The View from Underneath

Whitney Capps

Day: 21 | Plan: Suffering and Sovereignty

Today’s Reading: Job 21 

Job 21:7-8 (NIV) “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes.

One of my favorite memories as a little girl was watching my grandmother cross-stitch. I remember the first time I watched her nimble fingers stitch a mess of x’s into a masterpiece. She always sat in her recliner, legs curled under her, leaning toward the light of the table lamp. I usually sat on the floor at her feet looking at the underside of her work-in-progress. 

We had a little game where I would try to guess what she was making. But the underside was such a mess! Was it a basket of flowers? A bowl of fruit? A hummingbird or a hippo? Who knew? From my perspective it was an indistinguishable mishmash of string and knots. But what was utter confusion to me was perfectly known to her. She was looking at her work of art from the front. I was only looking at the back.

The continuing arguments between Job and his friends remind me of that game I used to play with my grandmother, trying to guess what she was stitching. Job and his companions are trying to guess God’s plan. Job’s friends are sure that God would never allow unjust circumstances to fall on a just man. The circumstances mean Job must be unjust.

Here in Job 21, Job looks at the real-life circumstances of people who are far from God; they are dismissive and defiant yet they continue to prosper. Job argues that the wicked see their children prosper, their homes safe and their lives free from calamity. From Job’s perspective the wicked are often spared the kind of heartache and grief he has experienced.

And in the middle of his argument Job says, “Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22). Such truth. Knowledge comes from God; we don’t tell Him anything He doesn’t already know. If only Job and his friends had stopped there. This is the defining truth that could have changed the conversation and let them see the hope of the masterpiece God was working on.

I think what Job is saying is that God knows exactly what He’s doing. Whether wicked or good people, whether blessed or afflicted circumstances, God is in control. He has a plan that we simply can’t see from our perspective. God has knowledge. God imparts wisdom. God judges rightly. In our suffering, God is doing something.

We know this truth and believe this truth most of the time. But in the midst of suffering it’s easy to forget. In addition to forgetting that truth, suffering makes us desperate to know exactly what God is doing. What is the big picture He’s working on? Is my life still a masterpiece, or is it just a mess. 

Suffering isn’t at all like the game I played with my grandmother. We aren’t just passing the time trying to guess what God is up to. We are often sad, lonely, hurting and afraid. But our best guesses won’t make that pain go away. In fact, if we get the picture wrong or begin to doubt that there’s a masterpiece in the making, we can hurt even more. 

You may be looking at your life as a jumble of frayed thread and messy knots. But there is a patient hand with tender, nimble fingers stitching the masterpiece of your life. You can trust Him. Don’t judge the brilliance of His artistry from the wrong side of the fabric. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I often forget that I only know in part. You know in full, and You know me fully. You know my beginning and my end and everything in between. Please remind me of my limited perspective. When I need it, and according to Your purpose, may I have a glimpse of Your plan? And even when I can’t see what You are doing clearly, help me trust Your artistry. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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