No matter how different our individual lives seem to take their own course, we universally face some form of hardship. Slice it however you’d like, nobody is immune to life’s funny (and often frustrating) ways of throwing us for a loop.
That’s why the book of Job seems so relatable. Even if we’re diligent in our faith life, treating others with kindness and doing the best we can, there are still so many times we feel lost, hurt, and confused. We think we’ve done all the right things, and yet it doesn’t feel like enough.
We ask God, “Why do you subject me to struggle if I am acting as You’ve taught us to?” This is where people will throw in doubts of faith or God at all because, if God were as loving and merciful as He claims to be, then why do even the most devout of followers bear the hardest burdens?
There’s a lot of be said about this discrepancy between faith and hardship, and the book of Job will shed some light on it.
What’s in the Book of Job?
This is a decently long book and one of the most widely celebrated books in the Old Testament all about a wealthy man named Job. When God is discussing Job with the Adversary (what Christians assume is Satan), Satan questions how genuine Job’s faith is when he has lived an abundantly blessed life. God then allows Satan to inflict hardships on Job, keeping him alive in the process, to test his faith.
In a single day, Job loses his livestock, servants and children. He later develops sores over his body, but despite it all, Job accepts his circumstances, refusing to curse God. Four of Job’s friends come to mourn with him and they provoke Job to assert his blameless character and question man’s relationship with God.
Why subject people to justice if He can adjust human error? How can man persuade God that he is worthy of grace? Who could mediate a conversation between man and God to plead a case for mercy?
Job sustains his confidence in spite of his friends’ criticisms, responding that even if he has done evil, it is his own personal problem. Furthermore, he believes that there is a “witness” or a “Redeemer” in heaven who will vouch for his innocence. God later intervenes, illustrating His power with rhetorical questions Job and any human could never fully grasp. Once admitting humanity’s limited knowledge, God restores Job’s blessings.
How can we relate?
In our tribulations, our own or others’, we inevitably come upon questions of meaning. If spirituality is meant to guide us and give our lives a purpose, why should that purpose be to suffer? Why do some people who treat others poorly seem to have all the rewards, while so many good people to poverty, disease and discomfort?
As God reveals in the Book of Job, we don’t have clear answers. Mankind can only understand so much about God’s mysterious ways, and that gap differentiates the earthly and spiritual realms.
God could undoubtedly rid the world of all suffering, and that is His promise for whenever He has decided. Until then, we carry on each day and whatever it may bring. We don’t know if God and Satan are placing bets on our authenticity, nor do we see how each day’s challenges fall into a larger plan God has yet to unfold. All we can really do is remain steadfast in our beliefs that with every occurrence, there is meaning, a depth far greater than the mind can fathom.
Did you notice how, prior to Job’s trials, God ensured Job would not die from Satan’s toying. We must have faith that God will never subject us to hardship we cannot handle. Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, we might think giving up is the best option. But God would never veer us from our capabilities. He would never leave us weak without reviving our spirit with strength.
If God simply controlled everyone, willing us to follow every commandment all the time, then what would the point be? We would be puppets in His hands. We would never live life as it was meant to be lived. God granted us with evolved minds that make decisions and form thoughts. He did so realizing that we don’t always make the best decisions. And still, He didn’t leave us empty-handed, lost and wandering: He gave us the “Redeemer” Job knows exists, that allows us to be human and exert an extent of free will and still deserve all His blessings and grace.
Regardless of how hard we try, how much good we try to do, we cannot deny that we will and continue to sin. Even if it’s unintentional, our thoughts and actions can still deviate from what we know is right. That’s just human nature, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over that. Instead, we should accept and admit ourselves as sinners and embrace God’s ceaseless love. We are products of His hands, and in every moment of contentment, of happiness, and even of fault and resentment, God’s love withstands. He doesn’t leave our side.
The takeaway message
Some hardships seem bigger than others, but we all have and will endure life with them. We walk through obstacles and juggle negative emotions because they mold our spirits into their strongest forms. We struggle to gain perspective, to lead the life destined for us. We bear burdens so we learn to give them to God, and we realize we aren’t suffering alone. We can then find refuge in His Word and utilize our empathy to help others also struggling to get by.
With every hardship, there is a reason to be grateful. With every weakness, there is strength. Our curious minds will always find more questions, pondering abstract ideas of purpose and meaning, but we can rest assured God knows every answer. And even when we don’t understand, He always takes care of us. Tough love, sometimes, but love nonetheless. Hardships pass, but He endures.
Mindful meditation: Almighty Father, as we study Your Word and the Book of Job, You illuminate some of our questions of doubt. We are all sinful in our own ways, but it can seem some sinners receive heavier burdens than others. However, we are reminded that Your plans for us are beyond our present thoughts, and through every test and trial, Your love and grace remain. Thank You. Amen.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie
(PS, did you like today’s post? I have never done an in-depth Bible study before, but if you’d like to see more, please let me know!)