Job 9: 27-28:
If I say, 'I will forget my complaint,
I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,'
I become afraid of all my suffering,
for I know you will not hold me innocent. (ESV).
When we think of Job, we might think of him as a very tough, stubborn man of faith. The above verses, however, indicate a certain amount of complexity in Job's thinking. What does Job mean when he says "I become afraid of all my suffering"?
Matthew Henry writes:
His complaint of God as implacable and inexorable was by no means to be excused. He knew better, and, at another time, would have been far from harbouring any such hard thoughts of God. Good men do not always speak like themselves; but God, who considers their frame and the strength of their temptations, gives them leave afterwards to unsay what was amiss by repentance and will not lay it to their charge.
Matthew Henry's Commentary ed. Church, Leslie F. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan) 1960. Page 529.
Job understandably thought that there was nothing he could do to please God; that God would not hold him innocent and that "good cheer" was therefore out of the question.
Do we contemporary Christians sometimes fall into the trap of joyless service to God? We are committed to our faith; that is settled. There is work to be done; very well, we will do it. Life has all sorts of unexpected difficulties and disappointments; fine, we will do our best. We then carry on, gritting our teeth so hard that our dentists would cringe.
We are not Job. We have had the benefit of hearing the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. We have had the indescribable privilege of hearing, and reading John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
One way of thinking about eternal life is that it has already started. We may not be in paradise but our service to God has started. The Apostle Paul states:
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. (2 Corinthians 5:6-9).
Job was afraid to be "of good cheer." We need not be. We can have the same "good courage" that Paul has by reminding ourselves of the infinite goodness and joy contained in the promises of God.
Augustine also writes of the connection between the gospel and our inner joy:
When we were overwhelmed by the load of our sins, when we had turned away from the contemplation of his light and been blinded by our love of darkness, that is, of wickedness, even then he did not abandon us. He sent to us his Word, who is his only Son, who was born and who suffered in the flesh which he assumed for our sake-so that we might know the value God placed on mankind, and might be purified from all our sins by that unique sacrifice, and so that, when love has been diffused in our hearts by his Spirit, and when all difficulties have been surmounted, we may come to eternal rest and to the ineffable sweetness of the contemplation of God. In view of all that, what heart or what tongue would claim to be competent to give him thanks?
City of God trans. Henry Bettenson (London: Penguin Books) 1972. (Page 293).
However incompetent and inadequate our service to God may seem to us at times, let us never fail to make our best efforts, and to enjoy doing so.
In faith and fellowship,
Patrick McKitrick (more...)