When life deals one cruel blow after another and there is no silver lining behind the dark clouds, that is when we most need to fall before God in humble worship. That is when we learn to worship Him for who He is rather than for who we expect Him to be.
Perhaps the most difficult tests in life are the unexpected ones that arrive without warning. You might be facing one of them today. One of the surprising truths we have already discovered in the life of Job—who is about to face unexpected and severe suffering—is that his godly life did not protect him from suffering; in fact, it actually invited suffering.
Now some people might say, “Yes, but this cloud of suffering has a huge silver lining. I’ve read the last chapter, and Job has ten more children, and everything turns out wonderfully.”
Well, let me encourage you not to run to the end of the book just yet. And remember, even though Job will have more children in the future, he is not going to get back the children he loses.
And Job doesn’t know what is ahead of him. In fact, he doesn’t know about a conversation in heaven in which Satan has accused God of bribing Job with good things in life to get Job’s worship in return. Job doesn’t know what we know—that God has allowed this cloud of suffering to invade his life in order to give us all an example of how to handle the storms of life.
Well, here’s comes the storm cloud, in Job 1:14-15:
There came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.
Bandits from southern Arabia came and stole his livestock and killed all the field hands.
Before Job has a chance to ask a question, verse 16 reports:
While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
This must have been an incredible fire because it trapped and killed all 7,000 sheep and all the shepherds who worked for Job.
Before Job can even catch his breath, a third messenger runs up with more bad news:
“The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” (verse 17)
These fierce warriors from northern Mesopotamia swept down and stole 3,000 camels and killed anything else that breathed. Only this messenger made it out alive.
So, Job has effectively lost his businesses, his fortune, and his workforce. And if he thinks for just a moment that at least he still has his family, the fourth and final messenger races up, no doubt weeping, and says here in verses 18-19:
“Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
This seems to be that annual birthday party, where the kids all gathered to celebrate, as we mentioned back in verse 4. A powerful wind, probably a tornado, sort of just appeared out of nowhere and seemed to target this particular house, and it collapsed. “Job, all ten of your children are dead.”
It’s as if all the forces of heaven and earth have conspired against this godly man. No reassuring voice speaks from heaven, saying, “Take heart, Job, Satan is testing your faith. Stand strong.”
No, the heavens are silent, and they will remain silent for a long time.
Maybe you have tasted this kind of suffering. Maybe you are like the woman whose husband left her for a younger woman. She had two children she now would raise on her own. Then about the time the courts refused to give her adequate alimony, she was diagnosed with cancer. She moved in with her elderly parents, into their small, two-bedroom home with their limited income and failing health.
She was the faithful believer; she was the one who walked with God. There’s no silver lining around her cloud either.
According to the Job narrative, each of these messengers interrupted each other as they delivered the heartbreaking news. I pulled out a stopwatch and read these four messages, at about the same pace Job heard them. It took me thirty-nine seconds to read them all.
In just thirty-nine seconds, Job’s life was changed forever; in thirty-nine seconds, he learned that he had lost everything.
Now, because we have been given the inside story of the conversation between Satan and God, we can be sure Satan and his demons are hovering over this scene, waiting—just wishing—for a word of blasphemy from Job, just one.
It might have been immediate, or it might have been several hours, but the next verse, verse 20, tells us what happened next. First, “Job arose, and he tore his robe.” Tearing this outer garment indicated someone’s broken heart. Then he “shaved his head.” This was the custom of expressing a loss of personal honor—of being completely devastated and humbled by circumstances.
Satan hopes now is the moment when Job will raise his fist toward heaven and curse His silent, evidently uncaring God. Oh, but verse 20 says he “fell on the ground and worshiped.”
He prostrated himself and began to worship God.
If you are like me, you would want some answers, some explanations, before you would start worshiping God. Not Job. His response provides us with at least two convicting lessons about suffering.
First, unexpected trials remind us of what really matters in life. Job says here in verse 21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.” You are born without anything in your little hands, and at death, your hands are empty again.
Suffering has a way of separating the temporary from the eternal; and when things are going well, we tend to lose that focus. As one author noted, after a hurricane no one goes running through the neighborhood crying that his cordless drill is missing or his golf clubs have been washed away. Suffering has a way of “prying our fingers off the stuff we love.”
The second lesson is this: unexpected suffering reminds us that everything is on loan from God. Job says at the end of verse 21, The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And verse 22 concludes, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” I like to think that the only sound of cursing in the universe this day was from the lips of Satan, who had failed.
As Job lies here in the dust, he says with great wisdom, “The Lord gave me everything I had; it belonged to Him to begin with.” Beloved, it isn’t necessary to understand God’s plans before we bow in His presence.
Some time ago I was handed a poem, which I included in my message at the funeral of a little four-year-old girl. This family’s testimony was like Job’s. They trusted God’s promises, even though they had no real explanations.
My Father’s way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad I know,
He maketh no mistake.
Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.