From my late teens I had an illness which meant I was unable to live a normal life and spent most of my time in bed or lying on the settee. It lasted many years and was tough, not just for me but the family too.
When I first read the book of Job I totally related to where he was coming from.
I could identify with his experiences including his constant questioning of God. It was me all over. Thankfully, during the 20 years of illness I came to learn some important lessons which have shaped me and most importantly my faith in the Lord. Here are a few thoughts on what I learnt through the book of Job…
It is vital to be honest with ourselves and God.
We need to tell him how we feel, how much we hurt. There are over 300 questions in this book, many of them asked by Job himself. God knows what we are going through but also how helpful it is for us to openly and honestly pour out our hearts including our frustration and anger.
It can often feel like God is far away from us during times of struggle but of course he is not.
Unlike Job we have direct access to God through the Lord Jesus. He is with us through all our suffering and intercedes for us too. 1 Timothy 2:5 ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man the Lord Jesus Christ’*. What a comfort.
Suffering is not always a punishment for sin.
This was a real challenge for me I worried that I must be doing something wrong, very wrong to be going through so much. It was really helpful to see how Job’s friends were mistaken. God wasn’t deliberately inflicting the suffering but allowing it to happen.
His purposes are often hidden from us, we cannot see the ‘big picture’ but He can.
God owes us no explanations, he loves us too much to harm us, no matter how much he may allow us to be hurt; He is too wise to make a mistake. He deserves our complete love and trust. He often does the unexplainable. In Isaiah 55:8 God says ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways’*.
Like Job I wanted answers from God, but I came to understand that what was far more important was my relationship with Him.
When I hurt deeply, what I needed was for God to give me a new revelation of Himself, to see how great He was so that I could recover my lost perspective on life.
Even now I don’t know why I had to go through such a long period of illness but I am so thankful that I learnt to see life differently and to trust God unconditionally. He helped me to recognise that my hope lay in my eternal future with Him and I kept my eyes focused on that hope.
I love the final chapters of the book when God responds to Job by reminding him of his eminence in creation. Job immediately feels completely unworthy and all his struggles and questions completely irrelevant. He replies by saying ‘I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’ [Job 42:6 ]*
God gave Job a whole new perspective on his situation.
All his suffering seemed nothing in the light of this awesome God.
This was the most important lesson I learnt too. Whenever I am losing my way I go back to the truths in Job, I need to remind myself who is sovereign and Lord of my life and to worship and trust Him.
One commentator wrote about Job – this book is not about answering the question ‘Why do the righteous suffer? But rather ‘Do we worship a God who is worthy of our suffering? Do we really understand the richness of his character, his love, mercy, grace, goodness, kindness and love and trust him no matter what?
*Bible quotations taken from New International Version (c) 2011