I occasionally have those moments in life when I question what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Often, these moments come early in the morning while I make coffee. Why do I make coffee every day? How many more days will I get up early to make coffee? What’s the point of getting up every day to make coffee? Should I do something other than make coffee this morning? Inevitably, my physiological dependence on caffeine ends those existentially aware moments, and I continue with my morning.
Those moments, however, are not bad because they shine a light on our purpose and God’s purpose for us. Towards the end of my sermon on Acts 25, I make the point that the periods of long waiting or seemingly uneventful time are not wasted time but a part of God’s plan. The entirety of our lives, including the routines of our everyday lives or the “boring” bits, are a part of God’s plan to sanctify us and to make us fit for our final destination in intimate communion with him. From God’s perspective, there is no lost time. To be sure, we can squander our time in unfruitful activities (of which making coffee is not one, in my humble opinion), but the mundane parts of our lives are not necessarily unfruitful.
The book of Job is an object lesson in appreciating the process of living life in all its moments. It is 42 chapters, mostly consisting of repeated arguments between Job and his friends. While there is some measure of advancement of the argument over the course of the book, for the most part it is a sustained argumentation over Job’s attitude and actions that really never launches far from the initial presentations. Then, when the Lord appears to answer Job out of the whirlwind, he responds to the whole mess of the preceding chapters with four chapters of his own, highlighting Job’s lack of qualifications to find fault with how he governs and upholds his creation.
I must confess that I sometimes want to pare down the book of Job from 42 chapters to about 8 chapters. Then, I think, I can manage a solid sermon series through the book. But even the secular prophet Billy Joel knows that that’s just commercialism talking: “It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long. If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit. So they cut it down to 3:05.”
So, then, if we’re not going to cut down the book of Job, what profit is there in processing through the repeated arguments? In the first place, we are offered a front row seat to the living out of patient endurance in the face of trials. Job’s integrity is called into question repeatedly by his friends, and Job is forced to respond with faith repeatedly. This repeated testing of Job reminds us that the Christian life is not just one or two moments of testing before it all gets better. No, as we slog through the chapters of Job, we’re slogging through Job’s own process of living out patient endurance. It’s not always pretty—Job is not perfect in how he relates to God in the midst of his suffering—but it is very helpful to walk with Job through his suffering and through the testing of his character so that we might be reminded, when the waves of trials seem to continually wash over us, that we are not the first ones to experience repeated trials and testing.
Second, we come to appreciate the value of time in God’s forming activity of our hearts and identities. That it takes time to read these arguments itself reminds us that sanctification is not a quick process. In contrast to the cultural craving for instant gratification, the book of Job stands as the wise old man who teaches you the value of slowing down and appreciating the process. Even the time it takes you to read the book of Job is a formative experience, and so the extended argumentation has this secondary effect on us for the sake of God’s plan of conforming us to the image of his Son.
The point of all of this is to say that there is great importance in living your life—all of your life and even the more boring bits of your life—with an understanding that God is working out his plan in your life. Don’t wish away the time or try to fast forward through your life; patiently endure through all of life, for God has a purpose for all of your life.