Sage advice to the oft-perplexed about where they are—or where they’re going—in life is “Find out where God is at work and go there!” Sounds good. Sounds pious. Sounds like something Job’s friends would’ve told the poor guy as he wallowed in misery. But what if, as Job testified, I haven’t a clue what He’s doing where? Listen in. Can you hear the frustration in his voice as Job laments…
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. – Job 23:8-9
Now, his opening statement may lead one to conclude that Job thinks God is absent from his life and circumstances. Continuing on in his lament, though, clarifies things. It’s not that God isn’t there. He is. In fact, He’s at work doing something on the left hand. And then He turns to the right hand. So God is there, but Job simply can’t see or perceive Him.
Oh, how often is this our experience! In all my years of pastoral ministry, I’d say it’s the exception when—in the moment—I perceive God and what He’s doing in a given situation. And that’s true in both “good” and “bad” times. Most of the time, if God’s presence and work are perceived, only hindsight allows me to see what His hidden hand was doing. Often, mystery enshrouds it all. In some cases, I may never know what God was doing and why.
But that shouldn’t leave us in despair any more than it did Job. Even though he couldn’t perceive God and comprehend what He was up to, Job nonetheless declared…
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. – Job 23:10
When you pause and consider all that Job had endured and was still going through, that statement is profound! It was an incredible statement of faith. Essentially, he was affirming that the Lord God knows what he didn’t. Job didn’t know what God was up to and where all this was leading, but by faith he affirmed that God did.
Think about the benefits of such faith. If we come to the place of such an affirmation in whatever way we find ourselves, that will give tremendous comfort in painful, difficult days. As I reflect on some of those days gone by, I regret the lack of such faith. Perhaps I would’ve been less on edge, in turmoil, and sleep deprived.
Such faith will also yield confidence in times of uncertainty. Note: not self-confidence, but God-confidence. I have no idea what the outcome will be or where it will take me. But He knows the way I’m going and where.
That He knows the way I’m taking will further foster genuine humility in seasons of abundance. How so? Well, I can’t really take all the credit for that abundance since I’m there by His appointment rather than my sheer talent, ingenuity, creativity, or smarts. After all, Job’s statement of faith says more than the fact that God merely knows the way I’m going. “When He has tried me” suggests that the Lord uses “the way” to accomplish His purposes of refinement, purging dross from my life, getting rid of some junk that doesn’t belong. Additionally, His is a positive purpose, that I might “come forth as gold.” While Job certainly has in mind his difficult season of adversity, the truth broadens to all seasons of life—those of adversity as well as prosperity. The Lord uses them all for a larger, greater purpose, and we would be wise to be humble in those prosperous times of abundance.
As we look ahead at our calendars, make all our plans, set our goals and all those good things we do at a new year’s beginning, we must acknowledge how little we know of the way ahead. But we can walk with our Lord in the light of His Word into whatever He designs for us. May we do so and at the end, looking back, say with Job,
My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. – Job 23:11-12