Sometimes, wisdom for the afflicted saints is to go to the zoo.
And I’m not joking, just in case you’re wondering. Sometimes, the best counsel for those struggling to endure some severe trials really is to take some time to learn about animals.
You won’t find that from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors’ recommended resources list, I guarantee. But I assure you that my thesis above is consistent with biblical wisdom, because I discovered it from a wisdom book of the Bible. Specifically, I unearthed it from the book of Job. Specifically, from Job 38:9-39:30.
Job, lest you didn’t notice, is the only saint in history whose afflictions the Holy Spirit dedicated an entire book of Scripture. Yes, all forty-two chapters of the book is about Job’s suffering. The persecution Job experienced was the result of a conversation of cosmic proportions, as God himself nominated Job as the candidate whose conduct would disprove Satan’s blasphemous claim that even the most righteous and God-fearing of men would curse God under the pressure of severe suffering. For over thirty chapters, Job wrestles—dialoguing with his friends, vindicating himself, and interrogating God. He fluctuates between trusting God and attempting to prosecute God. Finally, in the thirty-eighth chapter, out of the whirlwind of foolish counsel from well-meaning but ignorant friends, God speaks. Finally, an answer from heaven. Finally, an explanation for the chaos. Finally, the prospect of an insight into the angelic realm and the hidden counsel of the Almighty.
But God doesn’t tell Job about the cosmic conversation. God never revealed to Job how his suffering would spit in the face of Satan’s claim and demonstrate before all of the heavenly hosts that genuine worship of God can persevere through the most grievous of circumstances. He never explained to Job that his life would serve as an example of faith to encourage the church amidst her later persecution (James 5:11-14).
Instead, in the lengthiest interrogation ever recorded from the Almighty to finite man, God says…
“Can you hunt prey for the lion…” (38:39-40)
“Who prepares for the raven its nourishment…(39:41)
“Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth?” (39:1a)
“Do you observe the calving of the deer…” (39:1b-4)
“Who sent out the wild donkey free…” (39:5-8)
“Will the wild ox consent to serve you…” (39:9-12)
“The ostriches’ wings flap joyously…” (39:13-18)
“Do you give the horse his might…” (39:19-25)
“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars…” (39:26)
“Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up…” (39:27-30)
Lion. Raven. Mountain Goat. Deer. Donkey. Ox. Ostrich. Horse. Hawk. Eagle. Not exactly the ten-point outline that your average biblical counselor would use to help a man who had lost his possessions, children, and health, and whose wife just told him to curse God and die. But yes, in one of the greatest divine offerings of wisdom from Creator to creation, God tells Job to consider the animals.
Job’s response after all of that? “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted…I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (42:1-6). Needless to say, God knew what he was doing, and Job got the point.
So what was God’s point? Why consider the animals as a Christian during trying times? First, it gives you further insight into God’s glorious and unmatched creative power. But more poignantly, it parks you squarely in the realization that there is much happening in the universe that has absolutely nothing to do with you.
It’s an atomic bomb to the world of the myopic. The cheetah’s ability to sprint at 60 mph, the orca’s ability to learn new hunting tactics, the eagle’s ability to soar for 4,000 miles without stopping for food, and the mongoose’s capacity to outmaneuver and kill a cobra are all works of the Almighty that exist in their magnificence apart from anything that has to do with you or me. As a Christian, our value to God doesn’t imply that we are the center of all activity. Those who are suffering would be wise to humbly remember that there is still much in this world that God is doing that has little or no relevance to their problems. That isn’t to diminish their pain, but simply to de-centralize them. Studying animals, their behavior, and their amazing abilities from a biblical perspective ultimately serves to remind us that we are single leaves in a massive forest—that all things exist for the glory of the God who remains absolutely sovereign over all of the universe’s affairs as its sole Creator and Sustainer.
How’s that for some reformed biblical counsel?