My mother-in-law and I just finished studying the book of Job, which took us a few weeks considering it’s 42 chapters. Through it all, Job is pretty much the central figure as he was a very well respected man during his time and was actually considered to be “the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (v:3) Not only because of his tremendous wealth (owning thousands, yea thousands, of sheep and camels, plus a few hundred ox and donkeys), but because he “was blameless and upright;, he feared God and shunned evil.” (v:1)
That description of Job is the opening sentence of the book, so immediately we assume that God must be happy with Job, and in just a few verses later we read exactly that – God says “There is no one on earth like him.” (v:8)
So clearly within the first ten verses in the book of Job, we understand that he’s well respected, wealthy, and well appreciated in the eyes of God. So what’s the problem? Well, the story takes a drastic turn for the worst in the following ten verses. Due to an agreed upon test between Satan and God, Job loses everything. Literally, everything. In one day he lost all his animals, all his 10 children, and became ill with sores all over his body – from head to toe. Sounds horrible.
Many people reference this story when tragedy or hard times strike, because is a great story about Job’s deep faith despite his circumstances. However, within the first few chapters it was hard for me to digest that God would allow or approve such drastic things to happen to someone seemingly so upright in His eyes. Then again, how can any of us grow stronger in character and in our faith if we don’t experience trying times? If there was no fear or “falling down” in life, would we have faith?
God knew that disciplining Job during this season of his life would produce even more fruitful faith for him – faith that could only be grown stronger by having deep roots that fight harder and harder into the soil during times of drought, and faith that depends on the nutrients and hydration from the promises of our Creator. God knew Job’s heart and knew that he could not only make it through this hard time, but would come out the other side stronger than he was before.
It’s easy to focus on Job, because all 42 chapters are about him and his experience during this period of his life, but there is one other person that sparked my interest and made me ponder after completing the book. His name is Elihu. He is one of Job’s friends that come to sympathize and comfort him, however, up until chapter 32 we have no clue he’s there. We are only told that “Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.” (Job 2:11 NIV)
From chapter 3 to 32, we only read about Job talking back and forth with these three friends. It’s kind of like a heated bickering session and there is no mention of a guy named Elihu.
They are all convinced he did something bad and therefor, should confess his sins to God, but Job continually explains how he didn’t do anything and that there is nothing to confess.
There’s conversation upon conversation amongst them and through it all, we can feel Job’s frustration and pain, mixed with emotions of anger and doubtfulness towards God. I mean Job was a good and “upright” person, so why were all these things happening to him?
Have you ever wondered something like that? How about this, has the following question ever crossed your mind: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The story of Job is a great example of a good person enduring hardship, and after reading these 40+ chapters, I came to two major conclusions on why.
The first is because we live in a fallen world. Ever since the creation of man, Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, sin entered this world. Sin comes in many forms and not just crime, lying, murder (bad actions), but also in forms such as natural disaster, war, illness (bad situations). Sin separates us from living in perfect harmony with God. However, the amazing and hopeful fact is that we serve a God who can turn good out of any negative situation. He comes to our rescue like He did for Job.
The second conclusion I came to is that we were not designed to have all the answers – our brains can’t even begin to comprehend all the things of this world, because we weren’t designed to “know it all.”
After days of Job searching for the answers to his question why, and going back and forth with his three friends being at odds with him (thinking he was in the wrong), all of a sudden in chapter 32, Elihu speaks.
My first question was – Elihu? I thought it was only Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar sitting around the camp fire? Who is Elihu? He wasn’t mentioned up until this point, but when he stands to address the audience his speech is a totally fresh perspective.
Elihu elaborated on the previous concept I mentioned, that we weren’t made to have all the answers, and many times in our life when we are at our wits end and desperate for answers, it’s in these moments that Elihu challenges us to ask ourselves: how are we reacting?
Are we playing the victim card and asking ourselves: why me? Why God? Are we living in fear and worry of the unknown? Are we doubting the goodness of God and getting angry with Him at times like Job did? Or are we trusting God and remaining confident in knowing that He isa good God regardless of our circumstances? Are we praising God during the difficult seasons and thanking Him for what He has already given us? Are we secure in knowing that even though we may not be able to see “the way out” we know that our life and experiences play an important part on God’s canvas – every brush stroke matters and serves a unique purpose in depicting his masterpiece.
Sometimes, we can only see the few paint marks around us that look like a blur, but God is standing behind us seeing the final work of art and how it all comes together.
Elihu enlightens the group on this new perspective and encourages Job to stop searching and blaming God, and instead, reminds them of some beautiful facts that brought me comfort, joy, and hope in times of despair. He said that we must “Instead, glorify his mighty works, singing songs of praise… Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted….Who can understand the spreading of the clouds and the thunder that rolls from the heaven?” (Job 36:26-29 NLT)
He then challenges Job by saying, “Listen to this Job: stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:14-16 NIV)
I challenge you now- do you know the answers to those questions? There are an infinite number more that you will never know, and some of them will include situations directly around you.
It’s hard, but we need to accept the concept that we will often not have all the answers – similar to Job.
I’m happy Elihu came out of nowhere and joined the fireside chat, because he shed new light on the subject. While we often struggle to see the why or the full stroke of our Master’s paint brush, it’s in those times we know we are being tested and need to see it as an opportunity to grow. It’s in those times we have to trust and know we are part of God’s bigger painting.
I can imagine that Job probably felt like a lonely stroke of paint on the canvas. Dried up and fighting to stand out amongst surrounding darker colors, while all the same time, feeling abandoned by God. Meanwhile, God was simultaneously watching Job and his reactions, and prepping another part of the canvas until the perfect time came to take His brush and bring to life those two parts of the picture!
During that “drying” time where we may have had a hard time hearing or believing in God, were we trusting, praying, praising Him anyway? Were we standing firm in our faith knowing He is working all things together for good?
In the end, God not only painted a whole new life for Job including double the animals and wealth, but after this hardship “Job lived a hundred and forty hears: he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation.” (Job 42:16 NIV)
Even though I still don’t know who Elihu was and where exactly he came from, I will always remember his advice and how God painted him into the conversation right at the right time.