The book of Job. It’s the movie moment of the Bible that goes something like this: “Well, if you’re reading this, something must have gone wrong.” A friend of mine who used to own a car dealership said to me just before the 2008 recession, “You know it’s bad when a car dealer is reading Job.” It was bad and got worse, as indicated by the phrase “used to own.”
We are all familiar with the story. Job is caught in the crossfire of a cosmic bet between Satan and God. Satan took full advantage of the access he was given to destroy everything Job had. Throughout the calamity Job is visited by three friends, all of whom sought to explain events through their own perspective. This, of course, made matters worse for Job. In the end Job endured the suffering without cursing God, giving God the win on the bet.
But as the events wrapped up in Job 42, God pays a compliment to Job as He is chastising Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends:
“I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7, NLT)
So not only did Job endure the experience without cursing God, He also spoke accurately (with gut-wrenching honesty) of God throughout the experience, a virtuous action held in stark contrast to Job’s friends who obviously did not speak accurately of God.
And therein lies a very simple goal in personal spiritual formation: to speak accurately of God while suffering. But why is this a worthy goal?
- Less Wheel Spinning
The more we know about God’s ways, the less time we’ll spend either putting words in God’s mouth or spinning our wheels on the question of “Why?” This frees up bandwidth to experience all that God wants to deliver to us in our suffering: His presence, His mercy, and maybe His healing.
- Less Acting on Our Own
A recent survey on biblical literacy showed that 81 percent of adult Christians believe the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is an actual Bible verse. It’s not. In fact, the entire message of the Bible is the complete opposite of that phrase. To know God intimately and better understand His ways puts us in a better position to depend on God and trust the circumstances.
- Better Projection of God
The more we intimately know God and understand His ways the more likely we will project an accurate picture of God and receive a compliment from Him similar to what Job received. Suffering in this world generates the biggest questions from outside observers about God’s existence and involvement in this world. Does our response to suffering as believers project an accurate picture of God?
Tool to Use
As a follow up to this post, we’d like to give you a gift: a free session from InWord’s upcoming new study, Lossology 101: Developing a Personal Theology of Loss. The document is the leader’s personal prep, the background study for the group session (the group session guides are still being developed). You can let this session (Session 4, The Holy Snort Cry) serve as the conclusion of this blog post.
Questions to Ponder
- What can we do in our youth ministries to ensure teens are developing an accurate picture of God in their spiritual formation?
- What can we do to address the questions that suffering generates? How can we equip our students to handle suffering before they actually experience it?
- What can we do as leaders to ensure that we are speaking accurately of God when ministering through suffering?
Post Image: Gustave Dore drawing of Job and his friends.