Are You Feeling Hopeless This Season?
So many Christians are feeling despondent, discouraged, or depressed in the face of the resurgence of the Covid-19 virus in our country and around the world, the continued lockdowns in many areas of our country, the economic downturn these will surely create, and the other painful, daily reminders on our televisions that life has been anything but “normal” this year, and doesn’t look like it’s going to return to “normal” anytime soon.
A few weeks ago, I published what I thought would be the last blog in a series on Job, but God is still using this faithful, but obscure, servant and his book to teach me how to handle the trainwreck that is the year 2020.
I believe I mentioned that God never really answered any of Job’s accusations or questions about his negative circumstances. In fact, we have no record of God even addressing them at all. As Job endured the loss of all of his children due to accident, the loss of his livelihood by outside attack, and the loss of his health because of physical disease which caused painful boils over all of this body, he understandably started forming some conclusions about God and His justice that weren’t too complimentary. Let’s face it: he had lost everything important to him except his wife, who then turned around and verbally attacked him and his relationship with God as well. To be honest, things looked pretty much like 2020 to him! Because of that, I think there are some more truths we can glean from God to apply to our own version of the trials of Job we call the year 2020.
Lessons Learned in Job
When we encounter hard times and circumstances in our lives, it is natural for us to become self-focused. Over the past three weeks, I have thrown my back out with a strain that incapacitated me, had to get my first colonoscopy (not related), cracked the root on a tooth, and had emergency oral surgery to have that tooth removed. As I was rocking in pain in my bed after the oral surgery, it was hard for me to think about anything BUT the pain I was suffering. It’s our natural response as our bodies, our flesh, insist upon having our complete attention!
As Job was self-focused on his pain and the misery of his situations, his response was to complain about it all to his friends. That’s a totally natural and understandable response, but it didn’t actually bring him any relief. Job wasn’t able to understand any of what was happening to him until he took his focus off of himself and on to what God was already doing, and had been doing in his life the entire time. You see, there was a story about God’s faithfulness being told in Creation all along, but Job’s insistence of being preoccupied with thoughts of himself blinded him from it all. He had “heard” all about God, but had not “seen” Him for who He really is.
As Job rehashed his pain and suffering, God came to him and drew his attention up and away from what he “felt” and onto seeing God’s faithfulness in Creation. God showed him animals all over the world – other natural phenomena that illustrated the care and faithfulness that God continually shows us. Job’s response was to recognize and understand God in a more deeply intimate way, as revealed in Job 42:5:
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You;
Listen to God’s Word
Job didn’t have the compilation of the books of the Bible to study as we do today, or the revelation of God’s Son Jesus, but he could look beyond himself to the creation at hand. Psalm 19:1 says,
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
As Job looked up from self-occupation, and began to see the faithfulness of God at work all around him, his countenance changed.
Job began to see that God had not in fact left him, but was faithfully loving him through the trials he was enduring. God was producing in Job a deeper faith, not based on favorable circumstances – which can change as quickly as the weather – but based on the unfailing character of God Himself. Job was actually getting an education on the character and goodness of God through faith, which is the only way we will ever really “see” God’s face while we live in our flesh on this earth.
I believe that God wants us to lift up our eyes from our broken circumstances and gaze at Jesus, the exact representation of His character, to form our beliefs about who God is and what He has done in our lives.
Hebrews 1:3 speaks of Jesus when it tells us,
And He is the radiance of His [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.
We can’t look to our circumstances to tell us who God is or what He is like. We have to look beyond ourselves and on to Jesus and His Word to give us that.
Let Go of the Need to Understand Why
As I mentioned previously, Job never got an answer to this question before he was able to move on to do the next things God had for him.
Job came to a place of absolute trust in the goodness of the will of God. In Job 42:2 he says,
I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
Job was able to move beyond his circumstances to see God at work even in the midst of the painful trials and tribulations. The book of Job clearly demonstrates that the evil brought upon Job’s life was instigated by Satan, but the power and purposes of God could not be stopped even by the evil that came to Job.
As we shift our focus off of our need for God to explain “why?”, we will be able to move forward into the next blessings and purposes God has for us. We can’t really grow in our maturity if we keep refusing to walk by faith and not by sight. Our faithful Father has so much more for us to receive and do, but we can’t let ourselves be distracted by our own personal pain, our own human understanding of the situation, or our need to know “why?”
God may choose to explain everything to us, just like He eventually did for Job, but He might not. And we have to be content just knowing He is good and will only do what is best for us either way.
The results in Job’s life, the growth in his trust in God in the midst of trials, are profound! First, he moved immediately into his ministry of interceding and praying for his critical, backstabbing friends. Then, God doubled Job’s losses by giving him twice as much wealth as he had before his trials, restoring Job’s health, and replacing his lost children with more children. Job thus had double in every area that was stolen from him, because his first children were waiting for him in Heaven.
2020 in a Nutshell
As 2020 comes to a close and we enter the holiday season, I want to encourage you to follow Job’s example of handling the trials and challenges you may be enduring right now. If you will shift your focus upward, you will be able to see more clearly all that God is doing even in the midst of this darkness. As you listen to Jesus and read God’s Word, you will be encouraged to believe in what you don’t easily see, and you will start to walk by faith and not by sight. As you begin to trust in His goodness and let go of the need to know “why?” your contentment and joy will return, even in the midst of the trials and tribulations all around you and you will be able to truly,
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4