Frame of reference is a key concept, the apprehension and appreciation of which is of practical help both in the science classroom and in daily life. When I ask my Earth Science students why the geocentric view of our planetary system endured for so long, with some prodding they usually admit that—from our vantage point on Earth—it certainly appears that we are stationary observers, and that everything in space seems to be moving around us. But appearances can be deceiving, as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo eventually demonstrated with ever-increasing clarity. Copernicus’ breakthrough was rightly deemed revolutionary, but even more revolutionary is the perspective on frame of reference offered by the book of Job.

Chapters 1 and 2 of Job make clear that Job himself was a paragon of virtue. In both chapters, God holds up Job as exemplary with these words to Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8, 2:3). We know that Job weathered two God-permitted satanic attacks, initially to his fortune and family, then to his own health. After the former, the text tells us that “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22), and after the latter—in spite of his wife’s incendiary urgings—“In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10). Even though Job didn’t have a vantage point that would allow him to understand why calamity had befallen him, he still held fast to his integrity, to his wife’s great chagrin (2:9).

When Job’s friends came “to show him sympathy and to comfort him,” they didn’t even recognize him (2:11-12). Satan had really done a number on Job; the paragon had become a pariah. As the story unfolds, Job and his visitors sat in silence together for a week before Job lamented his very birth; his lament open a floodgate of “friendly” counsel, but that counsel took the form of not-so-veiled aspersions and accusations. Not surprisingly, Job rightly labeled them as “miserable comforters” (16:2) who attempted to comfort him with “empty nothings” (21:34). He repeatedly attempted to defend his character but, in the end, their doubts gave rise to Job’s own questions about God’s purposes and a desire for divine vindication. The satisfying ending to this heart-wrenching tale is that God spoke and worked in ways that left no doubt about His character and His providential purposes (chapters 38-42).  Job was persuaded that the Almighty truly was in control, even through the darkest, most painful days.

What is the upshot of this for a community such as ours? As you may recall, Keith McCurdy addressed us some months back about building sturdy children. McCurdy astutely noted the tendency of many of today’s parents to keep their children happy, and to buffer them from all things that might undermine their happiness. But as Job’s life shows so poignantly and as our own adult experiences confirm, at some time in our lives, we will almost certainly face Jobian injustice or false accusations that will be hard to endure. Moreover, those closest to us may be of little help in the fray. Are we equipping our children for this eventuality? Do we allow them to learn hard lessons? Do we prepare them to face pain? 

Whatever may come, we must not give in to a warped theology that either tacitly (or vociferously!) claims that what happens to us is bigger than what has been accomplished on our behalf by Christ, or that our suffering is beyond God’s purview or concern. The ESV Study Bible rightly points out that “Though God is intensely concerned about humans, he does not always answer their most agonizing questions” (p. 870). Answers are not always forthcoming, nor is relief always timely. But His frame of reference is through the ultimate wide-angle lens, and His heart is as vast as his view. Just ask Job the persuaded. 

Steve Mittwede, CCS Science Department Chair