In a day, everything he had was taken from him.
It started out like any other Sunday. His children were together, feasting and celebrating with joy. His flocks were well maintained by his ample and qualified servants. He had arisen early in the morning to offer an offering to God for his children. All was well.
Yet, now here he sat.
Devastated by innumerable tragedies. Living in the wilderness certainly had its dangers. Sabeans and Chaldeans sometimes went on raids, natural disasters were just a part of life.
This was like an overly dramatic sitcom you’d see in the mornings on NBC.
His mind was still reeling from the day’s events. Servant after servant came in to inform him of some destruction, some loss. First it was his oxen and donkeys getting stolen. Then lightning burning up his sheep. A massive lightning storm no doubt, since it plundered thousands of them. Next came the camels being stolen.
None of that compared with the last message though.
His precious children whom he prayed for and made sacrifices for to God.
They were dead.
Not just one of them.
All of them. In a freak accident brought about by a whirlwind.
He could only imagine what they went through. Joyous laughter and celebration quickly turning to screams of fear and then. . .
This story is found in the first chapter of the book of Job. Job was a righteous man in the eyes of God, someone who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1, 8). In a black and white world, he would be the man that we would assume would be continuously and perpetually blessed by God. Instead, Satan lays down the gauntlet: if all was stripped from Job, would he still praise the Lord? Or is his worship of God only because of God’s favor and blessings? God allows Satan to come after Job, and what happens is the utter destruction we read in the passage (vv. 13-19).
Now, Job finds himself in a place that we too find ourselves in after suffering strikes us.
He has a problem.
That problem is the control of God over all things.
Now, I’ll just tell you now, I’m not going to even attempt to philosophically argue through the “problem of evil”. That’s not what I’m trying to do. If you’re looking for writing of that depth and intelligence, look elsewhere.
What I am instead wanting to highlight is that for those of us who follow Jesus and believe in God, what happened to Job and what happens to us is harder to accept.
The following quote is long, but it is better than I could say it.
Desert brigands, lightning and cyclone are all part of man’s life in the East. Things like this happen to everyone, if not always on the same scale. The intense faith of job immediately sees the hand of God in every ‘natural’ event. There are no ‘accidents’ in a universe ruled by the one sovereign Lord. Hence Job’s problem. Such mishaps are not a problem for the polytheist, the dualist, the atheist, the naturalist, the fatalist, the materialist, the agnostic. An annoyance, a tragedy even, but not a problem. – Francis Anderson
There it is.
In the modern world, it is extremely sad that hurricanes, cancer, and gun violence take the lives of men and women, boys and girls. What’s even more sad is that these losses are seen as the dangers and realities of modern living. For the atheist in 2019, there is no real ‘problem’ to be wrestled with. When tragedy strikes, it’s just fate. It’s just an accident, just the luck of the draw.
But when tragedy like that strikes the life of a Christian, we know that God orchestrates all things. So we have a problem.
Job had a problem.
Job responded to his problem with amazing faith. Let’s read it together.
At this Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “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.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:20-22
That is powerful stuff.
Job took the problem of God’s involvement in his suffering and used it as a means for worship. The section I highlighted is one of the most powerful morsels of Scripture. The Lord gives and takes away. But His Name should still be praised.
No, that’s not philosophically deep. It may not be a satisfactory answer for most.
There is certainly lots of wrestling ahead, as the majority of the book of Job is full of debates between Job and his friends about why he has fallen into this suffering.
Contrary to the Satan’s forecast, Job has the same good opinion of God’s blessedness, even when things go wrong. But this faith cannot survive without a terrible struggle. . . Job is hurled into a cauldron of doubt concerning the justice and equity of God’s ways with him. He must suffer and grow before he can see why this has happened. So far he has begun superbly. – Francis Andersen
Still, Job’s immediate, knee-jerk reaction to the darkest day of his life is to worship.
Job points us forward to Jesus.
When I read the phrase “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”, I can’t help but think of Jesus proclaiming “not my will, but your will be done”.
They both unjustly suffered (obviously Jesus way more so since He was completely devoid of sin), and they both responded with worship.
The book of Job continues to be a soothing balm for my soul. It is dark and gritty, yes. In fact, in a lot of ways we’re just getting started.
But my prayer for you as you read is that you will be encouraged and reminded that God truly is in control. He may cause us some problems, but it also leads us to joyful dependence on Him when we get through the suffering to the other side.
In His Name,