Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 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.
The drama always looks different from backstage. The set is not at all what it appears to be to the audience. The stage hands scurry about, silently and unseen. The players say their lines and move through well-rehearsed blocking while somewhere someone cues the music and works the lights. For the crowd beyond the footlights, the answers are clear as the story unfolds from a tidy script. But all that is seen is never all that is. The visualized tale is but a fragment, a piece played out between what is known and what is not.
So it is with Job and the drama of his life. Most of us have heard his story, heard of his trials and tribulations. We've even grown up using the cliché that this person or that person has "the patience of Job." But early in the telling of this sobering tale, the author makes us confront the untidy reality of unanswered suffering.
Job never knows of the conversation between God and Satan. He never learns that God allowed the calamity and permitted the afflictions. He never is told that he passed the test, or even that there was a test. But we are backstage. We hear the mocking accusation of Satan and the chilling agreement to proceed. We listen as Job weeps and wonders—and even worships. We see and hear that God defeats Satan through the faithfulness of poor, wretched Job.
Job will cry out. He will plead with God to explain. He will listen as his friends accuse him, and suspect him, and offer platitudes instead of praise. But he will not abandon his faith in God his Redeemer. He will not wonder if God is good. He will not lose heart even after losing everything else. And at last, he will come to the knowledge that God is beyond understanding but still closer than his breath. And in that he rests.
Paul the Apostle also knew of these things. He too knew of abandonment and loss. He too felt the scourge of the enemy and the chill of the coming winter in the lonely dungeons of Rome. Yet, in Christ Paul was able to learn that beyond what is seen is the unalterable steadfastness of God Almighty. And in that he rests.
For us, the story is often the same. Many, many questions will go unanswered and unanswerable. We too will weep. We too will endure explanations that offer concise logic but little comfort. We too will struggle to live in the reality that what God has for us is what is best for us. May we abide in Christ, and stand with Job proclaiming, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him." (Job 13:15a)