“Oh, that I knew where I might find him!” (Job 23:3).
No matter who we are, we will face troubles in life. And like Job expresses here, there will be times when we feel that we simply cannot find God. It is easy, in such times of emotional and spiritual difficulty, to give in to despair or discouragement.
But from faithful Job, we learn what to do when we can’t find God.
1) Trust in the intimacy of God.
“But he knows the way that I take” (Job 23:10).
He knows. God does not have to learn about our situation; he is not watching us from afar in order to appraise himself of our condition. God has complete knowledge, from beginning to end, of the way you are taking.
God’s knowledge of his children, even in times of trouble, is a knowledge of loving, of intimate care. This is the import of God’s “knowing” people over and over again in the Old Testament. As the psalmist wrote, “The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6). God’s intimate, loving knowledge of the righteous is contrasted with the destruction which God will allow the ungodly to experience.
Dear believer, in your pain, bask in the reality of God’s empathy. Because of who God is for us in Jesus, God personally, lovingly, empathetically bears our sorrows. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus Christ is God’s great guarantee of his love, and care, and concern for our welfare, of his willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish our good and his glory.
2) Bow to the sovereignty of God.
“When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).
God knows the way his children take because it is God who has ordained it, not just foreseen it! God was not an impassive observer in Job’s trial, and Job understood this (Job 2:10). For his own wise and good and sovereign purposes, God allows great sorrows—as well as tremendous joys—to touch our lives.
God’s knowledge of our way is complete, but our experience is not yet complete. So we must trust Him.
Although God orders for our good, he has a right to order for his pleasure (Revelation 4:11). We must quit kicking, because this wall doesn’t move, and doesn’t give way. God will act according to his superior wisdom and authority, and we cannot change that. The pain of the trial only increases as we bloody our knuckles on the wall of God’s will—we cannot change the wisdom of his plan. This is not to say “don’t pray”; but it is a reminder not to argue, not to complain, not to question.
We ought to pray hard, and then pray even harder. Yet even in our most intense pleading with God, we should always pray believing, trusting, bowing.
3) Hold the course.
“My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside” (Job 23:11).
It is always tempting to give up or to give in, rather than continue exerting effort when we feel the deep, deep pain and sorrow of feeling God-forsaken. But real success and genuine joy are only found in laboring on even when we don’t feel like it.
Dear believer, keep laboring in God’s service, even when it feels like labor. Keep working, even when you are weeping. Keep holding to His way, even when your knuckles are white, and your spiritual muscles are trembling.
4) Accelerate, don’t decelerate, the soul-deep pursuit of your Savior.
“I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:12).
The temptation is to decelerate, to try to coast spiritually when we find ourselves in a lengthy and painful trial. Especially when we do not feel the close presence of God in the midst of it. But Job gives the distinct impression here of ramping up his expectations and estimation of God. And it seems clear that his high estimation of God’s Word is a fruit of, not a coincidental of, the trial Job is enduring.
Like Job, then, we must allow God’s purposeful, temporary withdrawing to make him all the more precious in our sight.
Job esteemed God’s Word so highly, perhaps, because they were His words—a way of touching, of communing with, of hearing from his Redeemer even when he could not be felt. So Job pursued God, in his Word, with all his might. He valued God’s Word more than breakfast, lunch, and supper.
It is good to hurt, to sorrow, to weep when we cannot find God when we cannot feel the presence of God. But let Job’s example remind us also of how to respond when we go through such painful times.