Introduction: After hearing Eliphaz’s vicious attacks, Job all but ignored him and returned to his petitions to God. With one exception, Job’s complaints reflected a lack of understanding about the purpose behind his trials. Through the counsel of God’s complete Word, Jesus reveals the answers to Job’s bitter laments. Through your trials, Jesus offers you His: (1) compassion, (2) fellowship, (3) advocacy, (4) belonging, (5) sanctification, (6) love, and (7) peace.
First, Job sadly believed that God had used his friends to punish him for his complaints. God in fact welcomes your cries of anguish to Him. During your trials, Jesus will offer you His compassion. Second, Job lamented his feeling of lost fellowship with God. During your trials, Jesus also offers you His fellowship. Third, Job demanded an audience with God to prove his innocence. But this was impossible for Job to do. During your trials, Jesus is the one who advocates for you in Heaven. Fourth, Job believed that God had abandoned him. He was mistaken. Even if you fail a trial, Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. Fifth, despite his other misunderstandings, Job knew that God was refining him through his trials. Through your trials, Jesus also sanctifies and purifies you. Sixth, despite his faith, Job feared God’s sovereign power and God’s unknown plans for him. When you face a trial, Jesus wants you to trust in His love and greater plans for you. Finally, Job felt no peace, only terror and darkness. When you face a trial, you can turn to Jesus. He can give you the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Job believed that God had punished him for his complaints. Without addressing Eliphaz, Job lamented his belief that God was using his friends to punish him for complaining: “1 Then Job responded, 2 ‘Even today my complaint is rebellion; His hand is heavy despite my groaning.” (Job 23:1-2). Job’s belief in God’s providence left little room for free will. Thus, he believed that God viewed his complaints as acts of rebellion. Job also viewed his friends’ attacks as the direct result of God’s will, not their misguided free will.
Job poured out his heart to God during his trials. Although Job started off strong during his trials, he eventually broke down and questioned God in his agony. He first cursed the day of his birth (Job 3:1-26). He then repeatedly complained to God: “Oh if only my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my disaster! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas; for that reason my words have been rash.” (Job 6:2-3). “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:1). “I am disgusted with my own life; I will express my complaint freely; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1). He even complained that God had failed to show him true justice: “Behold, I cry, ‘Violence!’ but I get no answer; I shout for help, but there is no justice.” (Job 19:7).
Job poured out his heart in sadness to God1
David poured out his heart to God during his trials. Like Job, David also poured out his heart when he could not understand the reasons for his trials: “A Psalm of David. How long, LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1). “Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and oppression?” (Ps. 44:24). “LORD, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?” (Ps. 88:14). Habakkuk also cried out to God in his prayers (Habakkuk 1:2). These examples are recorded to encourage you to cry out to God as well.
God wants you to pour out your heart to Him. One commentator observes: “What lifts the book to literary and theological greatness is the author’s deft presentation of a truly righteous man whose commitment to God is total, yet who can still struggle with God to the point of rage over the mystery of God’s ways . . . For the intended message of the book, the raging Job is just as important as the patient Job. In his suffering Job served God supremely, not as a stoic, but as a feeling man who had to come to terms with the mystery of divine will.” (Frank Gaebelein, Elmer Smick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 861). Believers should be reverent to God by showing up to Church, praying, worshiping, and submitting to Him. But God also welcomes your private cries of pain and anguish to Him in your prayer life. He knows your needs before you speak to them, and there is no secret pain that you need to hide. Also, when you see a person in a trial, you also have a role. Instead of condemning the person as Job’s friends did or trying to discern God’s will with worldly wisdom, you can show kindness to the person: “For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not abandon the fear of the Almighty. My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, like the torrents of wadis which drain away,” (Job 16:14-15).
God will show you compassion when you cry out. When the world turns against you, Jesus offers you His comfort and love: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4; 7:6; Is. 51:12). God in turn asks you to be kind and compassionate toward others, just as He is to you: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience;” (Col. 3:12). “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32). When others around you are hurting, do you offer them compassion?
Job felt that he had lost his fellowship with God. Even worse than feeling God’s alleged punishment for his complaints, Job felt as though he had lost God’s fellowship in his life: “3 Oh that I knew how to find Him, that I might come to His home!” (Job 23:3). Job’s heart was broken. He once felt God’s presence when he prayed. Now, he could no longer feel God’s presence when he prayed for guidance: “I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You turn Your attention against me.” (Job 30:20).
Jesus took upon Himself our separation from God to restore our fellowship. When Jesus took upon Himself the sins of mankind, he cried out on the cross: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, Lemma Sabatini? that is, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”’ (Matt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1). Although He was without sin, Jesus bore our shame. For example, the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus when they beat Him (Matt. 27:29), and the chief priests mocked Him as well (Matt. 27:41). “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him,” (Matt. 26:67). “They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.” (Matt. 27:30). Thanks to His sacrifice, you are neither separated from God nor alone.
When others reject you, Jesus offers you His fellowship. When you feel alone, rejected, or isolated, your faith brings you the blessing of Jesus’ fellowship: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). Merely accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is not enough to be in fellowship with Him. You must accept Jesus’ invitation for a deeper relationship: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). If you feel lonely, are you accepting Jesus’ invitation for a deeper relationship and true fellowship with Him?
Job pleaded for the opportunity to prove his innocence. In his misguided belief that God was unfairly punishing him, Job lamented his inability to defend himself in God’s court: “4 I would present my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would learn the words which He would answer, and perceive what He would tell me. 6 Would He contend with me by the greatness of His power? No, surely He would pay attention to me. 7 There the upright would argue with Him; and I would be free of my Judge forever.”’ (Job 23:4-7). Eliphaz had encouraged Job to return to God (Job 22:23). Job wanted nothing more than to do that. But he knew that he was insignificant and could not argue with God. Thus, he lamented his belief that there was no way to argue before God.
Seek spiritual growth and not vindication when you are tested. Job desired to prove that he was innocent (Job 23:4-7). As one commentator observes: “Our knowledge of the doctrine of justification by faith with its premise of the depravity of man (Rom. 1-3) makes it difficult for us to understand this part of the message of the Book of Job. It is helpful to look on Job as illustrative of Christ who suffered unjustly to fulfill the purpose of God (cf. Joseph, Gen. 37-50).” (Frank Gaebelein, Elmer Smick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 958). Job and his friends made the same mistake in trying to presume to know God’s will based upon Job’s circumstances. To Job’s friends, Job’s suffering was proof that God had judged him for a major, hidden sin. To Job, it was proof that God was unfair. Like Job, many presume to know God’s will based upon their health, family, and their wealth. Throughout his trials, Job sought to vindicate himself before God against the charges of hidden sins that his friends (acting on Satan’s behalf) had leveled against him: “But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God.” (Job 13:3). “That one might plead for a man with God as a son of man with his neighbor!” (Job 16:21). “Far be it from me that I should declare you right; until I die, I will not give up my integrity.” (Job 37:5). Job failed to ask if God was seeking to use these trials for spiritual growth or for another reason. After seeing his sins, Job repented: “Therefore I retract, and I repent, sitting on dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6). When you face a trial, God wants you to pray for His wisdom and guidance (Jam. 1:5).
The need for a mediator between mankind and God. Like everyone else, Job needed an advocate in heaven. Satan has access to God’s Court, and he uses that access to level charges against God’s people. Job pleaded for someone to defend him in God’s court. “For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him— That we may go to court together! There is no arbitrator between us, who can place his hand upon us both.” (Job 9:32-33). “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is on high. . . That one might plead for a man with God as a son of man with his neighbor!” (Job 16:19, 21). “Yet as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last, He will take His stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25). This foreshadowed the need for Jesus Christ. He is your counselor (Is. 9:6) and your only mediator to God the Father (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus also advocates for you in the same heavenly court: “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” (1 Jo. 2:1b). “Christ Jesus . . . also intercedes for us.” (Ro. 8:34). “Therefore He is also able to save forever those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25). “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 Jo. 5:14). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8).
Job felt as though God had abandoned him. In his sorrow, Job felt that God had left him: “8 Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; 9 when He acts on the left, I cannot see Him; He turns to the right, but I cannot see Him.” (Job 23:8-9). Even worse than his feeling of lost fellowship (Job 23:3), was his feeling that God had abandoned him. This emphasized that Job valued his relationship with God more than anything. As a man of faith, Job never complained about his lost wealth.
Job deeply missed the fellowship that he once felt with God2
God was faithful to never forsake the Jews. Like Job, there were times when the Jews felt forsaken. But God promised that He would never forsake His people: “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” (Dt. 4:31). Even when He disciplined the Jews, He did not forsake them: “Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the LORD.” (Lev. 26:44-45). “Be strong and courageous, . . . He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6).
You are an adopted child of God, and He will also never forsake you. As a believer, you can enjoy a feeling of belonging as one of God’s adopted children (Eph. 1:5; Ro. 8:14). Even when you sin, He promises that He will never leave or forsake you (Heb. 13:5).
Where Job lacked the written Word, you can trust God’s promises. Throughout the Bible, God reveals that His Word is true and always comes to pass: “Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45). “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.” (1 Kgs. 8:56). “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.” (Is. 48:3; 42:9). “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24). “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9; 1 Cor. 1:9). He is faithful even when you are not (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that you can trust in His faithfulness in your life?
Let God use your trials to build up your faith. The Jews’ exile was one of their darkest times in history. To many, all hope would seem to have been lost. But God tested the Jews with these and other trials so that they would learn to place their faith in Him. Your trials should produce perseverance and endurance (Ro. 5:3; Jam. 1:2-3; 2 Cor. 1:8-10). Are you turning to Jesus to build up your faith and deliver you during your trials?
Job believed that God would refine him through his testing. Although Job had many misguided beliefs about God, he had the faith to believe that God was purifying him: “10 But He knows the way I take; when He has put me to the test, I will come out as gold. 11 My foot has held on to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. 12 I have not failed the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:10-12). As another sign of his faith, Job repeated that he valued keeping God’s Word more than keeping his food or other worldly possessions.
Let God use your trials to refine you and draw you closer to Him3
Let God also use your trials to purify you and draw closer to Him. In one of his few correct statements, Job proclaimed that God had put him “to the test,” and that he would in the end “come out as gold.” (Job 23:10). God reveals that He refines us through our suffering and trials: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10; Ps. 66:10; Zech. 13:9(a); Dt. 4:20; 8:2-3; 1 Pet. 1:6-7). God wants you to be patient as He refines you for His use and His greater plans for you: “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” (Ps. 37:7). “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1(b)). “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Ps. 130:5).
With faith, you will also value God’s Word more than any worldly treasure. Job also professed that he had “treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12). After leading a life of covetousness, Solomon also revealed that it was more important to cling to God than to drift away during times of comfort and plenty: “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say who is the Lord?” (Prov. 30:8-9; 31:15). Solomon learned that God’s wisdom is worth more than wealth. “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.” (Prov. 16:16). “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.” (Prov. 3:13-15; 8:19). Do you seek out riches, power, and respect? Or, do you seek God’s wisdom?
Trust in God to sanctify and refine you during your trials. A typical person would have also complained like Job after losing their children, their health, and their wealth. Yet, even when he could not feel God’s presence and did not understand the reasons for his trials, his faith prevailed: “Here is another bright flash of faith upon a generally black background. Job admitted that he could not get through to God, yet clung to the confidence that God was still over this crisis. With wonderful faith, Job seemed at this fleeting instant to understand what he could and should in his present crisis. He understood that: - God still observed Job carefully and had not forgotten him (‘He knows the way that I take’). - God had a purpose in the crisis, and the purpose was not to punish Job (‘when He has tested me’) - God would one day bring the trial to an end (‘I shall come forth’) - God would bring something good would from it all (‘I shall come forth as gold’) - God still valued Job; only precious metal is put through the fire (‘as gold’).” (David Guzik on Job 23).4 “It looks very hard to believe that a child of God should be tried by the loss of his Father's presence, and yet should come forth uninjured by the trial. Yet no gold is ever injured in the fire. Stoke the furnace as much as you may, let the blast be as strong as you will, thrust the ingot into the very center of the white heat, let it lie in the very heart of the flame; pile on more fuel, let another blast torment the coals till they become most vehement with heat, yet the gold is losing nothing, it may even be gaining." (Charles Spurgeon on Job 23).5
Persevere when God tests you, and He will bless you in the end. The Bible celebrates Job for his ultimate endurance through his trials: “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (Jam. 5:11). Trials allow believers to become more obedient in their walk: “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” (Heb. 5:8). Trials also allow Jesus to prune the parts of a believer’s life that are not of Him: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (Jo. 15:2). Trials further allow God to build perseverance, character, and hope: “And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;” (Ro. 5:3-4). Furthermore, God will bless those who endure their trials with a crown of life: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (Jam. 1:12). Thus, you are called upon to celebrate the growth that your trials produce (Jam. 1:2). Finally, if, like Job, you are deemed worthy of suffering for God’s greater plans for good (Ro. 8:28), it is an honor that will be forever celebrated in heaven (Acts 5:41; 1 Pet. 4:14-16). Are you giving thanks for your trials?
Job feared God’s omnipotent power. Despite predicting that he would prevail in his trials, Job still professed his fear because he did not understand God’s awesome power: “13 But He is unique, and who can make Him turn? Whatever His soul desires, He does it. 14 For He carries out what is destined for me, and many such destinies are with Him. 15 Therefore, I would be terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am frightened of Him.” (Job 23:13-15). Job admitted that he was powerless to change God’s plans for him. Without God’s written Word, Job did not have the assurance that his trials were for a greater good. Thus, Job’s faith again faltered, and he felt terror.
Trust in God’s love for you when the reason for a trial is unknown. Job was correct in professing God’s sovereignty over everything. But he failed to heed his words that God used His sovereignty to mold Job and draw him closer to Him out of love. God’s plans are frequently beyond our limited comprehension: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:9). Yet, even when you lack the ability to understand the reasons for a trial or why God allows evil to happen, God wants you to have faith that God loves you (Jo. 3:16). Out of love for you, He also has a greater plan of you: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). Having faith requires that you trust God when the reasons for a trial are unknown: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Prov. 28:26). When evil seems to be everywhere, do you still trust that God loves you and has a greater plan for you?
Job blamed God for his sorrow. In another moment of weakness, Job professed his belief that God had drained his will, filled him with terror, and had covered him in darkness: “16 It is God who has made my heart faint, and the Almighty who has terrified me, 17 but I am not destroyed by darkness, nor by deep gloom which covers me.” (Job 23:16-17). Job wished that God had removed him from the Earth instead of covering him in darkness (Job 3:11-13). He should have instead found peace through his faith.
Only those who reject God will feel His discipline. Although Job was mistaken in his belief that God viewed him as an enemy, Job was correct that those who reject God and walk in rebellion will one day experience His discipline: “As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall.” (Lev. 26:36; Dt. 20:3). “Your carcasses will be food to all birds of the sky and to the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away.” (Dt. 28:26; Josh. 2:14; Lam. 2:17).
Jesus promises eternal peace and rest. Although you live in a fallen world with pain, Jesus promises an eternity without pain: “for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:17). “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4; Is. 25:8; 65:19). If you feel sorrow, Jesus also offers you the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:6).