The story of Job has always been a hard pill for me to shallow — a good man is dealt terrible circumstances due to a conversation between God and Satan about this faithful servant. Sure, I may be summarizing, but I hope I am not alone in my unsettled feelings toward Job’s life. For any of you, like me, who grew up with a view of God being their best friend, King, and Savior, the idea of God being anything less than these wonderful qualities is a crushing thought. Thankfully, I have learned time and time again that God is indeed a relational God; a perfect King seated on His throne and the One who brought us new life by becoming our ransom. Undoubtedly, none of these facts have ever, or will ever, change. However, the Job who lived a righteous life before God is often known in history as a man who suffered much. I am fairly confident in saying no one wants “suffered much” to be the tagline next to their name, but that is exactly how the story of Job’s life unfolds for the reader. Therefore, let me jump ahead by giving you my premise for these thoughts: Job’s story HAS to become our story.
I realize that amidst the false prosperity Gospel we constantly hear in Western America from preachers wanting to make the Gospel seem “appealing to the flesh,” the summary of Job’s life seems rather opposite. Additionally, the idea that Job’s story has to be parallel to your story may feel rather uninspiring … but keep reading. I am sure many of you are familiar with Job’s tragic years we read about in the Old Testament. Satan wanted to see Job suffer, like he does all of us. He wanted to see Job turn from God when the blessings stopped coming. He desperately wanted to see God’s sorrow when the genuine Job began to curse the heavens for the injustice bestowed upon him. Yet, notice, Job did not blame God or the enemy (which Christians and non-Christians alike tend to do). What did he do? Job continued to lean on what he knew to be true — a timeless truth against his situational events. He knew God was good. He knew God was holy, and he knew that earthly circumstances change — sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I believe this is what inspired Job to cry out from the depths of his heart:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)
While I have heard this verse many times, I actually began to get a little choked up when I truly considered what Job’s genuine declaration meant for us as believers.
Recently, my mother, the strongest believer you could ever be lucky enough to meet, received some terrible news regarding her health. My heart broke when I thought of the journey she would soon be embarking on: the medical bills, the hospital visits, and the overall life adjustment. I went through many of the typical stages that any loving daughter would feel their mother. Then, I was reminded of Job. He was a beloved child of the Most High who I had always felt was being played much like a chess piece — being moved around on the board — to prove the point that God always wins in the end. Yet, to be honest, I couldn’t live with this distorted image that seemed to be poisoning my mind. I also couldn’t live with the traditional answer of, “Job helps explain why bad things happen to good people.” In the light of tragic, underserved news, all of this seemed to fall short. And, most importantly, I knew that God was all of the things I had learned to be true about Him in my youth and adult years. Could one story change all of that? The answer is yes and no.
As I began to re-read Job, I was left with a new conclusion: The conclusion that God was even better than I thought possible because of this story. I learned that while Job is considered heroic, because he held on to his faith even when everything was taken from him, God really is the hero of the story. The truth is, we often read this story in a physical sense and are perplexed by what we read. Yet, we cannot read it in a physical way and gain true understanding. When we open our hearts to this story in a spiritual sense, we learn that the only way Job was able to bless the name of the Lord was through God’s grace. He was not special or given any extra powers in the faith department; he was merely given an anchor of grace to sustain his already solid foundation in God. He did not crumble, because he was working from a place of truth. I believe God knew long before the “things” in Job’s life slowly began to crash and burn that Job would cling to Him, and He, in return, would be there with him in a new and profound way. What the reader often fails to understand is that Job had an unforeseen layer of grace covering each and every awful step that he walked. God allowed it, yes. But did God leave? No. On the contrary, I believe God became a closer friend, a truer King to worship, and a more precious Savior for Job to call upon in his time of need.
We learn at the end of Job’s story that things turn around again and that Job receives more blessings than he originally had – but I don’t believe that is the point of the story at all. I believe if we interviewed Job, there would be another chapter that explained to us just how strong Job felt God’s presence during the trying times. I think that we, who suffer little, have no idea what kind of grace Job had to latch on to because of the battle he had the courage to endure. Metaphorically, we don’t pick up a sword if we don’t have any reason to engage in a fight. Job got to see a side of God that we don’t often get to see — a side of mercy when we think it to be unfair, a side of closeness when we think it to be God’s abandonment, and a side of praise when we think it should be anger and resentment. Job’s story has to become our story, because the truth is we never know what will happen to us in life. One day we could be at our all-time high, and the next day have the wind knocked out of us by terrible news. In those moments, will we respond with a cry to God in praise? Will we use our lows to draw us to our knees? Will we remain true to the heart of God when we feel weak? We have to have Job’s story — maybe not for the same tragic events, but for the character to know our faith can withstand the snares of the enemy. We have to know that His grace will never leave us and that, in all things, we will give Him glory. This is what makes Job’s story so special and my hope is that we all learn from his example. May we all praise the name of the Lord knowing that He honors us and will always meet us where we are.