By David Faust
Oswald Chambers said, “The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super-joy.” Hardship can make us wiser and deeper, but it feels like a high price to pay. “The testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:3), but honestly, most of us would rather apply that lesson to someone else, not to ourselves.
At the beginning of the book that bears his name, Job was already a good man—materially blessed and spiritually “blameless and upright,” a man who “feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). His cup was full; and as someone has said, “It takes a steady hand to carry a full cup.” Was Job steady enough to handle so many blessings? If there was still room for improvement in his life, what would it take to make him better?
The rest of the book tells us the answer. Job lost his health, his wealth, and most of his family—and he nearly lost his composure—but he didn’t lose his faith. Oh, his faith wavered, and his pain-ridden body and tortured emotions pulled him to the verge of despondency. But by the end of the book he came face-to-face with the inescapable wisdom and power of God, and he recognized his own limitations. He admitted to the Lord, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3), then added, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (v. 6).
Job’s story causes us to wrestle with the mystery of unanswered prayer, but the book ends by emphasizing how God answered Job’s prayers. In the final chapter the Lord vindicated Job’s integrity and confronted Job’s friends who had offered unwise counsel. Twice the Lord told them, “You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (v. 7). Humbled and repentant, Job’s three friends offered seven bulls and seven rams as a burnt offering, and then “the Lord accepted Job’s prayer” (vv. 8, 9).
Job’s story encourages us to keep praying in faith, and to pray not only for ourselves but also for others. Throughout the book Job was preoccupied with his own suffering, but things took a positive turn when he prayed for his friends.
A Happy Ending
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (v. 10). Friends and relatives “came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring” (v. 11).
In fact, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (v. 12). Job’s fortune was restored with thousands of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. God blessed him with a family again, “seven sons and three daughters,” and Job “saw his children and their children to the fourth generation” (vv. 13, 16). The book concludes, “And so Job died, an old man and full of years” (v. 17).
It’s difficult to comprehend, but trials can make a good man better. The Lord’s greatest blessings will come in eternity rather than here on earth, but one thing’s for sure: If we remain faithful, there are better things ahead.
1. What do you think is the main lesson of the book of Job?
2. What has God taught you through your own times of personal suffering?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 23, 2012
Haggai 1, 2