“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5, 6
When Job spoke these words to the Lord he was coming out of the darkest place. He had lost all his material possessions and all ten children. He lost his bodily health and was destitute. His wife turned against him and his friends falsely accused him. The young men who had previously looked up to him now mocked him.
Job had always done what he believed was right before the Lord and that is attested to in the first verse of the book. He doesn’t claim to be without sin but blameless because he confessed known sin and offered the appropriate offerings for himself and his family. God also attests to Job’s godly living (1:8).
Job had spent seven days in silence allowing God to search his heart. His friends insisted that he must have done some great sin. Job expresses his frustration at not understanding why he should be enduring such a horrific episode in his life but he still sticks with his faith in the Lord. Even if he should die in the present circumstance he knows that he will rise again and see God his Redeemer face to face (19:25, 26).
All Christians will suffer tribulation at various times during their lives (John 16:33) but some will experience this place of greater darkness at least once in their lives. It is darkness because all knowledge seems futile and all understanding seems empty. It is a time of extreme aloneness when no one else but Jesus can comfort and He seems distant. We will either come out sweeter in fellowship with the Lord or bitter against Him. How we come out of the dark place is determined by how we go in. The dark period will reveal what was already there and multiply it. Sweet will be sweeter; the self righteous will be more bitter.
We can only see as much of God as He chooses to reveal and only when He so chooses. Job had heard of God and His ways and, as a result put his trust in Him to deliver and keep him. For many Christians this is a similar experience. They have been born of God, know and trust the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done for them on the cross. Then they are taken into a dark place where that faith is sorely tested.
For Job and for Christians who endure the dark place, they will see God in an indescribable and inexplicable way. They will know they have seen God. The evidence that follows such a revelation of God is a greater realisation of the sinfulness of their fallen nature. This will produce confession and repentance. This is the sweet place where Job came and so will Christians who truly trust the Lord. For them the light that follows the darkness is glorious indeed; “now my eyes see You.”
It is evident that some Christians do end up bitter with God after such testing. This is seen in their attitude to serving the Lord Jesus and is a revelation of what was already in their heart before the test but is now multiplied.
We cannot engineer the dark place in timing or manner. The Lord will do so without warning, at the right time, in the right way and individually tailored. Whether we come out more bitter or sweeter will depend on the sweetness of our fellowship with Him before the darkness came.