We have our hopes and aspirations for the future, but struggle to predict what will happen in practice with any degree of accuracy. We know that from the weather forecasts. For today or the next few days the predictions are usually fairly accurate, but once you look for a few weeks ahead or a few months it is an altogether different picture. On 9 December 1960 one of the United Kingdom’s longest-running soap operas began. After watching one or two episodes a TV critic of one the daily newspapers wrote the following: ‘It is unthinkable that the British population would be interested enough to watch the ordinary goings on in an average working class street in the north of England; and even twice a week it would be unspeakably boring.’ I think that author would be amazed to think that Coronation Street was still attracting huge audiences more than half a century later. However, it is unwise to be too critical of the mistaken judgements of others because the future is much harder to predict accurately, especially in 2020 in the light of the Covid-19 virus pandemic!
In the earlier part of Job 23 it is easy to see the frustration and at times the despair of Job as he cannot see a way out of the crisis he has been experiencing. In yesterdays’ message I gave some examples of prominent figures in the Bible as well as one of Wales’ most famous Christian ministers from the eighteenth century who had experienced this difficult time in his spiritual journey. If we go back a few more centuries into the medieval times there are many Christian leaders who wrote about their experience of ‘the dark night of the soul’. Their faith in God was very real, but there were times when they did not sense God’s presence with them.
There are also occasions like the famous walk to Emmaus on the first Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus rose from the dead, two thousand years ago. Two dispirited followers of Jesus Cleopas and his wife were going home from Jerusalem. They had heard others tell of Jesus being alive after death, but they were not inclined to believe it. A stranger accompanied them on the journey and asked questions about their sadness and then proceeded to give a Bible study on the Old Testament references to Jesus. It was only sometime later after the stranger had been invited into their home for supper and was praying over the food before them that they recognised it was Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). Then and now God’s people can be so low in their spirits that they fail to sense God’s presence with them. However, in Job chapter 23 Job shares from his experience two more things with us.
1. He remained steadfast in his faith in the darkness (Job 23:10-12) But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. 11 My feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside. 12 I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread. These wonderful words of testimony have not come from the lips of a man in the prime of life and for whom things are going well. On the contrary, he is struggling in the darkness, a plight made worse by the unhelpful advice of his friends.
Job is effectively testifying that God’s grace is sufficient to help get him through this hard time. Let us pause for a moment. We have the whole Bible, possibly daily Bible reading notes and many helpful Christian books to aid us in our walk of faith. Job had considerably less spiritual resources than us, but the little he had was sufficient to reassure him and keep him going on his faith journey. Are you and I making good use of the faith resources we have today? Let us not miss out on reading and reflecting on the Bible as we face the opportunities and challenges each day brings. May we also take time in prayer to bring our praises and our petitions to Him.
2. He begins to emerge from the darkness (Job 23:16-17) God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. 17 Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face. Unless you know you are perfect! You like me and everyone else has made mistakes in the past. In our attitudes, speech and actions there are times when we got things wrong, possibly to the detriment of other people or ourselves. Yet God in His goodness truly forgives us our sins and gives us a fresh start in our lives – but sometimes we are not willing to let go and release ourselves from our past failures. Some other people, who by contrast have had great successes in the past, are unable to accept these times have finished and the present day is a different experience.
Others still who have gone through times of deep depression or some other form of struggles can lose hope that there can be a better future for them. Praise God that Job retained his hope in God’s goodness for the future. He resolved that his current experience of ‘darkness’ would not define either him or his future. I hope and pray that each one of us will be people of hope who believe that beyond this Covid-19 virus pandemic God has plans for our good and for His glory, for Jesus’ sake, Amen
Our song for reflection today is: ‘Light of the world’