Read: Job 23:1-17
Consider: The story of Job is about one man losing his children and possessions and through this catastrophe keeping his faith strong. This does not mean that Job did not question why these disasters happened to him. He realised that what happened tested his faith and through it he would be stronger.
Have you ever had dark periods in your life where God seemed far away? If so, take encouragement from today’s reading from Job 23. The chapter begins: Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning (Job 23:2). This isn’t someone who has already worked through his grief and anger, but someone who was able to speak openly about how hard-pressed he was. Later Job speaks of the isolation he feels in the time of his distress, in these words: But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him (23:8-9). Many people today go through similar times in their lives when God feels far away.
However, listen to what Job says next: But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold (23:10). Job may be questioning why these things have happened to him and why God feels so far away, but he also has a deep conviction that God is ultimately in control of every aspect of his life (‘… he knows the way that I take …’). Notice also that Job sees what has happened to him as a test of his faith. He is able to say: ‘… when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold’. This reminds me of what is said in James 1:2-3 – Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Also in Paul’s letter to the Romans we read: ‘… we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’ (Romans 5:3b-4).
What is the answer to feeling isolated from God? The writer of Hebrews says this: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2a). In times of isolation and distress we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, in full knowledge that God is in control and the situation we are going through may be to test our faith, with the purpose of making us stronger.
Pray: Father, we pray for anyone going through difficult times, that they may keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. May they have a deep assurance that you are in control and, if they feel that you are distant from them, show them you are right there with them, even when times are difficult. Help us all to see that when we face difficulties it may be that you are testing our faith, so as to make us stronger. Amen