Friday, May 25, 2018

When God feels absent

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 20-23; Psalm 140

TO CHEW ON: "Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.
But He knows the way that I take,
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." - Job 23:8-10

We left Job sitting in the ash heap, scraping his itchy, painful boils, mourning the loss of his children and possessions, and confused about why all this has happened. After sitting with him in silence for seven days, his three friends try to answer his question.

His friend Eliphaz thinks Job is suffering because he has sinned.

Bildad thinks he is a hypocrite.

Zophar condemns him for being verbose and presumptuous in his attempts to answer their accusations. *

Our reading today is one of Job's responses to his accusing friends. He, in effect, ignores all their finger-pointing and pleads his integrity. If only he could find God, God would "take note of" him. But God feels absent.

Still Job doesn't give up. Instead he puts into words his unswerving faith: "But He knows the way I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold" - Job 23:10.

Job does a number of things that we would do well to copy when we're going through trials:

1. He restates his belief that God is fair and is for him, even though it doesn't feel that way (Job 23:1-6).

2. He expresses the belief that God has a purpose for what is going on in his life even though He feels absent (Job 23:8-10).

3. He honours God with his statements of respect, trust and awe (Job 23:13-17).

The attitude he displays reminds me of the advice Jerry Bridges gives in his book Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts:

"Again, let me emphasize that trusting God does not mean we do not experience pain. It means we believe that God is at work through the occasion of our pain for our ultimate good. It means we work back through the Scriptures regarding His sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness, and ask Him to use those Scriptures to bring peace and comfort to our hearts. It means above all, that we do not sin against God by allowing distrustful and hard thoughts about Him to hold sway in our minds. It will often mean that we may have to say, 'God I don't understand, but I trust You'" - Jerry Bridges,  Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, Kindle edition p. 214 (emphasis added)
I sure have far to go in this department! What about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, I can't tell how I would react in a tough situation like Job's—neither do I want to have to find out.  Please engrave Job's faith and confidence in You into my spirit so that I will be as solid as he was when troubles come to me, as I know they will. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 140

* Job summarized with help from "Introduction to Job," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, pp. 644, 645.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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