During my adult life, there have been two long seasons when God seemed absent or, at least, silent. He was “nowhere to be found.” The more I prayed, the worse my circumstances became. The more I sought comfort in the Scriptures, the less of a connection I felt with him. Both time periods were seasons of extended depression, and it seemed that God had left me alone twisting in the wind.
During both seasons, I retained a level of faith in God. I knew in my head that he promises to walk with us in the valley and through the fire. But in my heart, I was conflicted. I didn’t feel his presence. I didn’t see tangible signs that he was walking with me. My prayers seemed to be of no avail. The words of friends and family often seemed out-of-touch or unhelpful. The darkness remained, and it seemed endless.
During times such as these, I found some comfort in the Psalms, as they revealed the Psalmist’s agonies and his honest wrestling with God. Yet, ultimately, I found more comfort and clarity in the book of Job. Like the Psalms, the Job narrative conveys the protagonist’s inner turmoil and his grappling with God. But unlike the Psalms, but it also reveals what is going on “behind the scenes” in the mind of God.
Thus, I read the book of Job repeatedly during both seasons. Not because I identified with Job as “blameless and upright.” But because I identified with him as one of God’s children who was experiencing emotional and physical anguish and who wrestled with God’s seeming absence in the midst of it all.
For that reason, I offer this series on the book of Job. It is an encapsulation of my personal reflections during times of pain. I intend for it to be not only a faithful exposition of the text of Job but an encouragement for readers who have wrestled with seasons of darkness.
As we begin the series and prepare our hearts to hear the message of Job, the wisdom writer offers a crucial insight that can till the soil of our hearts: “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold; but the Lord tests the heart” (Prov 17:3). Indeed. Every season of a person’s life should be a crucible of sorts, testing our faith, but troubling seasons provide an even more pronounced opportunity for God’s work in our hearts.
The metalworking image is quite helpful; a metalsmith must heat his material to high temperatures in order to smelt them down into tools, weapons, or jewelry. Similarly, God approaches us during times of “high temperature,” to shape us into instruments fit for his mission. Illustrative of this truth is the book of Job. Its focus is the formation of a person’s heart—the central organizer of an individual’s spiritual, moral, and emotional self—and the role of suffering in that formation.
Rather than expounding Job’s story chapter-by-chapter, this series will unfold its message topically. We will begin with the book’s portrait of Job, followed by Job’s portrait of God and Job’s friend’s portrait of God. Then we will trace Job’s journey of transformation as God builds his faith during a time of great darkness, before going on to explore what we can learn from the other characters in Job’s life. Finally, we will discuss Jesus as the truer and better Job, and discuss how we can be transformed while reading the story of Job’s transformation.