“God has made me His target; His archers surround me. Without pity, He pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground” Job 16:12-13.
I had never paid much attention to this verse, but this past year I stumbled upon it during a very trying time. I had been wrestling with feelings similar to what I imagine Job must have been feeling at that time. But how could Job accuse the Almighty God with such a bold statement? Why was He not struck dead for not only thinking such a thought, but verbalizing it?! To be honest, I had fought these same feelings myself, and even had moments of feeling guilty for it. I believe God is good, so aren’t these two thoughts at odds? Maybe they aren’t.
In the Gospel of Job, Mike Mason writes:
“How much better it is for a believer in God to exhibit a rough exterior than to bottle things up inside a tawdry, saccharine layer of Christian “goodness”. As Richard Sibbes wrote, ‘Some infirmities discover more good than some seemingly beautiful actions. Excess of passion in opposing evil, though not to be justified, yet sheweth a better spirit than a calm temper, where there is just cause of being moved. Better it is that the water run something muddily, than not at all. Job had more grace in his distempers, than his friends in their seemingly wise carriage.”
A cloud had hovered over me for months and I was struggling to understand it. I could no longer go anywhere without carrying the weight of the daily turmoil I had been living with for years, often feeling alone in it. Everything was now being filtered through this pain like never before. It used to be easier to walk in and out of church with a facade that everything was fine. At times I would just avoid conversation rather than letting others into the pain and confusion. It was exhausting to explain our situation and I thought I was being honorable to not bother people with my problems. I couldn’t imagine that most people would really want to know if I began to open up. After all, people don’t really want to know my heart unless it’s neat and tidy and doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable, right? Everyone has their own problems; they don’t need to hear mine. Unfortunately, I was approaching Christ with somewhat of the same wrong attitude.
However, a point came where the burdens became so exhausting, they began to wear on my heart, face, and every word I spoke. The pain had broken through my facade and every word I spoke came from a place of weariness, brokenness, and confusion. I could no longer manage anything beyond simply clinging to the little faith I felt I had left. My family was not my own, my future was not my own, my life was not my own. Of course, this really had been true all along, but it’s not until we are faced with a reality we never would have chosen for ourselves, that we are forced to grapple with the deep and hard questions of our faith.
Do I really believe God is good? Do I believe He is sovereign, even when things make no sense to me? Is He really worth following if pain is what following Him will bring? Why do I suffer when others who deny Him seem to flourish? I don’t deserve this, do I? If God is powerful enough to change my circumstances, why won’t He?
Oh, but this is where I began to see the beauty of Christ in ways I never had before. This raw, often messy, deep place of suffering, is where the true depth and sincerity of our faith comes rising to the surface. When pride, self-righteousness, and worldly hopes are stripped away, we are forced to face what we truly believe and begin to experience the sweetness of Christ in ways like never before.
As I began to let the muddy waters of my heart run more freely, I began to see lies I was believing as well as many truths of the Gospel I had never fully grasped. The more I brought my mess, honest questions, and emotions to Christ, the more He began to reveal to me not only the ugliness of my own heart, but the true beauty of His.
This doesn’t mean we are to walk around trying to bring everyone down with us when we are struggling, but it does encourage a certain level of vulnerability after we have first brought our emotions and questions to Christ, seeking His strength instead of the attention and pity of others. But the body of Christ is a gift to a believer to support, encourage, provide fellowship, and hear truth from. We are not alone in any suffering we experience and God often uses the body of Christ to help us endure through that season.
As Job’s example shows us, God can handle our mess. He can handle our hard questions…even our faithless ones. However, we cannot get stuck there. Christ is not a Person simply for us to vent our emotions to and walk away just as lost. He says in Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Self-confidence and shaking our self-righteous fist at God will only lead to stress, bitterness and defeat. However, Christ tells us to come to him honestly and humbly. We must not only give Him our burdens and questions, but we must receive from Him His yoke, the truth that He alone can save and sustain us, and then learn from Him. God has given us three simple steps in these verses.
1. Bring our sin, pain, questions, and our messy, raw emotions to Christ, the only One who is sufficient to handle and do anything about it.
2. Take His yoke upon us. This reminds us that we cannot save ourselves but He has taken the weight, pain, and consequences we deserve onto Himself in order to give us forgiveness, freedom, life, and hope through Him. If we keep trying to save ourselves, we will continue to end up in the burdensome and worthless cycle of self-effort.
3. We learn from Him. Here are a few examples of how we can bring our honest questions and walk away with truth, hope, and rest.
~God, if you are good, why are you allowing this pain?
“But if you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” 1 Peter 2:20-21, 24-25.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.
~If you are sovereign, why doesn’t anything make sense right now?
“Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him” Ecclesiastes 7:13-14.
~Is this pain worth enduring to follow Him?
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” Philippians 3:8-9.
~God, why won’t you bring relief and answers when I could do more for You if I were free from this suffering?
“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
~Lord, why do You seem silent to my cries for help?
“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know Your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you” Psalm 9:9-10.
“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him” Psalm 4:3.
~How can I keep going when all I feel like doing is giving up? Will I ever experience joy again?
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” Psalm 16:5-11.
Do you have doubts, fears, or hard questions that you have avoided bringing honestly to Christ? Are you willing to face these deep questions of your faith and bring them into the light of the Gospel? Is there someone in your life who you can encourage by listening to their heart without judgment or trying to be their savior, but with compassion, bring the truth of the Gospel into their pain?
As I have been learning from Job, God has allowed this suffering and wrestling with deep questions of faith to stir the waters of my heart. While many days it doesn’t look pretty and the waters are often running muddily; they are running. Questions, emotions, and even doubts have been stirred, but God has faithfully and graciously provided a fight in me to endure. God has promised not to let us go even when doubt and confusion seem to be all we can see for a season. Let’s not settle for a facade of Christian “goodness” and living for the opinion of others, but let’s allow the Glory of God to be revealed through His purposes and will for our lives. The world doesn’t need to see more people who seem to have it all together, but instead needs to see real people with a real hope. This can only be true if we first start by being real with our Savior.