Well-meaning friends. We’ve all been there: Looking at a friend or acquaintance going through something we don’t understand, searching for the right words to say with only pithy sayings coming to mind.
- God never gives us more than we can handle.
- When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.
- Everything has a purpose.
As someone who’s walked through some heart-wrenching circumstances, can I tell you something?
Yes, God can give us more than we handle. No, sometimes He doesn’t open a window. And we may never see the purpose this side of heaven, and even then may not like what we discover.
But what do we do with that? If we accept that as truth, then what is the proper response to tragedy? What does God want to see from us?
Job and His Well-Meaning Friends
If you had to reduce the book of Job down to one word or phrase, what would you choose?
- A wager between God and Satan?
- Questioning God?
- Persevering through tragedy to the blessing on the other side?
A Quick Summary
In Chapter 1, Satan approaches God with a bet. If God removes His hand of blessing from Job, Satan believes Job will turn his back on God. God allows this test, putting His character in the hands of an unsuspecting human.
And so calamity strikes. First raiders take his flock of oxen and donkeys, killing the servants watching over them. Then a fire consumes his flock of sheep and the servants watching over them. Then enemies take his camels, killing the servants watching over them.
Each messenger arrives with bad news before the previous messenger finishes speaking. Before the third messenger completed his report, a fourth one arrived.
Your sons and daughters were feasting … when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead (1:18-19).
Tragedy after tragedy culminating in a devastating loss. Yet still Job worshiped God.
Chapter 2 starts with Satan before God again, claiming that Job will change his tune if his body were to fail him. And God allows Satan to continue the test.
Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (2:7).
At this point, Job’s wife is done. She encourages Job to “curse God and die!” (2:9). Yet the Bible records that Job never sinned in anything he said.
It is here in the story that Job’s friends show up. Chapters 3-37 record the discussion between them. Job asks poignant questions, wondering what God is doing while maintaining his innocence. His friends rebuke him, convinced that only sin would bring such calamity.
Much has been made about how wrong these guys were. But imagine for a moment that you didn’t have the knowledge of the first two chapters. Imagine you were looking at a close friend who slowly began to lose everything: his riches, his children, his health. Would you not consider that perhaps God was sending a little correction?
Finally, in Chapter 38, God speaks. I’ve always found it interesting that even though God answered Job, God never really answered Job.
Think about it: Job levies some pretty big questions at God, but while God speaks to Job, He never directly answers Job’s questions. He never tells him about the bet in heaven. He never even suggests that Satan is behind his suffering.
All God does is remind Job of who He is. Who they each are.
Our Response to Tragedy
Which brings us to the question of what do we do with that?
If the book of Job talks a lot about suffering yet God never addresses Job’s hardships, could God be after something more than us gaining a firmer grasp on the principles behind tragedy?
Could He want us to go deeper than realizing it’s okay to rail against Him?
Does He reveal a pattern in Scripture that is so commonplace to us that we overlook it in its simplicity?
What if we looked at the book of Job from the viewpoint of Chapter 1?
When God first mentions Job, He says, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8).
That is the point of Job.
- Not that Job suffered, and God rewarded him in the end.
- Not that it’s okay to question God’s motives or methods.
- Not even that God can do what He wants when He wants.
No, the point is that God seeks faith — not perfect faith devoid of all doubt. But faith that is not shaken by circumstance even when doubt is present.
The Battleground is Big
C.S. Lewis once said, “There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”
That means that our battles for faith matter. As Philip Yancey wrote in his book The Bible Jesus Read,
The message of [Job] calls for the tough, hard-edged faith that believes, against the odds, that one person’s response does indeed make a difference. Job presents the astounding truth that our choices of faith matter not just to us and our own destiny but, amazingly, to God himself.”
Your Response in Crisis Matters
So the next time you are faced with that impossible situation, whether you are the one walking through tragedy or a friend is, remember Job.
Maybe God is presenting you with something bigger than you can handle.
Maybe God did close a door and is not opening a window.
Maybe the purpose is one you will never know about.
Regardless, stand firm in your faith and say with Job, “I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (42:2).