Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited Me against him, to destroy him without just cause.” Job 2:3.
The Introduction to this devotional series set the stage for this study, borne of my efforts to understand and cope with a string of courtroom trial losses that seemed to defy logical explanation. To assess whether I had stepped outside of God’s will, I turned to scripture and found helpful insight from the lives of four men in the Bible – all whose names begin with the letter J. I discussed Jonah in the prior devotional.
The second “J” that I considered was Job, whose two phases of trials were almost unspeakable. Phase one consisted of the loss of all his livestock (oxen, donkeys, camels, and sheep), the killing of all but four servants (by fire and sword), and the horrific windstorm-caused death of all of his children. Literally, Job’s livelihood and family, save his wife, were gone. Phase two arrived a short time later, causing Job to suffer from skin boils so severe that his wife suggested he curse God and die. (Job 2:9).
Why did Job suffer such calamities? Amazingly, counter-intuitively, it was because of his strong faith and “perfect integrity”. God was enjoying what He saw in Job’s life and was willing to allow Satan near free reign to see if Job’s faith was genuine and founded on God, rather than on God’s blessings.
[Satan said to God] “Haven’t You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions are spread out in the land. But, stretch out Your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” Job 1:10-11.
Job’s friends were unanimous in diagnosing the wreckage of his life: Job was being punished for failing God. The book’s chapters alternate between one friend’s assessment of Job’s plight and call for Job to repent, followed by Job’s stubborn refusal to reach the same diagnosis and conclusion. Admittedly, Job’s resolve weakens by the time God finally speaks some of the most compelling and majestic passages in all the Bible (see Job 38-41).
How does Job’s life story inform us on this topic? Trials are not necessarily a means of discipline or punishment. Whereas Jonah reaped the consequence of his sin, Job’s strong faith was put to the test. This biblical precedent is not limited to the ancients, but applies equally to us today. God may test our faith, either by direct action or by letting Satan’s leash out a bit more. Thus, trials that validate and fortify our faith should be considered “a great joy”, despite their discomfort.
We have two more “J”s to discuss, both of whom align more with Job than with Jonah. Stay tuned.