THE BROKEN PLAN OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN
by Mitch Tezak
Job is among the most well-known biblical characters and familiarity with his story is common to those within and without the Christian community. The story of Job displays the faith of a righteous man in a sovereign God and is used to demonstrate the truth that the purposes of God are above those of man, even when such purposes may be unknown to man. This truth provides understanding, encouragement and peace to those who can relate to the position of Job, and who encounter sufferings for which they do not understand nor feel they deserve.
We learn from scripture that Job was a righteous man who feared God, had a rich family life and possessed great wealth, power and societal influence. Although no plan is explicitly stated in Scripture, we can infer that Job probably had plans similar to many Christian men today in a similar life stage as he. To put it succinctly, Job’s foremost plan was to bring glory to God through daily worship, and secondly to enjoy his many blessings from God for the rest of his days.
The Broken Plan
Unknown to Job (and his circle of influence), a dialogue between God and Satan was unfolding. Meanwhile, Job was afflicted by a series of severe trials, including the loss of his property, family and health. Job anguished because of the sudden and unforeseen change in his life circumstances. What Job endured was not in his plan. Nonetheless, Job continued to “worship” God, “blessed the name of the LORD,” and “did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).
After hearing of Job’s plight, his friends came to him to offer comfort and what they believed to be wise counsel. His friends attempted to make sense of Job’s condition, suggesting that his suffering was the result of sin in his life requiring identification and repentance. The counsel of Job’s friends proves inaccurate as their perspective is limited; they fail to consider the greater purposes of God.
The Gospel Answer
The limited humanistic assessment of the cause of Job’s suffering, exemplified in scripture by Job’s friends, provides the explanation that his suffering must be the effect of sin in his life. In other words, Job was experiencing just punishment for some iniquity or iniquities in his life for which he must repent to find relief. This explanation satisfies the desire to make sense of the circumstances and allows for the prescription of a solution to remedy the problem: identify the sin, seek forgiveness, repent and be reconciled back to God, and then the suffering will diminish or cease altogether.
This formulaic response is not necessarily unbiblical; however, its use in Job’s particular situation is ineffective due to an improper understanding of the true reason for his suffering. This response is also symptomatic of the human motivation to quickly eliminate pain (not always the immediate goal of God), often without adequate consideration as to the purpose of the existence of such pain. Pain has utility, which is eventually made known to Job.
After much discussion, God finally inserts himself into the discourse and asserts his supremacy and sovereignty. Job’s response, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth,” demonstrates his remembrance of who God is. Job acknowledges that God “can do all things, and that no purpose of [God] can be thwarted.” In this moment, Job realizes that his suffering was not the results of sin in his life, but rather the means by which God was advancing His greater purpose of demonstrating His sovereignty and the faith of a righteous man. Mankind was created by God for the purpose of bringing Him glory. Understanding and accepting this truth is essential to our full comprehension of life circumstances affecting us.
As a servant of God, Job played an integral role in God’s plan, which was appointed to him because of his righteous standing above all others. Ironically, Job endured suffering because of his righteousness, not because of unrighteousness, charged against him by his friends. Although Job’s disposition was shaken, he remained faithful to God during the tragedies that befell him and despite the foolish counsel of his friends, thereby fulfilling the purposes of God.
When our plans fall apart, we can look to the story of Job to remind ourselves that we were created by God for the ultimate purpose of glorifying Him. We can find encouragement in the midst of our suffering by acknowledging that our circumstances are always within the sovereign will of the God we worship. Furthermore, recognize that we ought to view our circumstances as an opportunity to serve God by embracing the roles assigned to us, including the role of suffering, in achieving His ultimate purposes. Instead of choosing to despair over suffering when plans fall apart, shift the focus toward identifying how God may be working through the suffering to bring about His glory.
In the end, Job remained a faithful servant of God, never charging God with injustice or wrong, and fulfilled the role entrusted to him by God. Therefore, the Lord vindicated and redeemed Job. His possessions were restored greater than before, he was surrounded by family who sympathized with him and offered comfort, new children were born to him and he was granted a long and blessed life once again.