In the book of Job, we read about Job’s prolonged suffering. Along the way, he got to the point where he judged God based on how he thought God was treating him or based on what he thought God was doing. Now, I want to make it clear here that the tendency of judging God based on what we can see him do is a very bad habit.
This bad habit of assessing God based on his actions can be illustrated as follows: When God, for instance allows your beloved children to die in an accident, or when other tragic events happen to you, you get angry and ask God saying, “If you a loving God, why did you let such a horrible thing to happen to me.?” You start to think badly of God and criticize him by saying things like, “Look what God is like. He is hush. He is unfair!”
This is how Job began to perceive God after a lengthy period of suffering.
Judge God by the knowledge of His character and not his character by his dealings.— David Eby
In his poem entitled “Edward’s Anecdote,” poet laureate Donald Hall tells of an incident he read in a newspaper about a father who beat his one-year-old daughter with a broomstick.
breaking rib bone, and as
she screamed she kept crawling
back to her father: Where else
should she look for comfort.
Now the father who is beating the girl in this poem is drunk. But God doesn’t get drunk. Nonetheless, the cruel conduct of this man and the way God seems to have been treating Job appears to be having some disturbingly similarities. God, through Satan, inflicts horrible pain and suffering on Job to see if he will come crawling back.
Compare the verse from Hall’s poem that we saw earlier with Job’s complaint against God that we see in the following verses from Job 30:18-21:
With violence he seizes my garment;
He grasps me by the collar of my tunic.
He has cast me into the mire,
And I have become like dust and ashes.
I cry to you and you do not answer me;— Job 30:18-21a (NRSV)
I stand, and you merely look at me.
You have turned cruel to me;…
Job here was judging God based on what he could see.
In another incident in John 11:5-6, we are told that, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
The fact that Christ stays two days past Jordan, as if he doesn’t care about Lazarus, who was like someone in an ICU and about to die, and the fact that the Evangelist says in John 11:5-6 that Christ loved Lazarus and his sisters may seem like two contradictory facts.
Ideally, we should have expected Jesus, of whom it is stated that he “loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus”, to act swiftly and rush to the rescue of this sick loved one, because naturally, love prompts swift action in such an emergency. Surprisingly, Jesus stayed right there where he was for two more days and only left to go see his friend Lazarus after he died.
Since Christ is the perfect manifestation of the Godhead in its fullness, his delay further illustrates the fact that we shouldn’t judge God’s love based on what we see around us.
In the previous case of Job, Job continued to judge God based on what he was seeing, and viewed his suffering as an injustice from God. We see him even requesting for an opportunity to defend his case against God before an impartial judge in Job 23:3-7, with a belief that he can win.
But as Job’s knowledge and understanding of God grew, Job’s mind and heart changed. He stopped judging God’s actions based on what he could see and started judging God’s actions based on what he knew about God’s character.
Learn to interpret circumstances by the love of Christ and not Christ’s love by circumstances.— James Montgomery Boice
In the middle of his protracted suffering, Job was able to exclaim and say, “I don’t understand what God is up to in this terrible tragedy that has befallen me. But I don’t need to understand what God is doing in all of these things because I know God and He cannot do anything that is unjust. He cannot engage in any unjust behavior. He can’t do anything that isn’t for my benefit and His glory. No matter what happens, God is the righteous Judge and He is sitting on the throne.”
Faith in the biblical sense is substantive, based on the knowledge that the One in whom that faith is placed has proven that He is worthy of that trust. In its essence, faith is a confidence in the person of Jesus Christ and in His power, so that even when His power does not serve my end, my confidence in Him remains because of who He is.— Ravi Zacharias
Job’s hope and faith in God grew to a point where it became rooted only on God’s inherent perfection, which is revealed in his word, and not on what Job thought or saw God doing based on his own observations.
This is the account of how God saved Job — with good theology! And this is how God can graciously uphold your faith too in the midst of life’s tragedies — with Good theology.
Your faith in God shouldn’t be based on how you feel or what you see. Instead, it should be based on you understanding of God’s character. God loves you. He is just. He is faithful. He does no evil.
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.— Psalm 100:5
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us?— Romans 8:31-39
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?…
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Replace what you don’t know about the future with what you do know about God!— Christine Caine
Tragedies that God brings your way might be perplexing, and you may not know what God is doing. But you can trust what God is doing based on who you know God is. So your faith in God shouldn’t waver, even if what he’s doing in your life seems illogical or when God’s ways don’t seem to make sense to you. You may not know what the future holds, but if you know the God who holds the future, then that’s enough and this truth should calm all your fears and anxiety.
Job never saw why he suffered, but he saw God, and that was enough.— Timothy Keller
By God’s grace, this unwavering trust in God that is based not on your feelings, but rather on your understanding of who God is gives those who love God and are called according to his purpose the assurance that all will be well and that God will make everything work out for our good, no matter how complicated or confusing things may seem. And having this kind of faith in God can help you sleep even in the middle of a storm.