Theology in 3D

Truth for Triumphing over Trouble #1

Layton Talbert | June 15, 2018
Old Testament, Theology

The Bible does not hide from our hard questions about pain and suffering and loss. It confronts them head on. One way it does that is by recording the struggles and stories of others who have asked the same questions in the midst of their pain or confusion, and then working through the answers God gives. Scripture includes numerous examples:

  • Asaph puzzles over the perpetual prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73).
  • Solomon wrestles with virtually all the enigmas and inequities of life (Ecclesiastes).
  • Jeremiah is so distraught over the apparent pointlessness and impotence of his ministry that he feels deceived by God (Jeremiah 20).
  • Habakkuk complains that God ignores the prevailing evil and injustice in the surrounding culture, then is aghast when he learns how God intends to deal with it (Habakkuk 1-3).
  • Paul prays pointedly — and unsuccessfully — for God to remove some circumstance or condition that apparently hobbles his health and hampers his ministry (1 Corinthians 12).

But no one ransacks these kinds of questions more intimately or extensively than Job.

This is not about “How to Survive Suffering.” God intends us—and Scripture equips us—to do much more than merely survive suffering. This is about truths designed by God to equip us to triumph over trouble. How do we do that? I’ll be exploring five truths embedded in the story of Job that stabilize the soul in trouble. Let’s start in Job 1:6.

The curtain rises on a divided stage — or more accurately, a two-story stage. The opening scene is split between what’s going on down in Uz and what’s going on up in heaven. These two realms are not just parallel worlds; they are intimately intertwined realities, even though the one above is normally inaudible and invisible to us. Job has no idea what’s going on in that invisible realm. Neither do we. Unless God tells us. And in this case, God does tell us, but not Job.

These simultaneous, side-by-side scenes with which the book of Job opens implies a truth embedded at the outset of this narrative to help us triumph over trouble:

What you can see is not all there is; there’s a lot more going on that you don’t know about.

Job hasn’t a clue about what’s going on, or why; but we do because God chose to lift a corner of the curtain to give us a behind-the-scenes glimpse. That doesn’t mean that what was going on when Job was tested is what’s going on whenever we are tested; that’s not the point.

The point in how God tells Job’s story is to make us aware that whenever we encounter affliction and hardship and loss, what we can see is not all there is; there’s a lot more going on that we don’t know aboutThe same point is made in lots of other Bible narratives as well. In literature this is called dramatic irony. It’s a way of letting the reader in on something that the character isn’t aware of.

Remember Jacob? All he could see in his hands was Joseph’s bloodied cloak, and he’s convinced his son is dead; but we know better. Years later, Jacob’s other sons return from Egypt to inform him that not only is one of the brothers being held hostage back in Egypt by a moody Egyptian overlord, but they’re not allowed to go back to get him (or more grain) unless they bring their youngest brother Benjamin with them. Jacob’s reaction? “All these things are against me?” That’s how he reads his circumstances based on what he can see. But we know that God is squeezing Jacob into a place of blessing beyond his conception. All these things are actually for him, he just doesn’t know it because he can’t see how they could be.

But in Job this dramatic irony takes a unique form, because we’re shown not just the other side of the earthly story; we’re shown what God is doing and thinking and purposing and accomplishing that Job knows nothing about. That’s intentional. It is a potent way of reminding us — surprising us, like the sudden splash of a hidden spring in the hot, dry, deserted wilderness of inexplicable suffering — that what we can see is not all that’s going on.

Photo: Spring at En Gedi (1 Sam 24:1)


3 responses to “Truth for Triumphing over Trouble #1”

  1. […] Truth #1: What you can see is not all there is; God is doing much more that you don’t know about. […]

  2. […] Truth #1—What we can see is not all there is; there’s a lot going on, a lot that God is doing, that you don’t know about. […]

  3. […] What we can see is not all there is; there’s a lot going on we don’t know about. […]

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