Holding Fast in Good and Bad

About three weeks ago, we were all going about our regular lives. In the blink of an eye, though, things changed. Now, we’re hunkering down for who knows how long. And as things drag on, you may have more time to think about why this is happening, or why God would work in this way. I certainly have, so I figured I would share a thought from Job 2. Here it is: there is a temptation to abandon God when things are bad, but Job gives us good reason to push away that temptation. Let’s think through these two ideas briefly.


There is a temptation to abandon God when things are bad. This is what we learn from both Satan and Job’s wife in Job 2. Go read the first chapter of Job for context first. Then, note that God has been vindicated in chapter 2. Thus, in v3, in this second divine assembly, God lays the blame for Job’s temporal condition squarely on Satan. Though Satan accused Job of fearing God “for no reason” (1:9), Job has been ruined for no reason (2:3, same word as v9), which is evident in Job’s famous response to tragedy in 1:21 (“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD”).


But Satan is not buying it. In 2:4-5, he denies that Job has really lost anything because he still has his life. And so, he challenges God: touch his life, and Job will give up his faith, hope, and love. Here, then, is the temptation. When things are bad, we might be tempted to abandon faith in God. Or to say it another way, we may be tempted to tie our piety to our prosperity.[1]


This also seems to be the message of Job’s wife in v9. Though God commended Job for holding “fast his integrity” (v4), Job’s wife asks, “Do you still hold fast your integrity?” In this regard, Job’s wife acts as a messenger of Satan, tempting Job to throw in the towel now that things are really bad.


Maybe you feel this temptation; maybe your faith wavers as you read about the vulnerable who are succumbing to this virus; maybe your hope diminishes as you read about extended lockdowns and skyrocketing unemployment; maybe your love weakens as your isolation begins to turn you inward. This is a real temptation when things are bad.


But, Job gives us good reason to push away that temptation. Specifically, this chapter reminds us of two truths that combat the temptation. First, God is still on his throne. This is evident in v1, in which we see that Satan is reporting to God’s throne room. Moreover, in v6, any power that Satan has over Job is only given to him by God. God’s response is a constrained allowance of power because God sets the rules, not Satan. From these observations, we should conclude that this is no divine wrestling match; good and evil are not struggling to prevail. From first to last, God is in the position of power and authority. God is still on his throne.


Second, our integrity should be dissociated from our circumstances. This truth is the substance of Job’s response to his wife in v10: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Is it really appropriate to have a crisis of faith when things are not going well? Doesn’t such behavior deny that God is on the throne whether we receive good or ill? Doesn’t it confirm Satan’s accusation that we are fair-weather followers of God?


Without denying the difficulty of pushing away the temptation to abandon God when things are bad, let’s endeavor to have Job’s perspective so that we might better weather the storms and bring glory to God.

[1] Richard P. Belcher Jr, Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom Literature, NSBT 46 (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018), 80.

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