True Confession. It started around mid-June or maybe early July, I don’t have the exact date, but somewhere in the season of warm summer days, my heart started moving in a dangerous direction. I didn’t realize it right away, but the further my heart moved in that direction, the more distinctly God’s wake-up call grew. And by early August I knew what the problem was.
I had been edging dangerously close to Job’s wife.
We’ve been walking through the most personally horrific season of our lives. Because of that, I’ve avoided online activity for several months. I’ve been unable to write much at all (other than filling up long pages in my personal journal). The reason for that is a private matter that doesn’t need to be shared publicly, and although it isn’t related to LeRoy’s health—it has dramatically and negatively impacted it (and still is). This summer has brought losses and grief greater than either of us have ever experienced or could’ve imagined.
Through it all, I’ve found myself asking God to protect my heart from picking up Job’s wife’s accusation.
I’ve often been curious about Job’s wife, but also extremely critical of her. We don’t know much about her, but what we do know isn’t praiseworthy. In fact, in my humble opinion, she’s one of the main villains in Job’s story.
You remember Job, right? He was the godly man who lost everything but his life and his wife. He lost his children, his many flocks and wealth, his community status, and his ability to work. He lost his health and suffered significantly.
And through the book of Job, the question keeps repeating itself: Why?
What purpose is there in Job’s suffering?
The short answer could be that Job’s suffering was to serve as a public record in the heavenly courtroom as an indictment against the enemy’s accusation that God is only worth worshipping if everything is going your way. But, there are many more lessons that can be uncovered in this account of suffering. A blog post couldn’t begin to address all of them, but there is one lesson that God kept impressing on me through our summer of sorrow, and that’s the lesson of how easy it is to move dangerously close to Job’s wife’s position.
When Job’s friends come to offer sympathy and comfort, their main “ministry” to him turns into a field day (or actually several chapters) of accusations where they sum up Job’s condition as a consequence of his sins. They challenge him to appease God by confessing whatever sin he must have committed that led to his suffering. But Job’s wife didn’t approach his situation that way at all. No, because Job’s wife knew better. Job’s wife lived with him. Job’s wife knew that he was a “blameless and upright man.”
Job’s wife knew that Job did not deserve the treatment he received from his “friends.”
God describes Job as a man who “fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Job was one who people knew as a man of integrity, who kept his commitments to God, was devoted to Him and worshipped Him publicly and privately. Job’s wife knew this as well—she lived with him. Job’s wife knew that he had done nothing to deserve the losses he was experiencing.
I’m thinking that Job’s wife may have reacted the same way that I did this summer when, in her heart she began to believe that: “My husband doesn’t deserve this.” I’ve voiced that this summer.
Not, in the entire five years that my husband has been ill, not in the three-week hospital stay, or through the last three years of tremendous suffering or loss. Not when he had to step down from pastoring the people he loved and invested in for more than two decades. Not when the loss of income forced us to seek an unusual means of survival. Not when our lives were dramatically upended, and we were put in a position of extended solitude because of the very real threat to his health (we’re now on day 245 of isolation).
Through all the long extended suffering, the thought never occurred to me to consider that my husband didn’t “deserve” to go through this. I didn’t think of the significant losses in those kind of terms. As I’ve done for years, I just knew that we were in the Lord’s hands and all He does is right. The question of “undeserved suffering” never entered my mind.
But when we were hit (and continue to be) with a deeply personal loss, shocking disappointments, and decisions that will negatively impact generations of our family, as well as our church and community—I finally voiced it:
“My husband doesn’t deserve this.”
I voiced it loud and clear. I voiced it with passion. Because, I know my man. He’s a faithful and righteous man—fully devoted to his God, his family, and for years, devoted to the people he pastored. And, in one sense that is a true observation.
My husband is experiencing undeserved suffering and loss because of other people’s selfish choices, not as a consequence of anything that he has done. He’s experiencing undeserved physical pain because the fallen world we live in is filled with deadly and destructive diseases. He contracted the disease for some unknown reason—but it wasn’t the consequence of him abusing his body in any way or from making foolish choices. So, in one sense, it is true that my husband is suffering undeserved pain—if I’m only viewing it from a horizontal perspective.
But, when we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, we must view things from His perspective.
Job’s wife lived with a godly man who was well respected—even by God. And so do I.
Job’s wife knew her husband was experiencing suffering and loss that came (indirectly) from God, but not as a consequence of any personal sins he’d committed. She knew her husband lived with integrity and served his family and community well. As my husband has.
Job’s wife started down a dangerous road when she entertained the idea that Job didn’t “deserve” this, because, in her heart she was making an accusation against God’s decision to place Job in a position of extreme suffering. And for a wife who loves her godly man—that is very hard to watch, very hard to accept. It can pit you against God as you want to serve as your husband’s protector from pain—but what happens when you realize that the suffering is appointed by the God you love?
Are you really in a position to “protect” your loved one against God?
We don’t even know Job’s wife’s name. And what little we do know about her is not admirable, but her response is more understandable when you consider things from her perspective. We can’t know for sure, but it seems her progression through Job’s suffering could’ve gone something like this:
Observation: My husband doesn’t deserve this loss, pain, and suffering.
Accusation: God caused this and it isn’t right.
Disposition: Anger toward God that is further inflamed when Job continues to worship the God who would afflict him this way.
Proposition: “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). She taunts Job with the angry challenge to curse God and get out of this miserable existence by dying. Just die. Take matters into your own hands and just end it all.
I’m thankful that God mercifully protected my heart and didn’t allow me to move beyond the first step on this progressive spiral. I voiced the observation that my husband doesn’t deserve what he’s going through, many times—but went no further. But, I take no credit for that. It is only by God’s grace that I didn’t move all the way down the line with Job’s wife.
I was edging dangerously close to her accusation when my focus was consumed by my husband’s suffering rather than what I know of God.
As I struggled with the question of undeserved suffering, I had to step back and challenge my heart with what is true:
We don’t deserve grace. I don’t, my husband (as wonderful as he is) doesn’t. None of us “deserve” grace. We actually deserve (by God’s righteous standards) to spend our eternity separated from God, in torment and pain, as an “atonement” for our sinful condition. From a vertical perspective, that judgment is what we all actually deserve (Romans 3:23; 5:12).
Being a fallen creature, living in a fallen world, brings the same sun that shines, and rain that falls—on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And although we like to think that “justice” from God means that the godly will be exempt from suffering and loss—it doesn’t. The mysterious truth is that pain and suffering fall on the godly as well as the wicked. And the equally mysterious truth is that God has graciously provided deliverance from the eternal suffering that all men deserve. Yes, deserve.
But, in an amazing act of grace, Jesus suffered for us, to deliver us from the eternal suffering we all deserve:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:6—10).
Suffering is what we deserve—all of us. Suffering is not only what we deserve, but suffering is actually necessary for our spiritual growth. If we respond to suffering with a yielded heart, the suffering will serve us well by strengthening our faith.
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:2—5).
Suffering is necessary to confirm our identity as His own and prepare us for the glory we will inherit:
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:16—18).
When I view our summer of suffering through this lens—the lens of God’s sovereign grace—and consider the aspects of suffering from God’s perspective rather than my natural viewpoint, then I can “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” rather than edging toward Job’s wife’s solution: “Curse God and die.”
When I view suffering as a tool God uses to conform us to His image, to strengthen the faith we stand in, and to prepare us as His pottery to display the treasure of His gospel (2 Corinthians 4:7), then I can rejoice.
I don’t rejoice for my husband’s pain, or for the destruction from the enemy, I certainly don’t rejoice over people’s selfish indulgences, or sinful choices, or broken relationships that increase our sorrow, but I rejoice in the work that God is doing through the suffering.
Where are you today? Are you suffering in some way?
Do you find yourself anywhere on the progressive spiral where Job’s wife was descending?