Trial, Tribulation, & Turmoil

I just finished reading the book of Job recently. I know that it’s probably not on anyone’s top ten list of favorite books of the Bible, but when you step back from the simple narrative, it actually teaches us a lot about how to navigate the disappointments, pain and suffering in our world today.

To briefly summarize the story:  Job was a righteous man who trusted in God and was blessed with wealth and prosperity. Satan challenged his integrity, supposing that Job would curse God if he was allowed to suffer. When the Lord removed His divine protection, the devil orchestrated quadruple disasters that erased all of Job’s vast wealth, killed his servants and all ten of his children. Imagine the loss! The pain and confusion would be overwhelming!! And as if that wasn’t enough, the enemy eventually attacked Job’s health, causing painful sores to break out all over his body.  But even with the immense emotional and physical suffering, he didn’t curse God as a result.

Throughout most of the rest of the book, Job asks a lot of questions about his situation, wondering why the righteous are punished while the wicked prosper. After much discussion with his less that helpful friends, in chapter 38, God shows up personally to address Job. Though modern readers may have preferred it, God doesn’t get into debate with this mortal, or even begin to answer his questions.

The first thing the Lord says is “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” (Job 38:1) My more modern (unofficial) translation of that verse is, “Job, you have no idea what’s going on here.” And, if you’ll indulge a little more from the ‘Revised Karen Translation’ of this passage, the Almighty goes on to essentially say, “Job, I’m God. I do what I please, for reasons you don’t understand.”

And, interestingly, that’s enough for Job.

In that respect, believers would do well to be a little more like this ancient patriarch. There’s a point in our spiritual journey we have to come to the realization that there are some things God doesn’t tell us. (Deut 29:29) But, just because a situation doesn’t make sense to us doesn’t mean that it’s, indeed, senseless.

If we go back to Job, he had no idea about the spiritual interaction between Satan and God that preceded his predicaments. Nor did he understand that his story would be recorded and preserved in the pages of scripture to stand as a source of encouragement for countless generations. There was purpose to the tragedy he endured. Job just didn’t see it.

You know, people face crazy stuff in this world, and there will continue to be pain, suffering and trauma that we can’t explain. But attempting to define God through our flawed analysis of the events of our lives will always lead to bewilderment. A life of faith requires us to look at our situations differently. We need to learn to interpret disappointments and frustrations through what we know about God, and not interpret God, through the flawed filter of our circumstances.

We have plenty of evidence -in the Bible and in our lives every day- that proves God is trustworthy. As a result, we can -and must- be confidant in His love and grace, even when our experiences defy explanation.

 

18 thoughts on “Trial, Tribulation, & Turmoil

  1. This speaks to everyone I know but I particularly want to share with my friend who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose a couple of weeks ago.

    1. I’m so sorry for your friend. I’m glad that you read something here that might encourage her. Please share! It’s 100% the reason that I write these posts… that someone may be encouraged.
      i know that sometimes there aren’t really any good answers to our ‘why’ questions, but even we can’t or don’t understand, we as believers do have hope that lies beyond the grave. Even when there is great pain and confusion, we can still hold on to the promises of God that He works all things for His glory and our good.
      Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” 1 Cor. 15:20-26

  2. Just the words I needed to hear today, Karen. All in the course of the last 24 hours, 5 people I care about faced horrendous hurt. My heart is aching for each of them and I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why, God?” This post gave me the fresh eyes I needed to have.
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

    1. That makes me so happy to know that you were encouraged! Thanks for taking the time to let me know. I hope that you and your friends/family will feel the grace, mercy & presence of God in a tangible way as you navigate the uncertain waters ahead. He is with you!

  3. This… “We need to learn to interpret disappointments and frustrations through what we know about God, and not interpret God, through the flawed filter of our circumstances.” This is so true, and what I need to remember when I face disappointments.

  4. This is so good, Karen! A good reminder that a life of faith requires us to look at our situations differently. Indeed, just because a situation doesn’t make sense to us doesn’t mean that it’s, indeed, senseless.

    1. God is the author of all that is good. We can trust that it is so, whether we can understand or not. Thanks Kathleen. Blessings on your ministry!

  5. “We need to learn to interpret disappointments and frustrations through what we know about God, and not interpret God, through the flawed filter of our circumstances.” The other day I heard the writer of a recently published book talk on the radio about her faith walk. She seemed to have had all the tough challenges neatly wrapped up except the “Why?” Underlying it all, that question remained unanswered and it seemed that though the wound appeared to have healed, there was an abscess called “why?” Only if she could read YOUR statement here. When our filter is God… we don’t need to know the why… we just need more of God, don’t we Karen?
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful piece.

    1. That “why” question is just like you said… and abscess that just won’t heal. Deuteronomy 29:29 says that “the secret things belong to the Lord” and we just need to accept that we don’t get all the answers we’d like… but then that’s the essence of faith isn’t it? believing without having to know everything. God says over and over and over. “Trust Me.” And when do we need to do that more than in situations and circumstances that defy explanation. God says there is purpose in our pain. We need to have faith that what He says is true… even when our hearts ache. Thanks for sharing that story and your insight, Diane.

  6. Karen, the featured image you chose for this post is what immediately put the title into perspective. Back home (U.S. Virgin Islands) we grow that plant. It’s called “Crown of Thorns.” The biblical account you chose and your spiritual thoughts are perfectly represented by that plant. In fact, it has inspired me to draft a sermon titled, “The Glory of Trials.” Thank you for this uplifting message!

    1. Thanks for the info on the plant… I had no idea what it was, but knew that from the picture, it typified exactly what our trials can become if we look for God in them. Glad you were inspired!! Blessings to you, Joe!

  7. BIG amen. This should be our basic perspective of God and why we can trust Him. This is one of your very best. Possibly in the top two!

    1. Thanks Rachel. It’s the perspective believers MUST cultivate in order to navigate the calamities that come to all of us. God has a purpose even when we don’t see it. AND we can trust Him.

  8. Good thoughts on this subject…. we are so prone to question everything… it is the “in” thing to do… and we also question God…. and not just those pain filled questions that are not challenging God… we sometimes slip over into “directing” God in what He should or shouldn’t do. How dare we? We don’t show the respect and trust that we should and what a blessing to see Job’s example.

    1. The culture we live in today breeds such arrogance and like you said, challenging and directing our great God. Believers need to work hard to go against the trends of today and cultivate reverence and big doses of humility. Thanks for your thoughts

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