Have you ever read a fictional or biographical book minus the first chapter?
I remember as a young child sitting in the book closet of our home (I never realized until I just typed that phrase that we had a “book closet” rather than a “linen closet”! I’m thankful my parents cared that much to keep us stocked with good reading!) and reading Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John.
The book so profoundly affected me that as seven year old, I determined I was going to be a wood carver…and for several years saved money to purchase carving tools. In hindsight and judging by my decidedly un-artistic abilities, it’s probably good that this dream never materialized into mangled pieces of wood. But I digress.
One aspect I remember most about reading Treasures of the Snow was its missing cover and front pages. The story begins with a Christmas Eve scene in the Alps of Switzerland. In the first chapter, the main characters and their relationship both to one another and to the plot of the story is set…but I missed some of these pages. Without these important details, I struggled to make sense of following pages.
It’s too bad to miss the beginning of a book you’re reading. But what if you miss the beginning of the story you’re living?
Minus chapter 1
This is exactly what happened to Job in the Bible. When you and I read his story, it begins (after a brief description of Job and his family) with a scene in the heavenlies. God is bragging (to Satan, nonetheless!) about Job’s character, and Job’s relationship with Himself.
In the conversation that followed between the Lord and the devil (and a similar conversation at the beginning of chapter 2), Job lost everything—his wealth, his children, his health…and his hope.
Because you and I have read chapter 1, we don’t feel less for Job in his pain, but we have a general sense that Job’s life story is all going to work out. We get that his suffering is real, but we see a divine purpose with great themes behind it.
Consider, however, what it would be like to read the book of Job minus chapter 1. If you were completely unaware of the two conversations between God and Satan regarding Job, if you did not know that God actually bragged on Job, and if you did not know that God had set a boundary to how far Satan could afflict Job—would that change your understanding of the book as you continued reading?
It would change my understanding. When Job complained that God’s presence was nowhere to be found (23:8-9), that God was bent on destroying him (16:12), and that he would be better off dead (6:9), frankly, I would get it. I might even be swayed to his conclusions!
On the other hand, if I read the book through the eyes of Job’s friends—minus chapter 1—I may consider the validity of their arguments as well. Without knowing the private parts of Job’s life or the secrets of God’s purposes, I may even be inclined to agree with them that Job’s suffering was the result of hypocrisy that God was now bringing to light.
Here’s the thing: neither Job nor his friends had chapter 1. And as a result, they all came to some dangerous conclusions.
What happens when you don’t allow for a missing chapter 1
Throughout the book of Job, Job went through some serious ups and downs. Throughout chapter 3, he wished in eloquently poetic language that he had never been born. He cycled through feeling God was misjudging him (16:17–18), judging him for sins which God refused to reveal to him (13:23–28), or that God had simply appointed suffering to him, and the rest of his life would be misery (23:14). He was desperate to know God’s “hidden agenda” and to reason with God regarding the calamities that had befallen him (23:4–7).
But Job had his high points too. He made statements of stellar confidence in the faithfulness of God which we derive comfort from to this day.
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.—Job 13:15
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:—Job 19:25
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.—Job 23:10
Here’s the thing: In spite of Job’s reasoning, crying, pleading, and desperately trying to make sense of it all—he was missing chapter 1. He could have tried for years to figure out the reasons behind his suffering, but he never would have found the answer. He could have (in fact, he did) bent his mind every direction possible and turned his heart inside out in search of dark causes…but he wouldn’t have come any closer to the truth.
He simply didn’t have chapter 1!
(A side observation here is that in spite of our inclinations and assumptions otherwise, God doesn’t expect us to “figure out” why events have unfolded in our lives as they have. We don’t have to know the why to know the what. Scripture doesn’t always give us a reason, but it always gives us responses.)
Living from chapter 2
So what do you do when you’re missing chapter 1?
1. Believe accurate information about God.
Job was deeply plagued—not only by his suffering itself, but I think it’s safe to say his suffering was more extreme because of his (and his friends’) bad theology. As long as you believe that bad things only happen to willfully wicked people, you’re going to struggle.
You and I know that isn’t true (in part, because of the testimony of Job), but we sometimes struggle in other ways when what we assume to be true of God doesn’t actually match Who He has revealed Himself to be in Scripture.
Sometimes Job or his friends said something that was true—but they missed the full context of it. For instance, God does judge hypocrites. That much was true. But to assume all suffering is the result of either hypocrisy or God’s judgment is a twisting of both truth and logic.
Interestingly, God never told Job the information in chapter 1. But He did reveal Himself to Job—and that revelation made all the difference.
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.—Job 42:5
You and I already have the revelation of Who God is within the pages of His Word. The question is, do we find rest for our questions in God Himself?
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.—Lamentations 3:24-26
2. Endure, trusting God.
When I read through the book of Job, and particularly his eloquent speeches of how his life is forever ruined and cannot get better, I want to say, “Wait, Job! You have no idea!! Believe it or not, it’s going to get better—better than you can imagine or believe, better even than before.”
But, of course, Job didn’t have chapter 42. He didn’t know how God was going to lavish blessings upon him. Even after those blessings, he probably had no idea that thousands of years later untold numbers of people would still be finding comfort and hope from his story or that his cycles of doubt and faith would help so many others recognize the faithful pity of God.
It’s easy for us to tell Job in chapter 23 to just hang on to chapter 42. We know the final chapter.
But we don’t have the final chapter of our story—any more than Job did. We cannot know what God is working behind the scenes, and we cannot possibly fathom the good God will bring from it.
What are we to do without the final chapter of our own stories? The same as Job—endure, trusting God.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.—James 5:11
Only, we have a treasure trove of upholding promises that Job never had. May we cling to them and steep our minds in their truth.
3. Read the final chapter.
We don’t have the final chapter of our own story in terms of exactly how our personal events will unfold or resolve. But we do have the final chapter of God’s story.
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.—Revelation 22:3–5
Just as Job’s sufferings would have been alleviated if he could have peered into the future millennia to see the divine resolutions to his pain, so our suffering is relieved when we maintain an eternal perspective.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.—Romans 8:18
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.—2 Corinthians 4:17–18
It’s going to be okay.
Actually, it’s going to be better than okay.
Because, even when you are missing chapter 1, God has already written chapter 42. And chapter 22.
Knowing those chapters makes all the difference.
Are you missing chapter 1? Recognize that you have insufficient data to make hard core decisions about the nature of why your are suffering.
Believe accurate information about God. He is good, faithful, and true.
Endure, trusting God. He is pitiful and of tender mercy.
And read the final chapter. It all comes out right in the end. (And while you’re at it, read the full story of Job, too. His missing and final chapters will bring hope and encouragement—to you.)