“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments…Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”—Job 23:3-4, 8-10
Job felt abandoned by God and his grief was increased by listening to his three friends. Their argument was simple: for Job to have lost his children and his health meant that he had sinned to deserve his fate. So his friends set out to help Job uncover his transgression, confess it, and then he’d be blessed again and free to move ahead with God. For his part, Job did not claim to be perfect, but he simply did not agree that he was the sinner that his friends made him out to be.
With ten fresh graves on the hillside, Job worshipped God when the tragedy came. His wife was of no particular help by encouraging him to “curse God and die” (2:9). But sitting there on the ash heap day after day with painful boils all over his body, his faith vanished, especially in the presence of his friends who kept probing his soul to find the source of his tragedy.
In despair Job cries, “God gives me up to the ungodly and casts me into the hands of the wicked. I was at ease, and he broke me apart; he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces; he set me up as his target;his archers surround me. He slashes open my kidneys and does not spare; he pours out my gall on the ground” (16:11-13).
Job traces his trial directly to God; after all, it was the Almighty who allowed the windstorm, the lightning, and the evil Sabeans to destroy his children, livestock and servants. And, it was the Almighty who allowed the devil to give Job painful sores all over his body. Certainly Satan was involved, but he was constantly under the direct supervision and limitations imposed on him by God. So Job knows that, ultimately, his calamity must be traced back to God.
Finally, having encountered a silent heaven, and listening to the constant accusations of his friends, Job bursts out in a soliloquy that reveals his sense of abandonment and despair. And yet, even here he is not without hope. He laments his bitterness and his frustration of being unable to find God, no matter how sincere or desperate his search. Yet, he cleaves to his faith in God and says, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (23:10).
If you are in despair, pray for yourself today, or even better, pray for a friend or relative who has abandoned their faith because of the apparent indifference of God to their plight. Let us be honest in our disappointment with God’s perceived lack of concern in our lives, but also rejoice that He will bring us through, stronger than ever, because “the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7).
Let Us Pray
Father, we confess that many times we’ve been disappointed because it appears that You haven’t answered our prayers and cries for help. Today, my need is great and specific, and I bring it to You again. But, Lord, help me to be content to say, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Romans 8:36). Give me the assurance that hardship is never to be interpreted as an abandonment of Your faithfulness.
I pray that ____ might say with Job, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). When they doubt, give them hope, and when they are in despair, give them comfort. Let not the self-righteous people who judge _____ hinder his/her faith in your goodness and provision. And let grace and peace overwhelm them. Today, reveal Yourself to them that they might be able to pass the test of apparent abandonment, knowing that You are standing close to them, just behind an invisible curtain.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.