Theologian Leslie Weatherhead wrote: “Like everybody, I love and prefer the sunny uplands of experience, when health, happiness, and success abound, but I have learned far more about God and life and myself in the darkness of fear and failure than I have ever learned in the sunshine. There are such things as the treasures of darkness. The darkness, thank God, passes. But what one learns in the darkness, one possesses forever.”
Recently the world church spent time reading and studying the book of Job. In this context, and during this period of societal turmoil, let’s look to Job for seven lessons that can help us better understand how God can be trusted.
1 - Truth search: Job exemplifies the fact that every trial, large or small, is an opportunity to clarify and refine our understanding of truth. Instead of wallowing in his misery, Job dialogues with himself (Job 1:20-22), with his wife (Job 2:9-19), with friends (verses 11-13), and with God (Job 3). His pursuit of truth is active and progressive, as the book ends with an epiphany of truth (Job 42).
2 - Remember providence: Job never stops believing in God’s sovereignty. He is confident that his Redeemer lives and is in charge (Job 19:25); that good and bad things are allowed by providence (Job 2:10); and that God is our sovereign Creator (Job 26:7; 33:4; 38:4; 28:28). Job’s anchoring conviction is that God, though unseen and unfelt, is with him.
3 - Use discernment: Job is inundated with the philosophies of family and friends. But he subjects all such views and opinions to his knowledge of truth. He refuses to be brainwashed by the theories of the Eliphazes, Bildads, and Zophars of the world (see Job 6:1ff., 9:1ff., 12:1ff.). He reserves the right to challenge and counter their opinions and maintain truth as he understands it.
4 - Speak faith: Job struggles with depression (Job 3:1, 25). Yet he overcomes it by living and witnessing to his faith through right living (Job 1:8), worship (verse 20), confidence in God (Job 13:15), seeing redemption in trials (Job 23:10; 33:6-19), and the majesty of God's character (Job 12:13; 14:16). He exemplifies the enduring principle articulated by Ellen White: “Talk faith, and you will have faith.”1
5 - Task prayer: Job engages the power of prayer in the midst of his trials. He unleashes the power of communication with God and realizes tangible outcomes. His prayers are authentic, vulnerable, and effective (see Job 1:20-22; 6:8-13; 9:29-35; 10:1-4; 13:15, 16; 42:1-6).
6 - Engage E + R = O: Throughout his trials, Job exemplifies the formula that Events (good or bad) happen. But our Response (carnal or Christlike) influences Outcome (results and direction). As Ellen White has observed: “God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them.”2
7 - Determine endurance: In every trial we, like Job, have the opportunity to let our personal and public mandate be “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).
Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.