I’ve written a little about Job here, and I recommend reading the short post before continuing. In summary, Job was afflicted with all sorts of calamity and pain he believed God unjustly sent. But in fact, the book affirms Job was never a sinner being punished by God, but rather it was satan torturing Job to within an inch of his life. God, of course, had given permission to satan to do this.
But Job didn’t know those details, so he demanded God show up so he could defend himself before Him. Job demanded to know why he was needlessly suffering, so you can tell this struck a chord in me deeply. Eventually God did appear to him in the form of a massive whirlwind. But rather than answer Job’s actual question, God showed him that man has nothing more than a hint of a whisper of an impression of what God’s power, plan, and control over Creation is. He is in charge of everything from proton spin to planetary climates to the collision of galaxies. Or as some of the many poetic examples from God Himself speaking to Job:
“Can you direct the movement of the stars— binding the cluster of the Pleiades
or loosening the cords of Orion?
Can you direct the constellations through the seasons
or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
Do you know the laws of the universe?
Can you use them to regulate the earth?” (Job 38:31-33 NLT)
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?”
(Job 38:4-7 NLT)
“Take a look at Behemoth, which I made, just as I made you.
It eats grass like an ox.
See its powerful loins and the muscles of its belly.
Its tail is as strong as a cedar.
The sinews of its thighs are knit tightly together.
Its bones are tubes of bronze.
Its limbs are bars of iron.
It is a prime example of God’s handiwork,
and only its Creator can threaten it.” (Job 40:15-19 NLT)
In short, I believe God was telling Job, “Who do you think you are to pretend you can make better decisions than I can? Just look at all I have made and all that I do.”
Job humbly accepted the divine reply. He said:
“I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
it is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.
You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’
I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.””
(Job 42:2-6 NLT)
It’s unclear how many years Job suffered his personal hell. I felt mine lasted at least 6 years, so it for sure took up my college years. Some say college is the best years of your life. You can guess my answer to that. And in those 6 years I, like Job, found no answer to my demands to God. I scoured books and websites without a drop of certainty quenching my dry tongue. And my tongue was dry from all the angry, depressed, and hopeless self-dialogue. Prayer didn’t seem to ever provide relief, so I retreated further inward, now only living a life just for appearances. Some semesters I’d have a resurgence of the mental pain, crippling me intellectually so much I failed classes. But some semesters I had relative peace, like during the eye of a hurricane. Yet my fear continually built up within me because I could see the wall of storms in the distance. There was no escape from this, only acceptance of my fate.
But if only I had known back then that acceptance does not mean giving up. Maybe college would’ve been a joy. Maybe I would have gone to parties, become an influencer, dated and found my future wife, played football with friends, tailgated every home game, graduated on time—the pathways I can imagine are in the dozens, but they all end up with 19 years of more satisfying events than the ruins and rubble I felt I was forced to navigate. But the paths in my head were only fantasies that competed with my dark thoughts, so I naturally gave up on all that daydreaming early on. I gave up on my future, the people around me, and especially ever having any kind of rest from my suffering. Most hurtful, I felt God refused to listen to my cries for an answer.
Now if only I had known of this psalm of David:
“Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.”
(Psalms 25:4-6 NLT)
An echo of Psalm 22 right there at the end. But that first part is what I wish I had really known, understood, and believed. Because if God is as powerful and wise as he revealed to Job, he logically knows the right path and road for me to follow. But I just couldn’t hear or trust Him because of my mental clamor. Or over the disdain I’d developed for the world and the people around me. My hope was not in Him for most of the 2000s, but in my own power to survive this flaming pile of vomited bile I called my life.
But as Job found out: oh, what little power we humans have. When I accepted this fact, about how small I really am and about how big God really is, things began to change. I was stirred to awaken, I opened my eyes, and over the next decade I finally arose from my grave.
“For the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.””
Ephesians 5:14 NLT
The Light of Christ illuminated the answer I was searching for all along. The answer was to trust in him. Trust that he has the wisdom to know how to guide my life. That he has the wisdom to make course corrections whenever I or others stupidly screw up. That he has continually laid out a straight path for me because he loves me. And that I am not his only concern, for he has billions of believers to guide. There exists a mind-melting metaweb of possibilities, probabilities, and never-to-happens that God in His majestic wisdom manages in order to work out the best for those He loves and who love Him (Romans 8:28)—and who knows in whose lives he wants to use you and me? I found that it takes my trust in Him to help that metacosmic plan along, and my acceptance of the circumstances around me but my not giving up; for “I know my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25) and is in control of the Cosmos and all its possible timelines and realities. Because like God told Job:
“Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth?” (Job 38:33 NLT)
So it’s taken meekness, then, for me to escape the ocean of doubts, demons, and despair. And I am encouraged, because as Jesus promised:
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5 KJV)
So these days when I want to give up, I try to remember all the awful crap I went through, as painful a sting as it might bring. And when I do, I realize God never gave up on me. He was and is still my strength: he kept me alive and will continue do so because He loves me. And now I also understand Paul’s words in a better light:
“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”
Philippians 1:20-24 NLT
It is so much better, therefore, to continue to live and not give up. Please, don’t give up; the God who loves you will rescue you.