So I read the book of Job (from the Bible) this week. No, nothing is wrong. Isn’t that our first thought, though? Even this morning, I was watching something, and someone said, “You have the patience of Job” (an expression only Job truly would understand). The more I got into the text, however, the more I realized that the account is not a focus on suffering, as much as it is a direct conversation about God’s sovereignty.
Job loved God but was not perfect–the word “upright” does not mean Job was sinless. And yet, in a matter of hours, he loses a majority of his worldly possessions — save his nagging wife, who “encourages” him to curse God and die — in fairness, she had lost those same possessions, including her beloved children, and wanted to know “why”?..wanted the pain to be over…probably was done with a faith in a God who seemed to have turned His back on them. I have had painful moments, but that was without question a shocking experience for Job and his wife.
When Job loses everything, he tore his robe, shaved his head, and he worshipped (1:20). When I first read that, I thought, “How?” How could anyone worship God after a loss like that? Job was able to worship in that moment because his heart, as broken as it was, was directly connected to the One he had worshipped prior to his loss. His Creator was the only One left in that extremely painful moment. No doubt there were tears and a pain that went from the top of his ash covered head to the soles of his feet, as Job attempted to pray and sing. My heart broke for Job in that moment…I felt a similar pain singing, “It is Well” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” just a month after Jaime had died….it was and sometimes still is very difficult.
And Job’s “friends”? The things that they say to him…I was just as angry with them as I was with Job for letting them “counsel” him for as long as they did. My thought was “Job…you are not going to be able to set the record straight. Show them the exit!” Job’s friends were adamant that the reason for this tragedy was because Job was a closet enemy of God who had now been exposed and was stubborn in his ignorance that he had done wrong. They didn’t have the context that we do (Chapter 1 of the text) to know that there had been a chat between God and Satan. They didn’t understand the truth that God’s people do have suffering in their life; they do sometimes experience pain that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever; and yes…they are sometimes not healed of their pain on this side of eternity. Job is human and even in the midst of his strong defense of God, he too is not sure why God allowed this to happen. Job does become discouraged and begins to wonder if God notices his pain. I am so thankful we read of Job wondering “why” because even God’s children don’t always understand what God is up to and it is beyond comforting to hear Job express his pain.
The conclusion of the account is a conversation between God and His servant Job. In a direct, yet non-prideful way, God pretty much lists items off of His job description. It isn’t for us or Job to applaud, but more to be reminded that God is fully capable and able to take care of all things — past, present, and future. He is God! He is sovereign…Lord over ALL, including our deepest loss and unanswered questions. Not only does God restore Job’s health and possessions, but God used the experience to bring repentance and redirection in the life of Job’s friends. God was and is always working beyond our present crisis – both in our lives in the lives of others – so that He alone receives the glory!
Before the crisis comes, I want to live a life beyond what I have heard about God–to what I have personally experienced with God. When the crisis hits, I pray that my sorrow filled heart will stay close to the only One who can draw me to worship and heal. As a friend, I pray that when those around me are in pain, I would steer clear of what “I think” and “hope for”–my human, misguided theology, and instead pray with them and for them, following the example of Jesus on the eve of His sacrifice — “nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). The truth is, we don’t know what God is up to in someone’s life – let alone our own – until God chooses to reveal it. And the truth is…we can trust Him to see us through uncertainty.
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
— Job 42: 2-3
If you haven’t ever ventured into the book of Job, I’d encourage you to begin today! Don’t make the mistake Job’s friends made–put your pre-conceived thoughts to the side and just be still, and allow God to make truth known to your heart.
Have a GREAT one!