If you come to the book of Job hoping to find the final answer to the age-old issue of human suffering, then you will probably be disappointed. As we read Job’s story, we do not gain a definitive answer for why humans suffer. What we do discover is an amazing display of God’s power, providence, and love. We see God’s power and mercy clearly displayed as Job grapples with his loss by journeying through five specific stages.
Introduction: It is hard to imagine anyone who experienced greater losses than Job. In the first two chapters of the book that bears his name, we watch as Job loses
The opening scene of the book of Job depicts Job as a man whose life is good, and who is blessed in every way imaginable. But not only is Job blessed, he is also devout. The first thing we see Job do is to offer sacrifices for his children.
Between verses 5 and 6 of this opening chapter, the scene shifts from earth to heaven where the reader is allowed to eavesdrop on a heavenly conversation between God and Satan. In this conversation, God asks a question and then makes a statement that will change Job’s life forever.
“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8 niv).
After this first heavenly conversation, things begin to go horribly wrong on earth. In rapid succession, Job begins to experience significant losses that take him on a journey of sorrow, grief, and discovery that in many ways defies our comprehension.
Stage One: Worship (Job 1:20-21)
My first response to Job’s expression of worship is to confess that Job is far stronger in faith than I am! As I witnessed the suffering of my first wife in her battle against cancer and then as I stood at her bedside as she died, my response was not to worship but to ask, “Why?” She was the last in her family of four to die of cancer. Why was this family of believers wiped out by this dreaded disease? I had a great big why in the depths of my soul. Job worshiped. I questioned God!
Stage Two: Depression and Fear (Job 3)
If stage one shows the godliness of Job, stage two reveals his humanity. If you are looking for a passage that gives insights into the emotional struggles of someone wrestling with overwhelming losses, Job 3 is the passage. Here we observe as Job
Stage Three: Anger (Job 7:1-6,11-16)
The words in these verses are the words of an angry man. It is important to know that God can handle our anger. Later in the story, Job repents of his attitude (Job 42), but it is important to note that in the crucible of suffering Job was angry and let his anger show.
Stage Four: Demanding (Job 23:1-7)
This passage resembles a courtroom setting. Unbelievably, God is being accused and Job is arguing his case. Job has assembled his arguments, and he demands answers from God. But as you read further in Job’s story (35–41), you see that God not only does not provide answers for Job about his suffering but He Himself questions Job from all of creation.
Stage Five: Repentant (Job 42)
God has just given Job a science quiz, and Job is speechless. He has been humbled and can only say: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (42:2-3 nkjv). Job discovers God to be Creator, Sustainer, and Provider in Job 38–41. He discovers that in the deepest pain in life, God is much more:
In his book Shattered Dreams, Larry Crabb helps us understand that God can use our pain and shattered dreams to cultivate an insatiable desire to encounter Him, even in the midst of our suffering. He says that the deepest pleasure we are capable of experiencing is a direct encounter with God. But we almost always mistake lesser pleasures for this greatest pleasure and live our lives chasing after them instead of Him. When we’re not in touch with our appetite for God, the Holy Spirit awakens that appetite and then uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God. According to Crabb, these shattered dreams are not an accident of fate. They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit to awaken and then satisfy our highest dream.
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