man sitting on steps contemplating life January 7 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Job 8, 9, 10

Endurance in Tough Times

Unemployed, sick, defeated, or just discouraged—these are circumstances in our life where we may think, “I can't win. I try. I do my best, but I can't win. God is against me. Nothing I do is right. I just want to quit!” Have you ever felt that way? We do not always express how we feel, but when we read Job's sufferings in the book that bears his name, we can certainly sympathize with him, especially if we have gone through tough times. How can we endure them and win?

As stated in our last Bible study, Job is a patriarch of the faith, living about the time of Abraham (more...). God allows Satan to tempt Job to curse his Creator. Because of this, Job suffers the loss of his family, business, wealth, and health. He is having a tough time.

In today's Bible reading, Job's second friend, Bildad the Shuhite, rebukes Job for complaining over his sufferings. Bildad and his friends are thinking, Job, how can you say these things? Surely you are guilty! Bildad explains,

Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. [He is apparently referring to the events of Job 1:18-19 and making a harsh, unfeeling judgment about the reason for his family's demise]

But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.

Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers, (Job 8:3-7, 20, NIV).

Bildad tells Job to plead with God, if Job is as blameless as he claims, and God will restore him. If not, Job must be guilty.

Job replies,

Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God? Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? (Job 9:2–4, NIV).

This is an age-old puzzle—God is incomprehensible in his power, wisdom, and understanding, so how can mortal man ever be righteous before him? Job feels like he cannot win. He continues,

How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.

He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.

If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. (Job 9:14-15, 32-34, NIV)

The poetry of the book of Job evokes the powerful emotions he feels. Job and his friends often express their emotions in metaphors (picture comparisons) and hyperbole (exaggerations) as we might do when we are angry or distressed by trouble. God is not literally beating Job with a rod, but Job feels like he is being disciplined, even though he does not deserve it. Job pleads for a mediator.

Perhaps, at times we have felt the same way. Much later in history the Apostle Paul encourages suffering Christians in Rome to take comfort in this: “The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26b, NIV).

Job also feels that the Almighty does not understand what he is going through because He is God and not a man–He does not know what it is like to suffer (Job 10:4,5). But, God does know everything and man has been created by him, so he does understand man's emotions and the capabilities of his physical stamina. Later in history, God's only Son Jesus becomes human. He suffers the same temptations, trials, and weakness of the flesh before he is crucified.

Job feels like he cannot please God. In his pain he says, “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 10:1, NIV). It is not wrong for Job to express his lament, but then Job takes his bitterness of suffering one step further by questioning God's judgment. It is here that Job steps over the line. He will later wish he had kept his mouth shut and waited for God, instead of accusing Him foolishly. Like Job, it is difficult when we are suffering not to complain and say foolish things. However, we can draw some encouragement to endure from another well-known figure.

A couple thousand years later Jesus suffers—he suffers a death by crucifixion for his people and us (Isaiah 53:3-11; Matthew 27:1-60; 1Peter 2:24,25). After he is beaten and mocked, crowned with a wreath of thorns, spit upon, and whipped, he is affixed to a rough-hewn cross by long iron spikes driven into his hands and feet. In a three-hour period he makes only seven short statements on the cross. In one of those statements he cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, NIV).

Jesus was as human as we are, yet he submitted to God's will in suffering. When he died, he won the victory over sin and death for us. When we feel like we can't win, let us remember Jesus. The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us,

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3, NIV)

If Jesus can win, we can win, but we must be faithful and trust him even when times are difficult. The Apostle Paul encourages suffering Christians, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 2:3).

Lessons to Live By

•  Life can be rough at times. We need God to help us endure (more...). We also need the help of caring and sympathetic friends. Be this kind of friend to those who are suffering.

•  Pain can sometimes be long and difficult, but try not to charge God foolishly. Although it may seem like God is against you, if you are a Christian, Jesus is your advocate before God the Father (1Timothy 2:5).

•  Draw encouragement from Jesus Christ, who suffered and endured excruciating pain for us for God's glory and our salvation.

Today's Bible Memory Verse (repeated for our encouragement)

Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart, (NIV).

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A Look Ahead: Our Next Lesson answers the question: should we Console or Counsel those who are suffering?

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