Hoping in God (Job 13).
Sometimes all we can do is cling on. There are times when you can’t take great strides forward and just to get to the end of the day is a victory. The song ‘Clinging to the Cross‘ by Tim Hughes was written for just such occasions, the hard times in life when we’re really up against it and struggling just to hold on.
Job was a clinger. By chapter 13 he really is clinging on. It’s been 12 chapters since he lost everything and 11 since he was afflicted with all-over body sores. He has no home, no livelihood, no possessions. His children are all dead and his wife is nowhere to be seen. What food he has just to survive is probably the charity of his friends. Yet if they’re the same friends who have been bashing him round the head with insinuations, accusations and dodgy theology for the last few chapters then perhaps that was a mixed blessing.
The fact is by this point Job wants to die. Life is no longer worth living, and who can blame him? Most people in that situation would just want an end to it. Don’t forget, Job isn’t just miserable and grieving, he’s in constant agony and discomfort. His suffering goes on right till the end of the book. These conversations that dominate the middle of the book aren’t comfortable arm-chair debates with tea and scones, they were conducted on an ash-heap under the blazing Middle Eastern sun. Can you picture yourself in Job’s rags at this point?
And yet Job clings on to hope. Somehow, somehow, he finds a way to keep hoping in God. In verse 15 he goes so far as to say: “Though He [God] slay me, yet I will hope in Him.” Job would hope in God even to death. Even – get this – if God were to kill him. Wow. That’s some trust, some humility. Still Job didn’t presume to question God’s justice and still he didn’t take His name in vain. Job hoped in God even when life was at its hardest. He still had questions (verses 23-24), his pain persisted, but he kept his hope alive.
Many Christians since have had to do the same. Jesus promised us that suffering is to be expected, a normal part of the Christian experience (John 15:18-21). Even without the added persecution of following someone the world rejected, life is hard. Bad things happen. When you lose your job. When the diagnosis of cancer knocks you for six. When your partner walks out. The list goes on, insert your own suffering here. What do you do in those times? Denial, self-reliance and abandoning God are all equally bad strategies. Whatever else you do or don’t do in such times, you must keep hoping in God. You must cling to Him, trusting that He will make it all right.
The psalms regularly touch upon the theme of vindication, the idea that God will come through for you in the end (e.g. Psalm 26:1, 54:1, 135:14). Faith in Him is never mis-placed. Paul would say that suffering builds character, which in turn shores up our hope (Romans 5:3-5), but I think Peter says it particularly well: “the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6, quoting Isaiah 28:16).
And Job’s trust was not put to shame. His hope was vindicated. Granted, he has to endure many more chapters of suffering first, but after encountering God all is set right. Better than it was before in fact. As it says in Isaiah 40:31: “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Do you need to take hold of that promise today? If you’re clinging on, know that God is for you and will come through for you.