I’ve had my own taste of trials in the last four years.
Usually, they involve people – spiritual illnesses or spiritual deaths that rip my insides out.
But there’s been other stuff too.
A child with severe food allergies.
Serious, isolating, environmental allergies of my own. The kind that makes me too annoying to be in the same room with.
And this fact that I can’t seem to get pregnant again.
How long I’ve been waiting for child #3 isn’t important. I can always find someone who has been waiting longer than I have. And what’s important isn’t comparing lengths of times, but the fact that we’ve all felt the same agony.
Yes, I have two children already. Two beautiful girls.
How could I conceive them easily, seventeen months apart, and then nothing? I have no whys. No one has any whys yet.
The parents who have a child or multiple children, but were suddenly forced to stop having any more because of a situation beyond your control – we are in a boat all our own. Those whose spouses simply say no, those with bodies that stop working, aging problems, reversals that didn’t change anything, nothing but miscarriages, adrenal or hormonal imbalances, emergency hysterectomies, ruptures, impossibly dangerous pregnancies, death of a spouse, or divorce. Where suddenly you’re done. Your family is done. And your heart sputters, “I’m not done!”
We’re not allowed to join the infertility forums, because we’re “clearly not infertile.” Yet we have the same root problem: this is not how we wanted out family to end. This wasn’t the plan. Our wombs cry out for babies too. As our older children age before our eyes.
It’s not important how long I’ve been trying or how many children I already have. The problem is one of control, discontentment, and this insatiable desire to be my own god of the universe.
As I wait without answers, weary with disappointment, I found myself spouting lines like, “I know I’m a sinner by nature, but I wasn’t walking in any continual sin. God and I were good! So why’d He do this? How mean can He be? Is He just punishing me over and over again?”
A beautiful friend suggested a different perspective. She pointed me to Job. “What if God isn’t punishing you or being mean? What if He had a conversation with the devil that went like this? ‘Have you considered my servant, RJ? She’s gone through a bit of suffering at the hands of other people in the last couple of years. Nothing you can do will make her turn from me. She brings me glory.’”
And the devil went, “Ah, she’s a young woman who has always dreamed of a big family. She’s not content with the daughters she has. Stop her womb, and see if she still loves you then!”
And, like Job, I emotionally failed the test.
Job is the granddaddy of suffering. I don’t think there has ever been a person alive who has hurt more than he has. In the space of like a day, he lost:
- All ten of his children – whom he may not have thought were believers, and whom he was always worried were rebelling against God, hence his need to sacrifice on behalf of their frequent parties. (1:4-5) So possibly no hope he’s going to see any of these kids again either, which his buddy so “nicely” pointed out to him. (8:4) DEVASTATING.
- All of his wealth. (1:14-17)
- His health. He sounds like he was in agony. Forget allergy hives that I’ve seen destroy my poor daughter. Forget my continually thick throat. This stuff was brutal. (2:7-8)
- The comfort and companionship of his aching wife, who’d rather curse God and be bitter. (2:9)
- His good reputation among his friends. (12:4)
- And lastly, the one that seemed to hurt him the most: thinking he had lost God’s love and care. (9:33-35)
The lines Job uses have totally come straight from my mouth in the past. Recently, I felt so distant from God, as if He walked away from me. As if He wouldn’t answer my prayers or listen to my cries.
Listen to the raw realism in Job’s words. Nowhere, in my mind, is a Bible character so relatable.
“What I feared has come upon me: what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (3:25-26)
“Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for.” (6:8a)
“What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?” (6:11, 13)
“So I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me.” (7:3)
“Why have You, (God,) made me Your target? Have I become a burden to You?” (7:20b)
“If only there was someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of Him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” (9:33-35)
“Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.” (19:7)
“Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor? Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness. The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me.” (30:25-26)
How many of us have said these words about any of our suffering? About any trial?
THEN GOD SPEAKS.
God does not answer to ANYONE. He gives and takes and makes the world spin and run just because He’s God. He gives and takes away according to what brings Him glory. And that God chooses to love us.
We, thousands of years later, can see why He did all of this to Job. He has shown Himself glorious through Job to billions of people who have read Job’s story. What an HONOR to Job!
Not only is this passage absolutely beautiful in its poetic and lyrical nature, so please READ it all, but it gives you this giant, immense picture of God that silences all whining. After Job heard it, he said, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:6)
If you do not read the below passage, you are missing out on the true glory of God revealed in suffering. Nothing else has helped comfort me in my trials more than this. Nothing else gives me the greater, bigger perspective picture of God that makes me love and trust Him and view my troubles as small things in His grand picture. Not the kindest, fluffiest of verses on pretty Hallmark cards do an iota of what this passage does for me.
In sarcastic, pointed, and thorough thoughts, God speaks in a real, no-nonsense way – like a chastising parent who loves His child but must give that child perspective on their whining. And, like a loving parent, God blesses Job with abundantly more than what He took away. In ways Job couldn’t imagine in that pitiful state. God even forgives the wife for the sake of Job, as He brings ten more children through her womb.
So read the whole passage and be humbled in awe, fear, trembling, and true comfort. And make sure you don’t miss this summary in the midst of it:
“Would you discredit My justice? Would you condemn Me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself with honor and majesty. Who has a claim against Me that I must pay?
EVERYTHING under heaven belongs to ME.” (40:8-10, 41:11)
The Lord Speaks
38 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
31 “Can you bind the chains[b] of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons[c]
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
39 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2 Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.
4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return.
5 “Who let the wild donkey go free?
Who untied its ropes?
6 I gave it the wasteland as its home,
the salt flats as its habitat.
7 It laughs at the commotion in the town;
it does not hear a driver’s shout.
8 It ranges the hills for its pasture
and searches for any green thing.
9 “Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
and bring it to your threshing floor?
13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
though they cannot compare
with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.
19 “Do you give the horse its strength
or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
It catches the scent of battle from afar,
the shout of commanders and the battle cry.
26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
and where the slain are, there it is.”
40 The Lord said to Job:
2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”
6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
7 “Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.
15 “Look at Behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
16 What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
19 It ranks first among the works of God,
yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
20 The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
23 A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?…
42 Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”