Tested and Approved
"(God) knows what he's doing; when he has tried me, I shall come out as pure gold" (Job 23:10).
Job's premise was a prodigious leap of faith for he was in the dark: "Thick darkness covers me," he lamented (Job. 23:17). Job couldn't understand God's odd behavior because he wasn't privy to the scene in Heaven with which the book began (Job 1,2). He had no idea that God intended to display his handiwork to Satan through Job and his "trials" (Job 1:6-12).
[I think here of sculptors that hide their work under a shroud until the "showing," at which time they snatch off the cover to reveal their work. Job's test was his "showing," when the adversary would see what sort of man Job had become under God's shaping.]
Job's trials were not the means by which he became a godly man; he was already "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1). Nor was his "trial" a discipline for sin, though his friends insisted that it was. Rather, the trials were the means by which God revealed the work he had been doing in Job's soul. (The metaphor is drawn from metallurgy and the "trying" of precious metals to reveal their worth.)
There is an echo of this "trying" in the New Testament Greek word, dokímion a word found inscribed on the bottom of clay jars in ancient times. It was an early "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," signifying that the jar had been "tested and approved."
[The same idiom occurred in the Latin world. Unscrupulous potters would fill the cracks in faulty pots with wax and glaze over the imperfections. "Trying" them in a furnace would melt the wax. Pots that passed the test would be stamped, sine cera (without wax), or, as we would say, they were sincere.]
Peter enlarges on the Greek metaphor dokímion in his first letter: "In this (salvation) you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials (peirásmos, fiery ordeals) that the tested genuineness (dokímion) of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire (dokimázō) may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ..." (1Peter 1:6,7)
So it was for Job. His tests were designed to show the world of demons and men the work that God had been doing in his soul. Job endured and was approved. Throughout his trials, though he struggled mightily, he clung to God and treasured his word (23:11,12). He was God's man from head to foot. "Though he slay me," Job said, "yet will I trust him" (Job 13:15). Job made the grade; Satan shuffled away like the villain in a western melodrama: "Curses, foiled again."
And so it can be for you. Your quiet faith and joyful endurance in the face of persecution, disappointment, pain and sorrow is an evident sign to men and demons that God is at work in you, making you a kinder, gentler, more loving, more courageous version of yourself, despite your suffering and grief. And there is no end to God's efforts: Sweet old age, despite severe limitation and loss, is one of God's crowning achievements.
But, you say, I may go bad. What will prevent me from growing bitter and restive in my trials?
If you will but keep yourself in God's love and in his hands for his shaping he will complete the work he has begun in you. Job knew that: "Who can thwart him? What he desires, he will do! For he will complete what he has in mind for me..." (23:13,14).
Paul echoes Job's conviction: "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).