Last Sunday, we took a look at how we should act when we are afraid and terrified.  This Sunday, I wanted to take a look at something that Job faced on his spiritual journey. Despair was something that Job had to face on his journey and his despair was so great that it caused him to temporarily lose sight of God. Some of us may have already dealt with it before or may face it in the future on our spiritual journey. 

I don’t mean for this to be a dark and gloomy subject, but despair is very real and something we should be prepared for as believers. Life is filled with much happiness but at the very same time, life is sadly filled with many afflictions that you and I both face and go through.  We can become so afflicted that we, the genuine believer, can lose sight of God.

So, I just want to briefly take a moment today to talk about despair.  There are many people who are living in despair today and I want to tell you not to give up hope.

Even the faithful can lose sight temporarily

In last Sunday’s sermon, I talked about the great prophet Elijah.  Elijah was such a strong man of faith that well after he left this world, the people during the days of John the Baptist thought that he was Elijah reincarnated.  As strong as he was in his faith in God, you will recall that I mentioned he took his eyes off God for a brief moment when he ran for fear of his life. It had gotten so bad that at one point Elijah asked the Lord to take his life.

Another example of a faithful man in Job

Job, God described as a blameless and upright man that feared the Lord (Job 1:8).  One of the biggest takeaways we have about Job is his patience.  It is said that we believers should strive to “have the patience of Job”.  Which I always find to be interesting because if you have studied the story of Job, you will see he was not this quiet and patiently waiting on God type of person.

As I said about Elijah, when we choose not to tell the whole story about Job, we lose the essence of what made him so special.  So, let’s get a fuller picture of Job for a moment. Yes, he was certainly a man of faith and he was also very blessed. Satan believed, however, that if tragedy was to befall Job that Job would curse (blame) God (Job 1:9-11).  

To blame God would be to say that we have found fault in something God has done.  (For example: saying God has made a mistake when something ‘wrong’ has happened.)  So, Satan’s theory was/is very simple: if I afflict him, he will blame you, Lord. This is still the very treacherous game that the devil plays with mankind today:  can he get mankind to blame God?

Why would God allow this?

There are certainly some questions that constantly arise from the story of Job. One question being, why would God allow Satan to afflict Job in such a manner. I have come up with two answers from my studying of Job and the studying of scripture.

Firstly, God knew that Job could withstand the afflictions of Satan. The Lord knew the type of man that Job was – his strengths and his weaknesses – as we have seen. I believe this to be true when it comes to God knowing the type of people all of His children are.

Secondly, I believe the Lord wanted to set a precedent when it came to being afflicted by Satan and this world. Again, we are greatly afflicted on every side. Satan believes those afflictions will break you and me, but through Job, we know that God will not allow that to happen. Job went through some things and suffered greatly! But we learn that should we hold fast to our faith, we can persevere.

Standing in his integrity

Now we know this part of Job’s story very well from all of those Sunday School classes we were in when we were little, right?  Satan afflicted Job merciless. Job lost his children (Job 1:18-19) and his great wealth (Job 1:14-17) in an instance.  To these things, Job stood up, tore his garment, shaved his head, fell to the ground and worshiped the Lord.

So, in these afflictions, we find that Job was still holding fast to his integrity.  Satan was frustrated because, again, Job was supposed to curse God. So, Satan went on the attack again and attacked Job’s health; he caused Job to have severe boils (Job 2:7).  Things got so bad that Job’s wife wondered why Job was still holding fast in his integrity and not cursing God (Job 2:9).

Job loses patience and his sight

For some, the story of Job skips to the part where God blesses him twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).  The morale of the story therefore is to have the patience of Job and hold fast in your integrity and faith in the Lord.  That truly is a wonderful lesson to learn from Job and it is true, we should always hold fast to our integrity and faith in God.

However, when we skip the middle of the story, we end up skipping over the part where Job becomes like many of us in the world today.  We lose the human (natural) reaction to a situation.  Like Elijah, Job temporarily lost sight of the Lord, though the cause of him losing that sight was drastically different.

Questioning the Lord

While he was holding fast in his integrity, we find that Job was also dealing with great depression and was in a deep hole of despair.  Despair: to lose or be without hope. Have you ever been in despair before or felt hopeless?  

Let me show you what I mean about Job’s despair and maybe you will find something in common with his despair and depression.  At first, it started off with Job cursing the day he was born (Job 3:1). It then grew to Job believing that God had shot him with arrows that was poisoning his spirit (Job 6:4)  He then complained that God had something against Him (Job 10:1). Job even wondered if God was really watching over him or if he had eyes like a man (Job 10:4).

These sound like things that you and I may say.  We get let go from a job and we begin to wonder some things.  Yet, when our afflictions begin to stack up, we begin to wonder if God has His eyes open and if so, is He looking at us!  You see, this is the human side of Job that I want all of us to see today.  

Job had just lost everything, so, this idea that Job happily worshiped God in patience is very misleading.  No, Job was a man who was in serious pain! Job even admits that he was speaking in the bitterness of his soul (Job 10:1).  So, this may leave you wondering if it is OK for us to question the Lord?

Our misunderstanding causes us to question

When we begin to question the Lord’s way in the manner that Job did, it is a sign that we are lacking in understanding of the way God works.  (Our understanding of God, in this sense, also speaks to our spiritual sight of God.) There are two types of understanding I believe we can have when it comes to God: a muddled understanding like that of a child or a clearer (mature) understanding (1 Cor. 14:20).  Job was at a place where his understanding of what was happening was very muddled.

We have all been in that place before.  Because our understanding is so muddled, we believe that God has made a mistake.  Yet, in truth, the Lord can never make a mistake because He is righteous. In that sense, we are wrong to believe that the Lord made a mistake.  Job believed he was justified for his feelings and therefore he became a tad bit self-righteous.

Bitterness darkens everything

Last week we spoke about how fear can push us to be closer to the Lord in our faith.  Despair does not necessarily do the same thing. The hope is that in our despair, we do not lose sight of God, but being in despair can make that become so hard.  We find that Job’s despair pushed him to be bitter in his heart. Bitterness can lead to a very dark place that clouds our spiritual vision.

Job was in that very dark place.  His three friends were with him but they were not helping him get out of that dark place.  There was also a young man named Elihu who had been near listening to Job go back and forth with his friends (Job 32:1-5).  Elihu was not pleased with anything that he had heard and did his best to bring Job out of that place.  

At one point, he says of Job (Job 34:35), “Job speaks without knowledge.  His words are without wisdom.  His answers are like those of wicked men.”  This is why we cannot become bitter people in our soul.  Job’s bitterness and despair began to blind Job to sound counsel of the Lord.

Sight of God’s beautiful works surrounds us

By the time Elihu had finished speaking, it began to storm and everybody who was with Job left him to get out of the rain.  In his despair and even in his bitterness, there was one that remained with Job even though Job felt He had something against him.  God was there in the whirlwind and began to speak to Job out of the storm (Job 38:1).

Job needed to have his eyes opened and to have his understanding cleared up.  God asked Job (Job 38:18), “Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?” God asked Job (Job 40:9), “Have you an arm like God?”  You see, God began to ask Job about every function of this world and universe that we can comprehend. Though we comprehend it, we have found that we have very little control over the workings of God’s creations.

God, on the other hand, has full control over His creation!  We can see His works all around us! When we go outside and hear the birds chirping and the wind blowing against our body, that is the Lord’s works.  In the same way, the Lord works on our behalf but much of this we take for granted until something wrong happens.  Yet, we find that even when we are in despair, God is still in full control.

In despair, talk to the Lord

The very first question God asked Job out of the many question was (Job 38:2), “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”  All Job could say was, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”  We end up losing sight of God and all of His wonderful works when we are in a place of despair.

Things may not seem wonderful to you when you’re in that place of despair but I tell you, God is still a wonderful God even when you’re afflicted on every side.  The goal for us is to not get so far down in our despair that we lose sight of this fact. Look for the Lord when you feel you are in a place of despair – seek Him!  God is around us on every side and when we can see and recognize His wonderful works, the despair will begin to fade away.

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