presence
and not His Presents,
would you still love Him?
Satan put a challenge to God.
“But now stretch out Your Hand
and strike everything he has,
and he will surely curse you to Your Face!”
We might think God would have responded, “No he wouldn’t. I know My Servant, Job! You can just buzz off, satan.” But God didn’t do that. He allowed satan to conduct a test. Was this for God to see how it would go? No, He already knew. Or was this test for Job, to strengthen him in his faith? Or perhaps, was the test yet another witness to satan?
The Lord said to satan,
“Very well, then, everything he has is in your power,
but on the man himself, do not lay a finger.”
God allowed satan free rein of anything Job might consider his own. That would include his family and his worldly possessions. This is a crucial turning point in the story. Let’s look at some key points before we look at how the test came out.
Points to Consider About Suffering
1. God loved Job. He noted the good Job did. God knew Job would pass any test. God had faith in Job. If you are one who is committed to the Lord, He knows you will stand strong in the test. He has faith in you!
2. It is possible God wanted satan to see how God’s Servants could suffer a trial and still stay faithful to HIm. Perhaps God still saw satan as having the potential to learn about the triumph of Good over evil. If you have somehow fallen into practicing evil, God will continue to call to you as One of His Creations. He will continue to provide opportunities for you to change. If you are one of the Lord’s Followers, He will use your life as a witness to others. Sometimes the strongest witness of a Christian Life comes when it lived out in the midst of suffering.
3. Satan could not touch Job without God’s permission or Job’s invitation. Satan cannot touch you without God’s permission or through the doors you have opened through disobedience to God. We don’t invite satan in on every occasion he wants to come in. But if we have left a door open from another visit from him, he will come right back in at the next opportune moment.
4. In this case, God gave His limited permission for satan to mess with Job. However, He set the limits beyond which satan could not go. God did not directly cause any negative thing that happened to Job. He did not tell satan specifically what evil to use against Job. There are many things we humans call “acts of God,” which are not “acts of God”, but instead, acts of satan or the simple consequences of our own choices.
5. God did not turn His Back on the evil that was about to happen. God never turns away from us, even when great evil is happening to us. How can God look upon evil? Because He knows the end of the story! He knows Good will trump evil not just sometimes, but every time. Believe me, God is not biting His Nails, waiting to see how this thing turns out. He knows!
6. God did not rescue Job from the clutches of satan. He waited to see Job use the Power God had already given him to do battle with satan. A baby learning to walk experiences many falls. A musician who will one day be a concert star will hit many sour notes before he gets there.
How does our favorite sports team get really good, so they can go to the top? They practice over and over again. They play the game again and again. They get knocked down and they get back up. They study their opponents and learn how to defeat them!
Challenges from the other side, tests are God’s Way of preparing us for the bigger challenges ahead. He wants us to come out as winners! Every battle we win gives us more and more confidence in God’s Power and in the Strength we have in Him.
Let the Games Begin!
So things got bad in Job’s Life. He lost all his possessions and all of his children. (Interestingly enough, satan did not take Job’s wife. He planned to use her to tempt Job to speak against God!) Sounds horrible! And yet, Job did not sin. He refused to speak against God. He refused to blame God for any of his misfortunes. He acknowledged God had given him everything he had and it was God’s right to take it away, if He chose to. Job passed the initial tests!
As God smiled, satan slunk off in a huff. BUT … remember, satan is patient and persistent. On another day, satan returned to try Job again.
Often, after we win big battles in our life, we breathe a sigh of relief and we say, “Whew-w-w, I’m glad that’s over. We won!” We would like to believe we can sit back, coast now and just enjoy the pleasures of earth without being hassled. But life does not work that way. If we go back to the example of our favorite sports team, they may have won the National Championship this year, but it does not mean they will win a single game next year. No! There will be more practice, more tests, more challenges, and the opponents will be back next season!
There Is Always Another Season!
So on another day, the angels and satan were chatting with God again. Once again, God asked satan where he had been. Once again, satan answered the same. (See if you can remember his answer without looking. Then ask yourself, where is satan now? Hint: the same place he was then!)
God once again called satan’s attention to His Righteous Servant, Job, noting Job’s previous triumphs. Satan then decided to take it up a notch. He conceded he did not win the previous season, but he contended, it was because the stakes were just too low. He told God he would see Him for the previous stakes and raise them considerably.
“Skin for skin!” Satan replied.
“A man will give all he has for his own life.
But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones,
and he will surely curse You to Your Face!”
Again, we might think God would send satan packing. But He didn’t.
The Lord said to satan,
“Very well, then, he is in your hands;
but you must spare his life.”
Satan could not destroy Job himself. God would not allow satan inside the Temple of the Holy Spirit. But He gave satan permission to shake the outside of the Temple. Paul tells us,
… “your bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit,
Who is in you,
Whom you have received from God …”
1 Corinthians 6:19
Jesus later spoke of houses built on sand and those build on the solid Rock of God. He assured us the House built on the Rock would not fall in the storm. God was certain Job’s Temple would not fall. Satan was equally sure it would.
Satan Plays Dirty!
Satan afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. He attacked the very covering of Job’s body. Satan meant it when he said, “Skin for skin.”
Many of us may endure an attack close to our body, but when our body itself is attacked, it becomes personal. When we feel the fire of war and hear the noise right next to our ears, we cannot ignore it. Job now took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it, as he sat among the ashes.
And if Job’s own sense of “I don’t get it” was not enough, remember that wife satan so thoughtfully spared. Well, this is the way she comforted her husband.
His wife said to him,
“Are you still maintaining your integrity?
Curse God and die!”
Next to our skin, the other close communication with our inner Spirit comes from those we love and those who we believed love us. Suffering is not an isolated event. The presence of suffering affects everyone around them. They too have unanswered questions. They too may fear the same thing happening to them. They too are overcome with the powerlessness to rescue the suffering one. They too don’t want to look at evil. Families and friends can either be the biggest support in an illness or tragedy or the best weapon satan has to turn the suffering one away from God.
Amazingly, even in the face of all he had endured, Job did not turn away from his faith in God. Job rebuked his wife and told her,
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
OK, the wife distraction did not work? Satan was not done. He kept up the attack. Satan often triumphs by persistence. Even a little drop of water dripped repeatedly and unendingly can drive us to distraction. When suffering does not let up and we see no indication that it is ever going to end, sometimes even the most faithful cave. Job began to crack.
He cursed the day he was born. Note, Job did not specifically blame God for his suffering. He was simply loudly voicing his desire to go back to some point before this one and avoid this time and place all together.
One of our first steps away from God is to reject the Truth that He has a perfect Plan for our lives. When things are not going well, it is easy for us to imagine a plan of our own that we believe would get things back on track. Many prayers offered in a crisis are a list of what we think God should do to make things right. Not as often do we simply pray that God’s Will be done.
We are more willing to accept God’s Plan if we know all the details and can approve each one. Listen to what God says about His Plan. He assures us He knows the Plans and they are good ones. He does not, however, assure us that He will tell us the Plans in detail in advance.
“For I know the Plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“Plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
Plans to give you Hope and a Future!”
Do you believe God has a Plan for your life?
Do you believe it is …
a Plan to prosper you?
a Plan not to harm you?
a Plan to give you Hope?
a Plan to give you a Future?
Are you content to let God hold the Map for your Life
and give you step by step directions?
In the next post, we’ll find out what happened to Job when satan continued to play dirty and stepped up the attack.
Most amazingly, we’ll hear God’s Response to all of Job’s questions.
God’s Answer to Job is the same Answer He has for you!