April 30, 2023

How to Accept Hard Times from God (Job 2:9-10)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2022-2023) Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Scripture: Job 2:9–10

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Children's Lesson (click here)

I. Far Worse

In many of my counseling conversations over the years it's not unusual to hear something like this from a person who's been through hard times: “Well, yes, that was a hard situation, and I wish it hadn't happened. But there are so many other people who have been through far worse than I have.” My response to that kind of statement is usually, “You're probably right. But how is that relevant to your situation?” For them, the relevance is this: if other people are carrying on and apparently not complaining about far worse experiences they've endured, why should this person act like their own suffering is a big deal? Maybe they are wrongly exaggerating the soul-crushing feelings they've been battling. Maybe they should 'just get over it', or 'just forgive and move on', or 'just give it to God', or embrace some other well-intentioned platitude.

I mention this kind of rationalizing because this morning, we're going to talk about someone who has been through far worse than you and me. His name was Job. But with the same counsel that I've offered to others, it's important for you to know that the extreme suffering that characterized an almost unthinkably painful season in Job's life, that suffering... does not minimize your own. Just because someone else has been through far worse doesn't somehow make your suffering better or easier. Adversity is adversity, and whatever measurement you want to place on it, it has to be acknowledged and faced and processed in a healthy way. Instead of their experiences shutting us down or shutting us up, those 'far worse' sufferers might be able to actually teach us about how to accept hard times, not simply survive them.

I believe Job can help us in precisely that way. Look with me at Job 2:9-10.


II. The Passage: “Job Did Not Sin with His Lips” (2:9-10)

As we enter this book 30 verses in, it's critical that we review what's happened up to this point. In 1:1, the book introduces us to this man Job, describing him as a man who “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” In light of this, the following verses tell us something about the prosperity he enjoyed, prosperity that Job certainly would have recognized as God's blessings to him and his family. In fact, he was so prosperous, he was so blessed, that 1:3 calls him “the greatest of all the people of the east.”

But starting in 1:6, a dark shadow is cast over Job's life, and that shadow results in catastrophic loss: All 11,000 of Job's animals (his livestock) are either killed or stolen, all of his numerous servants (except four) are now dead, and the lives of his own children (seven sons and three daughters) have been snuffed out when the house in which they feasted collapsed on top of them. And all of this... happened on the same day, in a matter of hours.

But that's not the end of the story. Probably within days of this unthinkable loss, Job has been struck with painful sores, with boils, all over his body.

As we transition into our main text, 2:9-10, verse 8 tells us this about Job: “And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.” With that pitiful image in mind, listen to where the story goes from there. Chapter 2, verse 9...

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” [10] But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Think with me about how Job's wife responds to these horrible events, and in contrast, how Job responds. These two different responses present to us this morning two different ways of handling hard, hurtful, horrible circumstances. Now, again, you don't have to suffer like Job to learn from Job. Some of you have suffered immensely. Some of you have faced unimaginable loss, and experienced unthinkable pain. But all of us go through hard times. Some of you are feeling that even this morning. A fractured marriage. A difficult boss or coworker. A closed-off child. Unyielding anxiety. Financial uncertainty. Lingering shame. Crippling loneliness. Unresolved anger. Chronic illness. A deep sense of purposelessness.

If that's you, then let me urge you to resist temptations to minimize what you're going through in light of Job's tsunami of suffering. Adversity is adversity, and God has given us his word in order to acknowledge and face and process that adversity in a way that advances our good and His glory. Make sense? Okay. Let's first look back to 2:9 and think about Job's wife. I think what we learn from her response here is that when you suffer...


1. Don't Curse God's Character (v. 9, 10a)

If you haven't already, think about what this woman has endured. Apart from the boils, she's suffered just as Job has suffered. Her possessions, her servants, her... children, all gone. She is undoubtedly deep in the grip of grief and anger and confusion. But instead of coming alongside her afflicted husband, she's talking about... “integrity”; specifically his integrity. But why?

Well, as we will see with Job's three friends, I think this question about his integrity reveals something important about her theological beliefs. As with probably most worshipers of God at this time, Job's wife would agree with what one of Job's friends would declare two chapters later: “As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” (4:8) Or as the Apostle Paul would write many centuries later, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

So what Job's wife is asking him is this, “Do you still hold fast to the idea that you didn't bring this evil upon us?” As far as I can tell, she is blaming her husband for, in some way, provoking God to wrath. What else would explain the catastrophic tragedy they're enduring? As you continue in the book, Job's three friends are trying to get him to admit to something similar. But it's abundantly clear from these opening chapters that Job is not suffering because he's done something wrong. Job's wife and Job's friends are mistaken.

But how should we understand the wife's final words here? Shockingly, she encourages him to... do what? Yes. To “curse God and die”. But why? Some commentators believe that, out of pity, she's encouraging Job to seek some kind of divine euthanasia; saying, in essence, “Since it's clear that God is set against you, put yourself out of your misery by cursing God, and thus, ensuring your own demise.”

But I think the context here confirms the evil behind her words. In her grief and anger, she is not wanting a merciful end for Job. No. She wants him to disavow this God to whom he clings, and then... she wants him to die. How does this context confirm such a dark motivation? Because what Job's wife is seeking here is precisely what Satan is seeking in 1:11 and 2:5. A few minutes ago, I simply described Job's woes as a dark shadow that was cast over his life. But Job 1 and 2 reveal the source of this shadow: the Adversary (which in Hebrew is the word satan). This spiritual being is intent on proving that Job serves God, not because God is God and worthy of worship and service, but because of the blessings he's received from God. Take away the gifts and Job will repudiate the Giver. This supernatural adversary shares his one goal with God in 1:11, 2:5: “he will curse you to your face”. And that is precisely what Job's wife wants him to do.

Whether it's Satan or Job's wife, anyone who wants another individual to curse God has to be in a very dark place. And it absolutely confirms a deficit or distortion in terms of God's character. Brother, sister, friend, you may not hear the voice of Job's wife, but there will be voices when you go through hard times; maybe voices on the outside; but definitely voices on the inside; voices calling you to distortion and doubt in regard to God's character: “See, God doesn't care. Where is he? Why are things still the same? Is this what a loving father does? His patience does have an end, you know. He does have more important things to do, with more important people. He told you to get your act together. You must have done something.”

Those worldly voices outside, and/or tempting voices inside, may not sound as extreme as Job's wife when she said, “curse God and die”, but... they can be just as destructive in their satanic intent to distort God's character and drive you toward doubt. But as we see in verse 10, Job rejects his wife's talk as foolishness. What does Job do instead? What we learn from his response is that when you suffer...


2. Do Cling to God's Character (v. 10b)

The rhetorical question Job launches back at this wife speaks volumes about Job's theological beliefs; that is, what Job believes about God; about God's character. He asks, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Now for us, the word “evil” has decidedly moral overtones. The Hebrew word here is like our more generic word “bad”. So given what's being talked about here (i.e., Job's loss and Job's health), a better translation is probably, “Shall we receive prosperity from God, and not adversity as well?” Not avoid adversity. Not deny adversity. Not despise adversity. Not wield adversity as a weapon against others...but receive it, from God.

Men and women are glad to receive good things and happy times and affirming relationships from God. And they're pleased to affirm God's goodness when life is good. But when life isn't good, when it's far from good, has God somehow ceased to be good? Job argues no. In fact, Job's three friends who come to minister to him, they would also say no. But they would argue that God is also just, and if a person is clearly suffering under such extreme misfortune, it has to be God's hand of justice responding to some transgression, some iniquity.

But Job has a clear conscience. He knows he is not perfect, but he does have a clear conscience. As the beginning of the book reveals, Job is a man who offers sacrifice when sacrifice is or may be necessary. As the end of book reveals, Job is a man who repents when he needs to repent. Job is not a perfect man, but he does have a clear conscience. Therefore, as the response in 2:10 implies, God remains good even when a man like Job suffers; even when the origin of our adversity is a mystery.

The other thing that's clear from Job's response is that God is in control (that's something we often refer to as God's sovereignty). Both prosperity and adversity are in his hands. Though a heavenly Adversary is determined to prove the shallowness of Job's faith, that adversary can only do so with God's permission. Therefore, if God is good and not evil, and if Job's suffering is not the result of divine wrath against his sin, and if God is truly in control, then Job can accept that God has a good purpose in his suffering.

Job repeatedly demonstrates this same fact: he honors God because of who God is, not what God gives. Look back at Job's response to his catastrophic loss in chapter 1. This is 1:20-22...

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. [21] And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." [22] In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

And his response to his physical infirmity in 2:10 makes the same point: “'Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?' [and the writer draws the same conclusion] In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

So how did Job “receive” all this from God? With attention to his own conscience, firm faith in God's goodness, and a submissive spirit before God's sovereignty. (2x) Now, as the rest of the book goes on Job will struggle and fail to maintain this posture. But God will confront him, and because of God's compassion and mercy, Job will grow as a result of such hard times.


III. The Steadfastness of Job

Do you trust that God is doing the same in your life? Through your hard times? If by his grace you are giving attention to your own conscience, exercising firm faith in God's goodness, and nurturing a submissive spirit before God's sovereignty, then you, like Job, will be able to truly “receive” adversity from God. In fact, we are far better equipped to accept hard times from God in this way. Why? Because through Jesus' blood we have been “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22); because in Jesus “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared” (Titus 3:4); because through Jesus we have this promise regarding God's sovereignty: “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

There will always be other voices in our hard times, voices tempting us toward distortion and doubt. But what God has confirmed about his character through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be our anchor, helping us remain steady in the storm. In the book of James, the writer uses Job to call these believers to this same kind of steadiness. May God also encourage us through Job's example and James' encouragement in light of our hope in Christ...

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. [8] You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. [9] Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. [10] As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. [11] Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7–11)


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