Summary: Job's experience reminds us that God will never abandon us.
When was the last time you felt alone because nothing seemed to be going your way? Maybe it was when your playing time on the team was cut and the coach never really gave a good explanation of why. Or perhaps it was the time you were stuck in a job that was neither fulfilling nor particularly well paying. Or it was when you had a bad stomach ache and you spent the whole night curled up in the fetal position watching the minute hand crawl ever so slowly around the face of the clock as if it had a stomach ache of its own. It’s a lonely feeling isn’t it?
Well I’m here to remind you that you are never alone. I know this because it’s a truth God went to great lengths to teach me. I am Job, a believer who lived over four thousand years ago. What do you remember about me from your Bible reading? Yes, I was a rich man. I had a large farm with seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a large number of servants (Job 1:2). I also had seven children who had grown up to love and care for each other. I was well respected in my community because I was in the habit of helping others.
But that suddenly all changed. I lost my animals, my crops, and my children - all in one day. And then not long after that I myself became very sick. My skin festered and oozed with puss. I had feverish hallucinations. I was so sick and so miserable that when three of my friends came to see me they were shocked. For seven days they just sat with me, unsure of what to say. As it turns out, I wish they would have remained silent! But more on that later.
Perhaps you remember what the cause of my calamity was. Unbeknownst to me, God had pointed me out to Satan and said that there was no believer like me. Not surprisingly Satan just scoffed. He claimed that the only reason I worshipped God faithfully was because God had blessed me with riches. So God invited Satan to do whatever he wanted to with my possessions and to my family. Satan is the reason I lost everything including my children. But God is the reason I didn’t lose my faith! Do you remember what I said upon receiving all the horrible news that day? I said, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21).
I survived that first round of testing without cursing or complaining to God, but then Satan received permission to attack me personally. But there was a line God would not allow Satan to cross. Satan was not allowed to kill me. Oh but as the miserable days wore on I wish he would have! My skin festered with open wounds and there was nothing I could do to get comfortable. My greatest relief was to scratch those sores with a broken piece of pottery! And this went on for months (Job 7:3). Things got so bad that I would have preferred being strangled to death than continuing to put up with the pain (Job 7:15, 16).
But it wasn’t just the physical pain that was so unbearable, there was emotional torture as well. Remember I said how three of my friends came to “comfort” me? Well at first they said nothing, but then one after another they began to claim that I must have done something evil to have attracted God’s anger and his punishment. Oh, I admitted to them that I wasn’t perfect, but I couldn’t think of any specific thing I had done to deserve such treatment. And so I pleaded with God: “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? 21 Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?” (Job 7:20, 21a)
Satan must have thought that he was getting close to making me crack. It is he, and not God, who wants us to think that when we suffer it means that either God is punishing us for some sin, or that he doesn’t care about us. But God allows suffering to bring us closer to him, for suffering makes clear just how helpless we are. It’s like I said to God: “Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath” (Job 7:7). You might be able to blow out a candle with a puff of air, but you can’t put out a house fire like that. And at that moment my whole life was on fire. I was helpless to do anything about it, but I was not hopeless. My God was still with me. Later I came to realize that he was like a father who won’t give his five-year old the heaviest saddlebag to carry out to the camel. Likewise God won’t let anything into your life that you can’t handle with his help and by his grace. But that’s the key isn’t it? You can handle anything and do all things, but only through him who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).