Here we are at the final installment of Too Much Talking: Spiritual Warfare in the Book of Job.
About half way through writing this series, I started to hear Psalm 91 every time I turned my attention to Job.
The events in Job’s life do not seem to match up at all with the triumphant declarations of invincibility that the psalmist puts forth.
But Job’s experience of God is perfectly envisioned by the psalm.
The events in the psalm: God will rescue you from every trap, protect you from disease, and though thousands fall around you, no evil will touch you.
Certainly not how it happened for Job. God told Satan it was “ok” for him to set traps, inflict disease, and while everyone else was flourishing to dash Job down.
This brings up a terrible uneasiness, a question for the ages: Are all of God’s promises for all believers?
And if not, why not me?
That was my question in the moments when I was regaining lucidity after a six week long psychosis, and four weeks “imprisonment” in a psych ward.
I had tried so hard to be faithful, obedient, and true. I was a real and honest believer. Why weren’t God’s promises for me? Had my little bit of existential questioning in college really warranted such rejection from God? Such a betrayal of our contractual obedience-for-blessing arrangement?
My mom had a Bible that she kept in the car while we were growing up. Every morning on the way to school, she would have me read Psalm 91 aloud to my siblings and then she would pray over us to have a good day.
How is it that my mother could request the specific blessings of Psalm 91 over and over, and still have me be stricken down with a condition so emotionally mutilating as bipolar disorder?
But today, I read the psalm again and I start to see that Psalm 91 takes place on a battlefield.
There is war and plague and snares and enemies all around in Psalm 91. We are surrounded.
The events in Psalm 91 in fact do match the attacks against Job. But the psalmist has a perspective that I certainly lacked in my worst times, and a perspective that Job had to fight to gain.
This perspective is that the events in my life do not equate to my experience of God’s faithfulness in a 1:1 ratio.
Another way to say it is, victory and defeat are opposites but there is always a battlefield between them. The battlefield does not define victory, or defeat, but it is where they are decided.
Psalm 91 doesn’t describe a life free of trouble, it describes a person being American Ninja Warrior-ed through troubles on the backs of angels and by the hand of God.
The events of the psalmist’s life include traps, disease, stumbling blocks, terrors, arrows, disaster, evil, plague, lions, and cobras.
His experience, however, is shelter, rest, refuge, safety, rescue, armor, protection, being upheld, being answered, being honored, being rewarded, and given salvation.
When you are suffering, people want to identify for you all the many things you are doing to cause or perpetuate your suffering.
As we’ve seen in Job, people ill-at-ease at the sight of a Christian stumbling are quick to diagnose spiritual disease and to prescribe over-the-counter piety.
But the Book of Job prescribes exactly one remedy to the person whose hopes are dashed, whose tragedies are endless, and whose own friends have become their oppressors:
“Make the Lord your Refuge.”
Psalm 91 sounds so triumphant not because there is nothing bad happening in the life of the psalmist, but because he will not be removed from his fortress.
The psalmist is living in the shelter of the Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty, in the refuge of the Lord.
God’s guantlet to Satan was that no matter what Satan did to Job, Job would not leave his spiritual fortress. He would not blame God. He would not curse God and die.
I was moved in my worst years. And it did nothing but make my struggle worse, longer, and more intense.
I refuse to blame the victims of hardship for their broken hearts; but that doesn’t mean, dear Broken Hearted, that you have license to sin. Let me tell you, blaming God will not bring you to an alternate route of victory. Self-will, self-help, self-denial…all the ways we try to fix things ourselves are an affront to the perfect architecture of our Shelter, Christ.
To be rescued means that you were once in danger. To need armor and protection implies war. When you’re told “do not fear,” it means there is something to fear. In order to crush lions and serpents, you have to encounter them.
And we are tasked with one thing: To declare of my Lord, He alone is my refuge, my place of safety, He is my God, and I trust in Him!
Job was honorably assured of his own goodness from the beginning. His transformation was to become unshakably assured of God’s goodness. No matter how “good” we think we are, life is insufferable if we do not know that God is good.
Our shelter is not in declaring, “I am innocent!” It is in declaring, “He is my God, and I trust in Him.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
It can sound so hard to stick to an avenue, advocate for the truth, and adhere to a lifestyle. For people like me, who have gone through months at a time where feeding, dressing, and bathing myself are genuine chores, doing something so upstanding as the Christian life sounds exhausting.
There are many fulfilling “doings” in Christian life. But Psalm 91 tells us:
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
In John 6:29, Jesus tells a crowd in the synagogue at Capernaum, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one He has sent.”
Our belief and our confession are tightly interwoven. When you can’t do any other work, be encouraged that the only work that matters is what you declare of your Lord.
Speech is warfare.