The Christian life is not an easy life. There are occasions when we have exceedingly hard times to endure and our pleas for deliverance appear to go unanswered. Job here had grown weary of the superficial answers of his friends who wanted to give simple explanations for everything. Their motivation was good. They wanted to honour God. However, the way they sought to live it out in practice was deeply unhelpful to their suffering friend. There are times when other people simply need to know we care. They know we cannot fix their situation and are not expecting us to try and do something that is impossible. In his inner pain and weariness Job is pleading with God to intervene.
But he has a problem because there appears to be silence from God. If only I knew where to find Him…was his cry. There are similar words in Job 23:8-9: ‘But if I go to the east, He is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find Him. 9 When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him. We must be supportive and be found standing alongside a brother or sister enduring such times. There are many difficulties we cannot overcome, but equally trust that in time God can and will.
Job is not alone in this predicament. Many of the most godly and influential Christian leaders over the centuries have testified that they too have experienced the silence or felt absence of God. Martin Luther in his times of deep depression sometimes spoke of God as ‘the hidden God’. It was also something experienced by some of the Psalmists. Psalm 10:1 states: Why, Lord, do You stand far off? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? Another Psalm of David that uses similar language is Psalm 13:1-4: How long, Lord? Will You forget me for ever? How long will you hide Your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 4 and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall. Isaiah too made this statement in Isaiah 45:15: Truly You are a God who has been hiding Himself, the God and Saviour of Israel. Christmas Evans (1766-1838), possibly the most talented preacher in Welsh Baptist history, and a great man of God endured this problem. He wrote that in 1795 after a year of coldness of heart and not finding God, he was on a journey in the mountains near Cader Idris (Dolgellau) in North Wales and felt compelled to stop and spend time with God in prayer.
He later recorded what happened that day: ‘The struggle lasted for three hours; it rose again and again like one wave after another, or a high flowing tide driven by a strong wind, until my nature became faint by weeping and crying. Thus I resigned myself to Christ, body and soul, gifts and labours -all my life – every day and evening hour that remained for me; and all my cares I committed to Christ. The road was mountainous and lonely and I was wholly alone and suffered no interruption in my wrestlings with God.’ God met with him again that day and the sense of His presence returned to Evans whose remarkable ministry continued throughout Wales. If these God-honouring people endured such times as these then we cannot assume it may never be our experience too for a season. What is so important in these times is to remember that God promises never to leave nor forsake us. He will keep His word.
Our song for reflection today is: ‘Though trials may come’