I had the opportunity to preach this past Sunday at the church of my good friend and fellow pastor, Jojo Ma. He has been taking his church, Crosslife Community Church, through the book of Job, and I got to preach from Job 39, which is part of God’s initial response to Job.
Whenever I preach or teach God’s Word, it feels like God ministers far more to me through the study and preparation than He does to the people who hear my message (though I’m trusting that He ministers to those who hear the Word too). So true-to-form, the text from Job was very meaningful to me in the place where I’m at right now.
At first glance, God’s response to Job seems a bit cold or insensitive, and not exactly what Job seems to need as he deals with deep suffering. But what became clear to me as I studied was that God’s response was exactly what Job most needed to hear at that point, and that it actually was a response that comforted him in his suffering. God humbled Job–He proclaimed His power and wisdom through all His questions–but there was comfort that came through that humbling process. Because in asking all those questions, God was not merely “putting Job in his place” but was proclaiming to him that God indeed was good and sovereign and purposeful in ALL that He does, even in Job’s suffering. Job found comfort in being reminded that there was a purpose in all that was happening to him (even if he didn’t understand it), that his suffering was not somehow outside of God’s control, and that death and suffering did not negate God’s goodness.
The suffering I face (in the seemingly unending struggle of parenting a special-needs child) pales in comparison to all that Job went through, but my response is often the same as Job’s–I begin to doubt God’s goodness and question His purposefulness. When I cry out to God for comfort, what I’m usually looking for is relief–a change in circumstances. What God often provides, as He did for Job, is not a change in circumstances but a change in perspective. He humbles me by reminding me how great He is and by helping me view my suffering through the lens of the Gospel and all that Christ suffered on my behalf. I don’t like to be humbled, and thus I often resist that humbling process, but what God made clear to me through this study in Job is that His comfort comes through that humbling. As long as I hold on to my pride and demand relief, I remain stuck in self-pity and despair, but when I submit to God’s humbling process I find, like Job, that He is sufficient even if circumstances don’t change.
If you’d like to listen to the sermon, you can find it here.
In my sermon, I reference this excellent message from a CCEF Conference: “Death of a Dream: When Life Doesn’t Turn Out Like You Expected“. (Sorry, it’s not a free download, but it’s well worth the few bucks!)