We all have gone through some really tough times. Some of us might even be tempted to classify those times as impossible. Beyond human endurance impossible.
Let me share with you some of what I am currently dealing with. First of all, I’m married and that brings with it it’s own “stuff”. My wife is a paraplegic and amputee and is in constant pain. She is confined to bed 90% of the time and requires a lot of care, including wound care. I'm working about 70 hours a week and have a non-profit organization that I am the executive director of that requires at least another 10 hours a week, not to mention trying to raise funds for the ministry. I attend church regularly by bus so that my wife can attend and we have begun tithing on a regular basis. My 54 year old body is breaking down and I’m now struggling to keep up with the demands in spite of dealing with constant pain. My boss recently laid me off for 2 weeks without pay and now I’m behind schedule with my rent.
I am also completely devoted to following Christ and submitting to His Lordship at all times.
And I would be fully justified to say that I am going through a Job experience. Wouldn’t I? Wouldn’t you if you were doing everything right and this was your life?
Actually, the more that I have looked at scripture and then at my life I have to say that I am not experiencing what Job did. In fact, Job 1:1 helps put me in my place, literally and biblically.
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was BLAMELESS and UPRIGHT, one who FEARED GOD and TURNED AWAY FROM EVIL.” Job 1:1 ESV (emphasis mine)
See what I mean? I have not even come close to having anyone use those words to describe me. We know the failures of almost every man in the Bible; Noah was a drunk, Abraham was a liar, Jacob was a cheat, Moses was a murderer, David was adulterer, and the list goes on.
When someone says that he now knows what Job went through because he is going through the same stuff, I remind him of Job 1:1 and ask him if he is sure that he really knows what Job went through. They usually will quickly try to deflect and avoid answering by stating that Job was a sinner like everyone else. They will then quote from Romans,
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 ESV)
Though I agree in principle, they remain hard pressed to give a specific sin associated with Job. Plus, when we do that I think that we’re taking the entire book of Job out of context. The only reason that Job was flaunted by God in Satan’s face was because of Job’s faithfulness. God knew that Job would remain faithful to God regardless of any circumstances arising in his life.
Imagine that in the span of less than 5 minutes, the tremendous wealth, prosperity, community influence, and his family's lineage would come to a crashing halt. It disappeared into oblivion (Job 1:13-19). At least he still had his health. Right?
That was followed up with major health and pain issues (Job 2:7-8). And if that wasn’t enough, 2 of his closest friends turned against him. Talk about a life that sucked.
And when the proverbial “stuff” hits the fan in my life, I am usually the first one to identify with Job as if there’s nothing I had done to warrant my current situation.
I think that 99% of the time, when we go through those situations we are not even close to Job. I also think that when we are going through “it”, we are identifying with the wrong man of God in Scripture.
On the other hand, we have another example of a man going through major suffering, however with this man, it wasn’t because of his faithfulness, patience, or perseverance. With this guy, it was his disobedience and refusal to do what God told him to do.
This is our introduction to the prophet Jonah.
God had told him to go and preach to the city of Nineveh. Now, Jonah never did tell God no. He did however completely ignore Him and took a ship headed in the opposite direction. Preaching to Nineveh would be like God sending someone to Saudi Arabia to preach to ISIS. There was nothing good about those people. They were known to be unbelievably cruel to their enemies. I can totally understand Jonah’s reluctance.
Remember that commercial for margarine, “It's not nice to fool mother nature.” Well, nobody called by God will fare well by saying NO to God. The Sovereign Creator's plans will be accomplished. Always! Period!
We can read in the book of Jonah how after God gives Jonah his directive to go to Nineveh, Jonah ignores the Word of the Lord like the average teenager told to go clean their room. God first sends a fierce storm and then a great fish to swallow Jonah. During this whole time, God is silent. He doesn't say anything again until the final chapter. He just lets Jonah suffer. And suffer is what Jonah did. Three days is all it took before Jonah cried out. And when he called out, it was to fulfill what God wanted him to do in the first place.
When I look back at what I’ve been going through, I finally realized that I wasn’t going through a Job experience. I was in fact, going through my own Jonah experience.
The difference between Job and Jonah is that Job was where he was because of God’s decision, while Jonah was where he was because of his own decision. Job had to just keep his faith and trust in God. However, Jonah actually had to make changes in his life to realign himself with God’s will and purpose.
So as you begin to reflect on your current crisis and situations, ask yourself, “Where am I at in relationship to God's desire for my life?” A very good prayer to use in this circumstance was written by King David and is found in Psalms 139 and I can share with experience that it really helped me clarify things in my life.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before me;
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of bl;ood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with a complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!