Over the years, before most of our children came back to Michigan, Michal would go out to be with the daughters when they were having their babies. It would leave me home alone, sometimes up to three weeks. Yuk!
I hate being at home when Michal is not there. There are several reasons for this of course. Will I miss the wonderful meals she prepares for me? Yes. Will I miss the fact that she does the laundry? Of course. But are these the real reasons I will bemoan her absence? No. What I will miss most…is her. For over forty-two years she has been the primary relationship on earth I have had. It is kind of like I’m out of sync, a wandering star, or a “lost boy” when she is not at home. I look for her…but she is not there.
This must have been how Job felt during his severe trial. Job lived his life in the context of his God. Accordingly, his life was blessed and prosperous…until…well, you know the story. He lost everything in a moment; houses, children, herds and flocks, and finally personal health. But also he lost the sense of God’s presence. He did not know what was happening to him and why. When his three “friends” came to “comfort” him, they only added to his suffering by implying that this is what Job had coming because of his secret sin. And now, God was distant, absent, quiet. Job could not understand.
This was the sentiment in Job 23:8-14 when Job says, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.” What a profound challenge for a man that had always walked in the presence of God. Now, in the midst of this most profound trial, he looks for God…but he cannot “perceive him” (v. 8).
Of course we need to realize that “perceiving him” and him actually “being there” are two different things. For any number of reasons, we might not “perceive him” even though he is in reality in our midst. After all, perception, to us, is reality no matter how faulty our perception might be. If we do not perceive him, that is our “reality” but not “the reality”.
But Job buttresses himself with truth to reassure himself in the midst of his perceived absence of God. These are the same truths that should buttress us when we get the sense that he is not there:
1. God has knowledge of everything going on in my life – “But he knows the way that I take” (v. 10). Nothing that happens (or doesn’t happen) to us is not outside of God’s knowing and watchful eye. We are never alone. And even though it may have seemed that way to Job in the midst of his trial, he came back to that good theological place of God’s knowledge and superintendence of what was going on in his life, no matter how confusing it seemed at the moment.
2. A consistent life bolsters us during trials (vv. 11-12). While Job could not understand what had befallen him, and even though it seemed as if “He is not there”, Job took courage in the fact that he knew he had been walking in the way he should. Job was able to confidently say, “My foot has held fast (v. 11) …and “I have not departed from the commandment of his lips” (v. 12). This is of great assurance to us that what is befalling us is not necessarily because of our disobedience.
3. God is in sovereign control (v. 13). Job reminds himself of two truth about God; one – he is unchangeable (immutability). Job says, “But he is unchangeable and will not change.” And to top it off Job says, “What he desires, that he does.” God is in sovereign control of every aspect of our lives because he planned them for us before time. And he always does what he purposes to do.
4. Not only is he in control of what is going on in my life, but he is in control of it because he has a plan for me (v. 14 “He will complete what he appoints for me”). God will not change what he has determined to do in me and my life. That includes all the difficult as well as all the pleasant things that happen in our lives. He planned it long ago and he will do it.
When we feel like God is not there we need to remind ourselves of that which Job reminded himself. Our “feeling” as if God is not there is simply our faulty perception. He indeed is there. He knows every step we are taking. He is in sovereign control and will bring to fruition every intention he has for us. Our responsibility is to but follow and obey and watch how God brings about his purposes in our lives; because he will.
I’ve always missed Michal greatly during her absences. But she is never really “leaving me”. How much more I would miss God if he ever really left me? Thankfully, he will not.