June 4, 2019
When life gets hard, how are we to respond? Some people respond to difficulty by fighting back. The old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” These people often pride themselves in being busy to work through the pain and “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” Others handle difficulties of suffering a different way. There are many people that isolate and try to reset their minds and emotions in solitude. Many times people will separate from others in order to detach from further pain or to try and regroup. Though these responses are totally opposite one another, they are common. However, are either of these responses Biblical?
The testimony of Job shows that God is ultimately the author and facilitator of all events in our lives. We don’t always understand what God is looking to achieve from the various things that take place in our lives, but the Bible is clear – God is behind it all. Since God is uniquely righteous and the sole source of goodness, then everything God does in our lives must be right and good. Our responses to God’s work don’t change the nature of God’s works. Just because we respond the wrong way and question God, doesn’t mean that God messed up. Whether God is disciplining our lives with difficulty or teaching us purity through trials, God is right and good. The testimony of Job shows that Job and his friends had a basic understanding of this truth, but struggled to know how to properly respond to God’s work. Since Job didn’t know how to respond to God’s work in his life, he questioned God, complained against God, and allowed the circumstances of his life to provoke some pretty offensive words to come out of his mouth. Likewise, Job’s friends didn’t know how to respond to Job’s suffering. They examined the circumstances of Job and tried to match up the events of his life to the limited understanding they had of the infinite God. They too misspoke and, while they originally intended to do well, ultimately made a mess of things.
In Job 37:14-18 the Bible shows that Job’s younger friend Elihu stepped in to clarify things. God used Elihu to be the voice of clarity and wisdom. God used the mouth of Elihu to remind Job how to respond to the confusing works of God, especially when those works cause pain and uncertainty in our lives. In Job 37:14-18 Elihu said:
“Listen to this O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.”
While Elihu was simply pleading with Job to consider the words that he had spoken about God, hoping to steer Job in the direction of humble repentance, Elihu also provided the appropriate answer to all who seek to respond to God’s work rightly. The Bible explains that we should neither reflect toughness and “get going” or isolate to regroup. Instead, we are to “stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Notice that the appropriate response to suffering involves both action and isolation. Elihu’s exhortation to “stand still” doesn’t mean, “do nothing.” This phrase is parallel to the idea of “waiting on the Lord.” This instruction in the Bible doesn’t suggest that God’s people are to sit around and do nothing. This doesn’t mean that we are to isolate and waste away, waiting for God to work miracles that match our inward desires. Recall that Job wanted to isolate and sulk, but was being rebuked for that very attitude.
Standing still in the Biblical sense requires us to slow down. Notice that the action we are to take doesn’t require us “working” towards the improvement of our circumstances, but requires us to consider God. Our effort is mental in essence. We are to undergo the work required to clear our minds of our fleshly emotions and grumblings towards our difficulties, and strive to fill our minds with the truth of God’s nature. Rather than pouting or complaining about how hard things are, we are to recall the “wonderful” things we know about God. The word “wondrous” refers to the incomprehensive things of God. The nature of God’s work is difficult to understand because the nature of God is difficult to understand. Rather than fill our minds with thoughts of regret, sorrow, pity, and discontentment, we should remember the superiority and marvel of God’s glory. We should remember that He is not affected by our weakness, remains merciful, gracious, and able to help in our time of need, so long as we seek Him in dependency and humility. We should remember that God is not like us, is highly exalted above us, yet does not despise us.
Elihu then mentioned some basic things that reflect the incomprehensive nature of God’s work to prove how glorious God is. Elihu mentioned the clouds and the sky. He explained that the clouds are “dispatched.” This means that God sends clouds out to various parts of the world, in different forms, for different purposes. The clouds seem to stretch across the sky randomly, but according to the Bible, God has great purpose behind His sovereign control behind the movement of clouds. Just because we can’t see the purpose doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have it. Consider how the clouds change form to accomplish different purposes throughout the world. They are all over the planet, but functioning differently at different times in different places. Elihu marveled at the balanced nature of the clouds. They are balanced to give just enough rain all over the globe, but not to the extent of flooding the whole earth. Even on a cloudy day, the sun is hidden, but not completely darkened. It is still day, not the darkness of night. Looking up at the sky long enough will allow us to see the clouds change shape and form before our eyes. How do they do that? Why do they do that? God alone knows.
Elihu referred to the winds that move the clouds and the sky where all of these action takes place. The wind comes, but we don’t know its source. Science today points to varying air pressure levels and such to explain the movement of wind and clouds, but how often are weather people mocked because of their inability to predict the weather accurately. The weather people are only able to tell us what’s happening based on what they can see. They cannot explain the future of weather, the cause of it, and the purpose for those changes. God’s ability to do these things shows that He is the One that influences us, not the other way around. Elihu reminded Job that when the south wind blows and the weather gets hot, we are the ones that are affected. How does the wind change, heat come, and even our clothes get hot from this weird manner of God’s work? Can we influence God this way? Can we change the temperature of His clothes? Do our works cause Him to change His appearance, His attire, or His plans? Often times our entire days and the things that we wear in them are influenced by the changes God brings in the temperature. How does God do that and what is He working towards?
Elihu reminded Job that no one was around when God stretched out the sky; and consider how effective it is in doing its job. The sky is like a stretched-out piece of glass. It is strong in one sense, able to protect us from harmful elements of outer space. In another sense, it is fragile because we can see right through it. On a clear night, we can see the stars, planets, and the Milky Way. How can something so strong be so transparent? Elihu explained that God made the sky to be like a looking glass. We can look up to the sky and get a small peek into the glory of God. However, to see these things of God, we need to stop our normal schedules, slow down the pace of our lives, redirect our natural focuses, and actually work to put these thoughts in our minds to consider these things. When we stop the busy pace of our lives to look up instead of at ourselves, we can notice the clouds and remember that God is in charge of them, marveling at the manner of His work to use wind to move them, His hands to equip them to purpose, and the sky for them to dwell in. How did God make these things? How does God do these things?
These unanswerable questions should remind us of God’s perfect knowledge. Elihu encouraged and pleaded with Job to stand still and consider the incomprehensive nature of God because, when we remember that we can’t figure God out, we remember the perfection of His wisdom and knowledge. God’s knowledge is not like ours. He didn’t have to go somewhere to learn. God is not on His throne watching YouTube videos about how to keep the sky preserved. God is not in the kingdom looking at Pinterest for ideas on how to shape clouds. God already knows all things and is sufficient in His understanding to have intimate wisdom about everything all at once. The simple workings of the clouds prove this to be true. The simple functionality of the wind proves this to be true. The nature of our sky proves this to be true. Who designs things like this and keeps them working for as long as God has? Those who design and create look to the things of God for inspiration, whether they acknowledge God or not. God doesn’t look to anyone for instruction or inspiration. His knowledge is whole, complete, sufficient, and satisfactory in every way to equip God to do all the things that He does. When we remember these things about God, these truths transcend our difficulties, reminding us about He who died for us, and is conforming us into His image. These thoughts about the greatness of God made our issues seem smaller, and thought the pain of our suffering might remain, our minds should be fixed on the things of God that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, recalling that with God, there is always a good report, and He is the essence of all good virtues, and is always praiseworthy. Whether life is going the way we want or not, these things are always true of God. Stand still. Stop doing what is habitual and normal. Slow down. Pray and ask the Lord to take the thoughts that cause defeat, and fill your mind with the good things that the Bible says of who God is.