Walking Wisely Through Trials

Suffering is incredibly difficult, but all the more so when we don’t understand its purpose and we’ve lost our hope in the midst of it. It’s important, then, that in the midst of suffering we take time to reorient our perspective by turning to Scripture. The book of Job is particularly helpful to walk wisely through trials. It teaches us to fear the Lord, find hope in our friendship with God, and recognize our true foes.

Fear of the Lord

By the time we reach chapter 28 of the book of Job there has been no resolution, either from Job, or from his friends, regarding why he is suffering. If wisdom isn’t found in his friends, and Job isn’t coming up with answers either, “where shall wisdom be found?” (Job 28:12, 20). Job knew it wasn’t in the deep or the sea. He knew it couldn’t be bought with gold or silver. He knew the price of wisdom was far superior to pearls or pure gold. But he didn’t know the way to it. Thankfully, “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place” (v. 23). And He told humankind how to get it, “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (v. 28).

               To fear the Lord means to walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him wholeheartedly, and obey Him (Deut. 10:12-13). But apart from Christ this is impossible. That is why it is such good news that Christ “became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). When we lack wisdom we can “ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:5).         

Friendship of God

One of the things that made Job’s suffering so difficult was that he felt like he had lost God as a friend. He had known a time when “by his light he walked through darkness” (Job 29:3), but now God “has set darkness upon my paths” (19:8). Furthermore, Job wasn’t prepared for his suffering. He assumed he would die a happy and honorable old man surrounded by his children and possessions (Job 29:18-20). Instead, his children are dead, his wife loathes him, his wealth is gone, and his health is poor. How could a man whom others “kept silence for [his] counsel” and “waited for [him] as for the rain” end up like this (vv. 21-23)?

               The answer is only resolved in Christ. As a righteous sufferer Job foreshadowed the sufferings of Christ in a way that reveals a deeper picture of what our Lord and Savior experienced. He knew what it was to have the friendship of God upon Him (John 1:18), but He also knew, and in a far greater way than Job, what it was to be forsaken by God (Matt. 27:46). As those who are united to Christ by faith the friendship of God is a sure and steady source of comfort in the midst of suffering. But be encouraged, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:5).   

Foes of Job

Even the foolish “do not hesitate to spit at the sight of [Job]” (Job 30:10). They promote his calamity and his “prosperity has passed away like a cloud” (30:15). Job, “the greatest of all the people of the east” (1:3), has gone from prosperity to poverty, from blessed to a byword, from savior to spit upon, because he is “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (v. 8). But the true foes of Job are the same as yours and mine—the devil, the world, and the flesh.

               Remember, Job suffers as a righteous man, and is therefore a type of Christ, who was “stripped,” “mocked,” “spit on” and “struck” on the head (Matt. 27:27-31). Even while He hung on the cross “those who passed by derided him” and “the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him” (Matt. 27:39-44). Job does not know that the Lord pointed him out to Satan because he was righteous and upright, or that “the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life’” (Job 2:6). Understandably, Job is confused. “Was not my soul grieved for the needy? But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came” (30:25-26).

               Job’s deepest longing and hardest questions are only resolved when we look to Jesus, the suffering servant.  He became like us, sharing in flesh and blood, so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14-15). He became “a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). He has now been exalted to the right hand of God the Father where He continues to be our high priest who is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).

               Dear believer, if you are suffering today and feel confused and hopeless, be encouraged. You may be tempted to long for days past. You may not understand how God can be good and wise in the midst of such trials. But remember, if we are to walk wisely through trials, we must fear the Lord, find hope in our friendship with God, and recognize our true foes. God hears our prayers, sees our suffering, and is ever present with us. He is “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25).

Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.


Sarah Ivill