Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The book of Job gives us a behind-the-curtains look at God’s power and God’s will in action. Usually when we pray we acknowledge the limitless extent of God’s power, especially when we are asking for a blessing or an intervention of some kind. It’s also important to acknowledge God’s will, which Paul calls “perfect” in Romans 12:2. We do not know if God’s will is limitless in the same way as God’s power, (Very smart people have been arguing over predestination vs free will for thousands of years) but most Christians believe that God has absolute control over everything that happens, no matter how good or bad it seems to us. So whether God’s decision to “strike” Job was a spur of the moment decision (as we would think of it, anyway) or something that had to occur since the beginning of time, it was an act of God’s perfect will.
We also know that God himself keeps pointing out that Job is righteous, perhaps one of the most righteous men on earth. So how could God bring so much suffering upon him?
The second trap is the belief that our righteousness or piety will alter God in some way. “God, if you just give me x then I’ll do y.” God is unchangeable. He is filled with love and compassion for us, but not even the most righteous among us can change his will. Well then, we might ask, if everything that is going to happen will happen regardless of what we say, what is the point of anything? Why do we bother praying? Here is a quote from C.S. Lewis that helps us understand the nature of God’s will and how it interacts with our own:
What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God – that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying – the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on – the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.
Job’s righteousness did not protect him from the will of God. No amount of righteousness can change the unchangeable. As Lewis says, God is what we pray to, but also how we pray. In the end, our prayers and supplications change us, not God. When we acknowledge that our righteousness does not alter God, we are free from the second trap.