We all wrestle with the question of where is God when life hurts? Perhaps one of the most notable people in the Bible who dealt with this question was Job. Chapter 23 of his book gives us three truths about God's activity and what our attitude toward Him should be:
1. God is not always apparent (see vv. 1-9). Job, unable to sense or perceive God in his suffering, simply cried out for face-to-face fellowship with God: "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him" (v. 3). When we suffer, we so often relate to this sentiment, echoing the words of Isaiah who said, "Truly You are God, who hide Yourself" (Isaiah 45:15).
2. God is always aware: "He knows the way that I take" (v. 10). In other words, Job said, "Even though I don't know where God is, He knows exactly where I am, and that's the most important thing." This mature view of God sustained Job through the metaphorical furnace he was going through—and it has the potential to revolutionize your episodes of suffering, if you let it.
3. God is always at work. In verse 9, Job said that God "works on the left hand [and] the right hand," meaning God was working around him. Then in verse 10, he proclaimed that "when [God] has tested me, I shall come forth as gold," meaning God was also working in him. Job recognized that the master goldsmith was at work, purifying him in the furnace (see 1 Peter 1:6-7).
So what should our attitude be toward God's activity? First, we need to pursue God's will. "My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside" (v. 11). In other words, Job was saying, "Whether God strokes me with blessings or strikes me with blows, I'm going to pursue His will for my life."
This dovetails into the second thing: we need to develop a passion for God's Word. "I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (v. 12). Job said this even while his body was covered in boils. "I rest my soul on the soft pillow of God's transforming truth. His Word is my nourishment."
If you are nourished by the Word of God and submitted to the will of God, going through the furnace is going to hurt, no doubt, but it will make you better. If, on the other hand, you resist God's will and fail to feed on His Word, the fire will burn you and make you bitter.
Maybe you're thinking, But I just can't see or hear God. Okay. But is it enough to carry you through knowing that God is using this temporary trial to make you better—to make "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28)? God hasn't forgotten about you. He knows where you're at, and He's working in the midst of it. So hold on, follow Him, be nourished in the Word, and watch what great fruit will come of it.