Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Story You Can’t Always See

Leslie Basham: Today if you are discouraged, remember: Every good story has conflict.

Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God is writing a story that you cannot see, and He doesn’t always do what you think He should do or wish He would do. But you can know He is wise, and He is good.

Leslie: We’ll discover ways parents can handle that kind of pain here on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for September 18, 2018.

Nancy: I have some sweet friends whose young-adult children have had many, many different issues that have kept these parents on their knees over the course of many years. Some of them are health issues. Some of them are relational issues, dating issues, marriage issues, moral issues, work issues. Lots of challenges.

I’ve watched this couple, who love their children dearly, go through this season that’s not been a short one, and it’s not over. I’ve watched them commit their children to the Lord, pray for their children, and pray and pray and pray and keep praying for their children.

And I’ve also watched God do an amazing work of grace in the lives of these parents.

Now, we’ve seen some answers to prayer with their kids, but a lot of prayers are still awaiting answers. This is not quick. It’s not easy. It’s not clean and neat, and anybody who has children knows what I’m talking about. There’s no textbook written that covers your child and their relationship with God and all that goes into that.

So I thought about this family, and others that I know and love, as I’ve been meditating on Job chapter 1, which we started looking at yesterday. We’re continuing today as we get wisdom and perspectives for parents, and for all of us, from the first chapter of Job. This is not a deep dive into the book of Job—just some reflections, wisdom and perspectives for parents, and all of us, from Job chapter 1.

So let’s just reset what we read yesterday from Job chapter 1. First we see in Job 1, Job’s character:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

That’s going to be important to remember when we see what happened to Job that the opening statement here, the foundational statement is that Job was a man who knew God, loved God, feared God, walked with God—his character.

Then we see his wealth in verses 2 and 3: “There were born to him seven sons and three daughters.”

What greater wealth could there be than for God to bless them with these children? But he had material wealth as well.

He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, [to take care of all those critters—all those creatures] so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east (v. 3).

He was prosperous. He was prominent. He was wealthy. He was successful. He was a godly man who had great wealth.

And then in verses 4 and 5, we see something about his family and his heart for his family.

His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, [these were probably birthdays or holidays—when the days of the feast had run their course] Job would send [for his children—is implied there] and he would consecrate them, [he would purify them]. He would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.”

He didn’t wait for some great big, horrendous sin to crop up in their lives. He said, “I want to nip this in the bud. I don’t know what’s going on in their hearts, but God knows what’s going on in their hearts, so I want to do everything I can to minister to them, to intercede for them, to advocate for them before the throne of God.”

So, verse 5 ends: “Thus did Job [how often?] continually.” All the time.

Now, let’s pick up with this passage, and I want to make sure we realize that Job’s walk with God, and his model spiritual care for his children did not make him or his children immune to crisis. The fact that Job walked with God, that he did all he could to care for his children and their souls, it did not keep him or them from going through crisis experiences. In fact, his walk with God and his concern for his children actually made him and his children a target of God’s arch enemy, Satan himself.

Now, the whole book of Job gives us a glimpse into the unseen, spiritual war taking place in the heavenlies between God and Satan. Now, when we say that, we shouldn’t think that it’s God and Satan, and they’re kind of evenly matched, because they’re not at all. Satan is a creature. He’s a created being, and He’s in no way God’s equal, even though he has always wanted to be God’s equal.

But he’s a creature, and we know that, “Lo, his doom is sure,” Martin Luther reminds us. But in the meantime, he exercises, and God gives him the freedom to exercise influence. It’s a reminder that visible things and events and challenges we face here on this earth are connected to things that are taking place in the invisible realm.

Job could not see this conversation between God and Satan. He couldn’t hear what was going on in the heavenlies, and we can’t see what’s going on. We know very little—Scripture reveals very little—of what’s going on up in the heavenlies in that battle today. But we know that that battle is very real, and so we need to realize that when we try and figure out what in the world is going on here in the scene, the visible reality here on earth.

And so the Scripture unfolds for us—and I won’t read this whole passage—how Satan is found going to and fro across the earth, walking up and down on the earth—summarizing these next verses in Job 1. We see him to be active. We see him to be alert. He’s aware of Job’s walk with God. Now, God brings up Job. He says, “Have you seen my servant Job? There’s none like him on the earth. He trusts Me. He fears Me. He’s righteous.”

But Satan knew about Job. Satan already knew. He was aware of Job’s walk with God. He was aware of the blessing of God in Job’s life. And Satan set out to shake the foundations of Job’s life, to shake his loyalty to God.

Now, Job was really, in a sense, a bit player in the book that bears his name, in this whole story. Satan wasn’t really after Job, ultimately, any more than Satan is ultimately after you or me. I mean, why would he really care about us? We shouldn’t flatter ourselves to think we matter that much to Satan.

But God matters to Satan. Satan is ultimately after God. He’s wanting to unseat God on His throne. He’s wanting to undermine God. He wants to embarrass God. He wants to rattle our belief in God, our faith in God.

And so what did Satan do? He set out to cause one of God’s most fervent worshipers to doubt God, to defect from the faith. And Satan does that today—his demons do that. Now, I don’t think he singles out you and me every day, for the most part, but he has a whole host of emissaries that do his bidding. And his goal is to attack God.

If he can cause us to doubt God, or to act in unbelief, or to act in ways that are not holy, then he will have cast a shadow on God. And we need to be aware of that as we respond to and react to the circumstances of our lives.

But remember, as you go back and read this chapter, that before Satan could do any of this with Job, he first had to get God’s permission. Satan is not a free agent. He is not ultimate. He does not have any authority but what God allows him to have for a limited period of time and in a limited scope.

God always said, “You can go this far but no further with Job.” God limits the time, the temperature, how hot it is, how fierce the battle is. God puts parameters around Satan, and Satan has no freedom to go beyond what God gives him permission to do.

So Job and his family became a target of Satan. And with God’s knowledge and permission—one could even say with God’s prompting—Satan attacked Job and caused profound pain and loss.

So we’ve seen that Job walked with God, that Job was a blessed man, but we’ve also seen that that didn’t keep him from experiencing heartache and hardship. So, with God’s knowledge, with God’s permission—and God’s even the one who brought up this subject and gave the permission to go this far and no further—Satan attacked Job and caused profound loss and pain.

And we read in chapter 1 how disaster attacks Job’s possessions first and then his family. And so far as Job knows, this is totally out of the blue. I mean, no warning, no notice, no preparation, no, “I read in the Bible last week that reminded me I better be prepared for suffering.” He didn’t have any of that. Disaster strikes like lightning—not once, but multiple times.

So, Job chapter 1, verse 13: “Now there was a day [this all happens on one day] when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house.”

So this is a festivity day, a feast day, a party day—perhaps the birthday of the oldest brother. It was a happy day. It was a day for celebration. It was a day when the family was together. And on that day, over the next several verses, Job receives one devastating report after another. His oxen, his donkeys, his camels, his sheep, his servants are all wiped out in a single day that was meant to be a holiday, a day for celebration. One day—from joy and ecstasy to tears, sorrow. And then, while Job is still reeling from all this news, comes the most crushing blow of all.

While he was yet speaking, [this bearer of bad news] there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters [ten children—seven sons, three daughters—perhaps with their own families. We don’t know. But we know they were grown. Your sons and daughters] were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you” (v. 18).

Now, as I read that passage, several things come to mind. First is that Satan is cruel. Satan comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. He’s hateful. He’s wicked. He causes Job unimaginable pain. And that’s so like Satan. So you don’t want to believe Satan’s lies. You don’t want to toy with his ways of thinking because in the end, he is a killer and a destroyer.

Notice also that Job’s faithful prayers for his children did not keep this disaster from striking. Job had lived a righteous life. He had prayed faithfully for his children, presumably from the time they were little. But all those prayers, all that righteous living, all that close-family stuff they had enjoyed, it did not keep this disaster from striking.

Now, when something like that happens, and what we’re reading here is an extreme version of what some of you may have experienced in miniature, or maybe you’ve experienced something just this crazy. I know a family who’s seven or eight children were killed in a horrible accident on a freeway many years ago. They’ve written about it. They’ve talked about the agony, the pain.

When something happens, whether it’s smaller or similar, it can create huge confusion and doubt. There is no way to understand, much less explain this kind of story, so don’t even try because, for chapter after chapter after chapter, Job’s friends, who were not really great comforters, tried to explain.

“Well this happened because of this.” They were trying to connect dots that just couldn’t be connected. There is no human explanation for what took place. And there may be no human explanation for what is taking place in your family as you’ve sought to follow the Lord and to pray faithfully for your children.

A godly life will not protect you from experiencing sorrow and suffering and loss. We need to get that in our heads because when we’re trying to live righteous lives, and then something bad happens, there’s this kind of reflexive thing of, “What did I do wrong?”

Now, it doesn’t hurt to ask that question because we may have sinned, and we need to let God use circumstances in our lives to cause us to ask, “Lord, is there something You’re trying to show me that I didn’t see, that I was blind to? Was I rebellious about something? Was I sinning against You?”

So, yes, ask the question, but realize that may not have anything to do with what has happened in your life. There may not be any sin that you were intentionally harboring or keeping in your heart. What is happening in your life may be happening while you were loving God, serving God, praying faithfully for your kids.

Now, living a holy life will protect you, spare you from some of the direct and natural consequences of sin, of course. If you raise your children and don’t have any spiritual input into their lives, you’re more concerned about their sports than you are about their soul, then, yes, there’s probably going to be some consequences.

Don’t expect to have children who love God if they don’t see you loving God—right?—if they don’t see you emphasizing the love of God in your home.

But God sometimes allows His obedient, faithful, prayerful children to experience intense affliction and loss, inexplicably. And when He does, you can know that it is for some greater good or purpose, some purpose that you cannot possibly see at that time. That’s when we have to do what Job did, which is to trust that God knows and does the best.

These trials were not the result of some sin or some defect in Job’s life or in his children’s lives. Of course, Job grew through these trials, and the trials exposed depths of his heart that needed to be sanctified. But these trials were part of a bigger story that God was writing to display the glory of God—not just in Job’s day, but for generations to come.

And so, how did Job respond?

God’s behavior in this fateful day was impossible to understand. It was puzzling. It was mysterious. God was not acting in a way that we would have thought He should act for a man that’s described the way Job is described in those early verses of chapter 1.

So the natural response of a man facing this kind of circumstance would have been to resent the circumstances, to become embittered, to question the goodness and the wisdom and the character of a God who would allow such things if that God even existed. I mean, wouldn’t that be a natural response to the kind of day Job’s just been walking through?

Well, Job had been concerned, we read earlier, that his children would not curse God in their hearts. And in the wake of his losses, same chapter, he was tempted to curse God himself—the very thing he’d prayed his children would not do.

In fact, when you get to chapter 2, his wife, who’s swallowed up in her own grief and loss—she lost all the same things Job lost. She lost ten kids that she’d given birth to. She lost all those possessions. And in her own grief and loss, she presses him to do just what he’d been praying his children would not do.

Chapter 2, verse 9: “And then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’”

Job had prayed, “God, don’t let my children curse You in their hearts.” His wife says, “Curse God and die.”

Now, I think this is not necessarily a hateful response to God on the part of Job’s wife. We don’t know. All we know is what’s told here. But here’s a woman who had suffered incredibly along with her husband. And maybe she was just longing for relief from the pain. Maybe she’s thinking, If you curse God, He may kill you and put you out of your misery. We don’t know what she was thinking, but we know what the temptation was: to curse God.

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 (Job 2:10).

You see, Satan attacked Job’s children in order to get to Job, and ultimately in order to get to God. He wanted Job to curse God. But Job clung to his faith in God in the face of indescribable suffering and grief. He refused to curse God, and instead, he chose instead to “bless the Lord.”

Go back to chapter 1, verse 20:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 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." In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

You see, Job understood that ultimately, God was behind these events, even though he could not fathom what God as doing. He couldn’t see any light at the end of this painful tunnel. Yet he would not throw away the only thing he had to cling to, which was the character and the goodness of God. Satan wanted him to curse God, but Job refused. He clung to his faith in God.

I sent a text in the last several days to a friend who’s struggling deeply with a lot of issues in her life. I said, “This is a spiritual battle. The enemy wants to claim your mind and your soul. But Jesus says, [let me make up a name here] ‘Jenny, Jenny, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.’ I’m joining Jesus in praying that prayer for you tonight.” A spiritual battle.

You see, God was writing a story that Job couldn’t see. It involved Job and his wife and his children and his friends. In the opening chapter, we are given a glimpse of that story, but no explanation is given to Job. Job was not allowed to see what we can see now. All he could see was a ton of anguish and confusion and soul searching.

In fact—think about this: Job would not hear a single word directly from God until chapter 38. How long was that? I don’t know. But it had to feel like a very long time. And even at that point, when God does speak, Job is not given reasons or explanations. But what he is given is a vision of God—the God he had clung to from the outset of his trials. And at that point, his faith is rewarded and strengthened.

You see, this wasn’t about Job. It was about God, His glory, His story. It was about blessing and strengthening our faith thousands of years later.

God is writing a story that you cannot see. And He doesn’t always do what you think He should do or wish He would do, but you can know that He is wise, and He is good. This story involves you. It involves people you love. And it involves others you will never see or know by name. And it’s a story you would never write for yourself.

And speaking of stories, in God’s way and in God’s time, God more than restored what Job had lost. If we fast forward to Job chapter 42, we read in verse 12: “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.” Twice what he had lost, in case you forgot the numbers from chapter 1.

Now, God also gave children to him. Some commentators think this may have been a second marriage. We don’t know, but verse 13 says:

He had also seven sons and three daughters, and those daughters received a special blessing. He called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, the name of the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days (vv. 13–15).

Now, nothing could replace the children that Job had lost all in one day. And there are lots of questions that this passage raises that we’re not going to take time to address here, but I want you to see that God comforted Job with renewed and multiplied blessings at the end of his life.

There’s no promise that you will get back what may have been taken from you in this life—whether it’s health or possessions or even your children—but, in the end, you can know that you will receive more than you ever could have hoped for.

You say, “When is the end?” I don’t know, but God knows. And in the end, you will have more than you ever could have hoped for.

Job was a blessed and godly man at the beginning of the story. And in God’s providence, he went through unspeakably painful trials and adversities. But he emerged on the other side even more blessed and godly, with a richer, fuller, sweeter sense of who God was and with ten more children to nurture in the ways of God. And how thankful he must have been that he had prepared his first ten children to die without knowing how tragedy would strike their lives.

Now, you may be in the middle of great confusion or pain or loss. Maybe it’s in relation to your children or your grandkids. You’ve poured yourself into them as Job did. You’ve prayed for them. You sought to model godliness before them.

But the story hasn’t turned out as you had hoped. Your children aren’t walking with God. They have rejected what you’ve taught them. Or maybe they’ve got chronic health issues. Or you may have lost one or more children unexpectedly. It may be due to circumstances beyond your control or theirs. Or maybe it’s the result of foolish choices that they have made.

So you’re in a season when your eyes are filled with tears. You can hardly breathe. You can’t see how any blessing or goodness could come out of this season.

Well, let me just close this short series by pointing us to a verse in the New Testament: James chapter 5, verse 11:

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard [today] of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

What’s the takeaway there? Remain steadfast in the face of trials as Job did. And in time, you will see the purpose of God. You will be assured that He has a compassionate, merciful heart. And in the end, you will be blessed—blessed—blessed.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’ll be right back to pray.

Nancy’s been teaching from the book of Job about God’s purpose for us through trials. She’s in the middle of a three-day series called, “Wisdom for Parents from Job Chapter 1.” To review yesterday’s program, go to ReviveOurHearts.com to listen to the audio or read the transcript.

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We’ve seen from the life of Job that walking with God doesn’t mean you’re exempt from walking through trials. Still, we often question why we must experience suffering. Tomorrow, we’ll hear from women in our audience who wrestled with God’s purpose for their difficult circumstances. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Now, Nancy’s here to pray.

Nancy: Oh, Lord, give us steadfast hearts to hope in You, even through the trials and the pain and the affliction, and to see You to be the compassionate, merciful, purposeful God whose purposes we will one day see and applaud with grateful, worshipful hearts. So, in the meantime, help us to be steadfast. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to trust God to write your story. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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