Series: Contentment, part 3.
“The wisdom of God moves us from demanding from God what we think we deserve to thanking God for all that we’ve received that we do not deserve” (Nancy Guthrie, on Job). I think this is the believer’s key to contentment, especially in the eye of the storm.
How easy it must have been for Job to curse God and blame Him for all his calamities! Yet, through all his pain and confusion, Job continued to struggle with his God for thirty-seven chapters until the Lord revealed himself to Job in the final five. The more Job understood about who God is in his basic character, the more he could accept what God gave or took away—even though he didn’t understand it.
In the eye of the storm.
Job is the story about a real man who probably lived between the time of Abraham and Moses. But Job is much more than the story of an individual who suffered unjustly and triumphed over adversity. Job gives believers in every century a blueprint for trust and contentment in the eye of the worst storm imaginable. His testimony of hope in his Redeemer lives on forever.
The book of Job encapsulates all our deepest dreads. Are you at all familiar with those negative thoughts that grow into a worst-case scenario in your imagination? Psychologists call it ‘catastrophizing’. For instance, your child’s nosebleed must mean leukemia. Or news of a pandemic turns into the death of you and your whole family. Or a blue tick on Whatsapp means lifelong rejection! The difference is that Job actually experienced several worst-case-catastrophes all at once.
But in the middle of Job’s desperate anguish, as he struggled to find the Lord in his pain, and while responding to his ignorant friends’ simplistic accusations, Job was able to speak assuredly of restoration and resurrection life. Come hell or high water, Job knew what he knew about God’s redemption.
When I was chronically ill a few years ago, Job gave me the words of hope I needed to persevere and remain steadfast in my struggle, even though I didn’t know I would ever recover. Job’s words were,
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”
When his anguish was greatest, Job declared, almost defiantly,
“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)
Job continued to put his hope in God’s redemption even if he died in the process: “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).
We know that Satan had a destructive purpose in Job’s suffering, namely to destroy Job’s trust in the Lord he loved so much. But God also had a purpose in allowing Satan to harm Job—to grow Job’s trust in the Lord he loved so much. It was God’s good purpose that triumphed in Job’s life.
But if anyone had cause to complain against God; to abandon his faith and call himself an atheist; to grumble and be discontent with his lot, it was Job.
Cause for complaint.
Job was afflicted with terrible sores from head to foot and his skin had blackened with decay (Job 7:5; 30:30). Stripped bare of his family, possessions, honour and health, Job had almost given up hope of God answering his cries for vindication (Job 19:1-24). He even felt that God had turned on him and was punishing him.
Don’t we often think that we are to blame and that God is angry with us when we are in great pain?
Job wasn’t stoical about his suffering. In fact, it’s difficult to be unmoved by the chapters in which he expresses his pain to God. He feels truly God-forsaken:
“And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
17 Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
18 In his great power God becomes like clothing to me;
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19 He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
20 “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
Moreover, Job’s misery was amplified by windbag friends, who falsely condemned him, offering simplistic and callous explanations of how Job had brought calamity upon himself. These “miserable comforters” built their arguments on false assumptions and half truths about why people experience troubles. Their bad theology led to dangerous conclusions which hurt more than helped Job.
Eliphaz asks Job: “What innocent person ever perished? (Job 4:7). Is not your wickedness great and are not your sins endless?” (Job 22:5)
Bildad asks him: “Does God pervert justice?” (Job 8:3) “The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out… disaster is ready for him when he falls (Job 18:5; 12).
Zophar asks: “Surely God recognizes deceitful men, and when he sees evil, does he not take note? (Job 11:11) The mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment” (Job 20:5).
The accusations came thick and fast. By the time they’d finished gaslighting Job, they’d almost snuffed out whatever glimmer of hope was left in him.
A righteous man.
But although Job never claimed to be sinless, he knew in his heart of hearts that his sin hadn’t caused his present trouble (Job 27:5-6). It’s gratifying when God Himself vindicates Job and rebukes his friends, “You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:8). Job was not being punished by God for his sin.
In fact, Job had been a righteous judge, helping widows, the blind, the lame and the needy. All his life he’d protected the vulnerable and been compassionate (Job 29:25). Not only did the community respect Job, but the Lord himself judged him as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1; Job 2:3).
Despite groundless speculation about Job’s pride or unconscious sin, I have scoured the book and found no hint of hidden sin in his life. Scripture consistently portrays Job as a faithful and righteous man in the same category as Noah and Daniel (Ezek 14:14). Moreover, his integrity held up even when he suffered without cause.
In the New Testament, James praises Job as a steadfast man who persevered throughout his ordeal: “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about” (James 5:11).
And so, without any apparent reason, Job lost everything. To make matters worse, he was totally oblivious to what was happening in the spiritual realm (Job 1:12). Even as he sat in the ashes with a bitter wife pouring salt on his wounds and goading him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job responded with trust, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:9-10). Even under pressure, Job refused to “sin with his lips.”
Through the entire book, Job didn’t understand the cause of his suffering. He longed to stand up in court and prove his innocence to God (Job 31:35-37). He wanted answers, just as we want answers and reassurances when we are in the eye of the storm.
Questions, questions, questions.
Like Job, we often operate on the assumption that what we need most from God is relief from suffering and answers to our questions… NOW! We feel that we can’t be content until all the loose ends are resolved and we have been restored. Our contentment is conditional.
Job is restored in his lifetime, but through most of the book, Job is waiting for God’s answers and explanations which never come. However, we know that his confusion, struggles and longings were ultimately answered thousands of years later in the Lord Jesus:
- Job asks, “How can I bring my case before God and ask Him why?” (Job 9:32-3)
Today, we know the answer: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Because we trust in Jesus, we can approach God confidently and are invited to cast all our cares on Him, because He loves us.
- As Job’s life is ebbing away, he asks about the worst-case scenario, “What happens when I die?” (Job 14:14)
Today, we have the words of Christ to stand on, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
- After Job’s friends accuse him of sin and wickedness, Job asks, “Who can defend me? Who will argue my case with God?” (Job 16:19-21)
Today, we have the perfect Advocate to save us completely, not only from human accusations, or from Satan’s fiery darts, or the accusations of our emotions, but also from God’s final judgment against our real rebellion and sin. If we are in Christ, we know that God is not punishing us when we suffer, because Christ has taken all the punishment that we deserve.
“For Christ entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence… Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.(Heb 9:24; 7:24-25).
- Job asks, “Why even try to be good if the wicked seem to prosper?” (Job 21:7-15).
Today, we have Christ’s eternal perspective: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matt 16:26).
Ultimately, the reason why a Christian can be content today is not because we are always protected from harm. It’s because we know that we will live beyond dust and ashes and God’s love will never leave us.
Because of Christ, we will never be God-forsaken, no matter how loudly our emotions are screaming that we are (Matt 2:46). Jesus says that our greatest reason to rejoice today is because our names are written in heaven, for all eternity (Luke 10:20). Our souls are safe with him.
Clarity in the eye of the storm.
When we are forced to face our worst fears head-on, and we struggle with God like Job did, we come to see the glory and character of the Lord in the eye of the storm. It’s at this point that our own ideas of what He should be doing in the world and in our lives seem oddly out of place.
Job’s moment of clarity comes when God answers him out of the storm, and Job responds in awe, trust and repentance. It took 42 chapters to get there!
“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.” (Job 42:26)
Of course, Job isn’t an easy book to read. Who doesn’t prefer the calm days to the raging storms of life? But I’m glad that God chose to record Job’s life story before any other book in His Word, because Job reminds us that the same God who has lovingly ordered Creation, has also ordered our seasons and circumstances. He is the same Lord that provides for our contentment in any and every situation.
If our contentment always depends on desperately fleeing storms in search of sanctuary, we will never be content in either place, because we have no control over the beginning or ending of the seasons that God has appointed for us.
Contentment comes when we stop fighting to escape the storm, stop yearning for the good old days or a future of ease. Contentment is learned by those who struggle with God and know that their Redeemer lives, now and always.
Christ assures us of his glorious return to earth, which Job had the eyes of faith to foresee. Job imagined his Redeemer-God in glorious flesh standing in victory on a renewed earth! (Job 19:25-27)
Praise God that Christ our Redeemer will stand upon this earth one day, when “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command” (1 Thess 4:16). Ultimately, it is the Second Coming which gives us the perspective to be content now, even in the eye of the storm.
“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (1 Cor 15:42-43).
Lord, thank you for opening Job’s eyes to see a day when his Saviour would resurrect his dead body into a new body fit for the new heaven and new earth. He longed to gaze upon his Redeemer standing on this earth and making his home with his redeemed people. Just as you did with Job, reveal your character and love to us. Turn our eyes to this same reality so that we will keep trusting and wrestling with you, even in the eye of the storm. Amen.
Sing along to this beautiful song about Job.
Sources on Contentment and Job.
Nancy Guthrie, The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom books. Crossway, 2012.
Ash, Christopher, Out of the Storm: Grappling with God in the book of Job. IVP, 2004.
Lydia Brownback, Contentment—A Godly Woman’s Adornment. Crossway, 2008.
Jones, Robert, Contentment—Joy that Lasts. P&R Publishing, 2019.
Hill, Megan, Contentment—Seeing God’s Goodness. P&R Publishing, 2018.
Burroughs, Jeremiah, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (1648). Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted, 2000 .
Ash, Christopher, Discovering the Joy of a Clear Conscience. Intervarsity Press, 2012.
Kruger, Melissa, The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. Christian Focus Publications, 2012.