Today’s Bible reading begins the story of Job. Really bad things happen to Job. Job was a good man. Job was a godly man. And Job was a victim of some of the worst our enemy could muster. In reading through this book, bear in mind that this book tells us a great deal about God, His goodness, His wisdom, and His sovereignty.
The first thing I want to point out is that the enemy had to get God’s approval before he could approach Job. In fact, Satan recognized that God had placed a hedge around Job that had to be removed before he could get to Job. If you’ve heard of “praying a hedge of thorns” around someone, this is where that idea comes from.
Many people think that in spiritual warfare, there’s a contest between God and Satan and until it’s over, no one knows who will prevail. But in the first chapter of Job, we see that there is no contest. God is God and Satan isn’t. God is in control. Satan is not.
The second thing I want to point out is that really bad things happen to good people. In fact, really bad things happen to God’s people. Some prosperity gospel preachers/teachers will tell you that if you’re a child of God, nothing can hurt you. That simply isn’t biblical! Just look at Job!
The third thing I want to point out is that Job is surrounded by well-meaning people who lack the compassion and encouragement Job desperately needed. When Job’s wife saw that he had lost everything and was covered with boils from head to toe, she simply said, “Just curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Along came a friend who revealed some correct things about God. But this “friend” also spoke some very wrong things about God. We know that even demons know the truth. (James 2:19) But it doesn’t take much to twist good theology and wrongly apply it. Just look at the temptations of Jesus; Satan quotes Scripture at Jesus. And Jesus responds with Scripture to combat the devil’s lies.
The final thing I’d like to point out is that Job’s friend Eliphaz took a familiar tact that many well-meaning people take. In Job 4:6, Eliphaz accuses Job of trusting in his own piety, his own righteousness. It’s so easy to think that we are so godly and God will reward us for our piety. No, the Bible doesn’t teach that; prosperity preachers do.
Several years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a very popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Rabbi Kushner’s son died and he wrote the book to try to explain why. In the book, he affirms God’s goodness. He affirms God’s love. But he rejects that God is powerful to stop bad things from happening to good people.
I think if we’re honest, we struggle with the same issues when we — or someone close to us — go through difficult times. We’re tempted to deny God’s goodness. We’re tempted to deny God’s love. Or we’re tempted to deny God’s power. We forget that God is actually in control and He has a bigger plan than we do. Unlike Joseph, we fail to see the big picture.
If you are going through difficult times, ask God to reveal the big picture. Ask God to show you something about His character. And ask God to show you something about you. If someone close to you is going through difficult times, listen to them. Be quiet and give them space. Don’t launch into religious platitudes that sound good, but mean little to the person receiving the words. And pray for God to reveal Himself as the God Who is. Pray that God would use these circumstances to point people’s eyes to Jesus.