1. HOPE BEHIND THE CLOUD
a. Being human, how did Job feel about his predicament? Job 3:1–3, 9–11, 20–22.
b. What should we all consider in hard times? Job 5:17–19.
“The very time to exercise faith is when we feel destitute of the Spirit. When thick clouds of darkness seem to hover over the mind, then is the time to let living faith pierce the darkness and scatter the clouds.”—Early Writings, p. 72.
“To every stricken one, Jesus comes with the ministry of healing. The life of bereavement, pain, and suffering may be brightened by precious revealings of His presence.
“God would not have us remain pressed down by dumb sorrow, with sore and breaking hearts. He would have us look up and behold His dear face of love. The blessed Saviour stands by many whose eyes are so blinded by tears that they do not discern Him. He longs to clasp our hands, to have us look to Him in simple faith, permitting Him to guide us. His heart is open to our griefs, our sorrows, and our trials. He has loved us with an everlasting love and with loving-kindness compassed us about. We may keep the heart stayed upon Him and meditate upon His loving-kindness all the day. He will lift the soul above the daily sorrow and perplexity, into a realm of peace.”—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 12.
2. WHOSE HEART DO WE TEND TO SEARCH?
a. Why did Job seek to search his heart? Proverbs 26:2; Job 9:1–4; 10:1, 2.
“To a great degree the experiences of life are the fruition of our own thoughts and deeds.”—Education, p. 146.
b. When we fall into unexpected suffering, why is it wise for us to follow Job’s example of self-examination? 2 Corinthians 13:5; Psalm 139:23, 24.
“If each will search and see what sins are lurking in his own heart to shut out Jesus, he will find such a work to do that he will be ready to esteem others better than himself. He will no longer seek to pluck the mote out of his brother’s eye while a beam is in his own eye.”—Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, p. 213.
c. Why does Jesus warn us against being quick to judge the cause of others’ afflictions? Luke 13:1–5.
d. Explain Job’s response when friends misjudged his affliction. Job 16:1–3.
“Still another element of bitterness was added to [Job’s] cup. His friends, seeing in adversity but the retribution of sin, pressed on his bruised and burdened spirit their accusations of wrongdoing.”—Education, p. 155.
“There is wickedness in our world, but all the suffering is not the result of a perverted course of life. Job is brought distinctly before us as a man whom the Lord allowed Satan to afflict. The enemy stripped him of all he possessed; his family ties were broken; his children were taken from him. For a time his body was covered with loathsome sores, and he suffered greatly. His friends came to comfort him, but they tried to make him see that he was responsible, by his sinful course, for his afflictions. . . . By seeking to make him guilty before God, and deserving of His punishment, they brought a grievous test upon him, and represented God in a false light.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 3, p. 1140.
3. REFLECTING THE DIVINE COMFORTER
a. What should we learn from Job’s attitude toward his friends? Job 16:4, 5.
“Let no Christian be found an accuser of the brethren. Satan is the one who bears this title; he accuses them before God day and night, he stirs up the enemies of our faith to accuse us, and he prompts those of like precious faith to criticise and condemn one another. We are not to take part in his work. These are days of trial and of great peril, the adversary of souls is upon the track of every one; and while we stand out separate from the world, we should press together in faith and love. United, we are strong; divided, we are weak.
“We are exhorted to love as brethren, to be kind, courteous, forbearing, in honor preferring one another.”—Historical Sketches, pp. 213, 214.
b. How are we, like the psalmist, to be comforted when no human understands and sympathizes with our pain or sorrow? Psalm 27:10; 73:25, 26.
“Into the experience of all there come times of keen disappointment and utter discouragement—days when sorrow is the portion, and it is hard to believe that God is still the kind benefactor of His earthborn children; days when troubles harass the soul, till death seems preferable to life. It is then that many lose their hold on God and are brought into the slavery of doubt, the bondage of unbelief. Could we at such times discern with spiritual insight the meaning of God’s providences we should see angels seeking to save us from ourselves, striving to plant our feet upon a foundation more firm than the everlasting hills, and new faith, new life, would spring into being.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 162.
“While we review, not the dark chapters in our experience, but the manifestations of God’s great mercy and unfailing love, we shall praise far more than complain. We shall talk of the loving faithfulness of God as the true, tender, compassionate shepherd of His flock, which He has declared that none shall pluck out of His hand. The language of the heart will not be selfish murmuring and repining. Praise, like clear-flowing streams, will come from God’s truly believing ones.”—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 367.
4. DEVELOPING PATIENCE
a. What perspective helps us develop patience in trial? James 5:10; Lamentations 3:31–33.
“Life is disciplinary. While in the world, the Christian will meet with adverse influences. There will be provocations to test the temper; and it is by meeting these in a right spirit that the Christian graces are developed. If injuries and insults are meekly borne, if insulting words are responded to by gentle answers, and oppressive acts by kindness, this is evidence that the Spirit of Christ dwells in the heart, that sap from the living Vine is flowing to the branches. We are in the school of Christ in this life, where we are to learn to be meek and lowly of heart; and in the day of final accounts we shall see that all the obstacles we meet, all the hardships and annoyances that we are called to bear, are practical lessons in the application of principles of Christian life. If well endured, they develop the Christlike in the character and distinguish the Christian from the worldling.
“There is a high standard to which we are to attain if we would be children of God, noble, pure, holy, and undefiled; and a pruning process is necessary if we would reach this standard. How would this pruning be accomplished if there were no difficulties to meet, no obstacles to surmount, nothing to call out patience and endurance? These trials are not the smallest blessings in our experience. They are designed to nerve us to determination to succeed. We are to use them as God’s means to gain decided victories over self instead of allowing them to hinder, oppress, and destroy us.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 344, 345.
b. How does Scripture connect trials with patience? Romans 5:3, 4.
“The Lord frequently places us in difficult positions to stimulate us to greater exertion. In His providence special annoyances sometimes occur to test our patience and faith. God gives us lessons of trust. He would teach us where to look for help and strength in time of need. Thus we obtain practical knowledge of His divine will, which we so much need in our life experience. Faith grows strong in earnest conflict with doubt and fear.”—Ibid., vol. 4, pp. 116, 117.
5. AGONIZING IN PRAYER
a. Why are today’s trials essential for the conflict ahead? Zechariah 13:9.
“God’s love for His children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.
“The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger—a faith that will not faint though severely tried. The period of probation is granted to all to prepare for that time. . . . Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it. Wrestling with God—how few know what it is! How few have ever had their souls drawn out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the stretch. When waves of despair which no language can express sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to the promises of God. . . .
“We should now acquaint ourselves with God by proving His promises. Angels record every prayer that is earnest and sincere. We should rather dispense with selfish gratifications than neglect communion with God. The deepest poverty, the greatest self-denial, with His approval, is better than riches, honors, ease, and friendship without it. We must take time to pray. If we allow our minds to be absorbed by worldly interests, the Lord may give us time by removing from us our idols of gold, of houses, or of fertile lands.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 621, 622.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Where is God when people such as Job are suffering?
2. How might I be guilty of the error of Job’s friends?
3. What should we do when there seems to be no answer to our suffering?
4. How do our trials develop patience?
5. Describe the type of experience we need in preparation for the final events.