You can almost picture him.
He sits in ashes, scraping his boil-covered skin with a piece of broken pottery. He sits, deep in mourning. God had given him many good things: oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels. He had servants to keep these animals. Most precious of all, he had sons and daughters, beloved children who just recently were eating and drinking together in their oldest brother’s house. These were all good gifts from the LORD, the LORD whom Job served faithfully.
In a moment, Job lost them all.
Now, as he mourns, Job’s own body seems to fail him. He finds his skin covered with sores, adding weakness to weakness.
His wife approaches, calling him to curse God and embrace death. Whether she lost her faith and speaks now from bitterness or else feels the weight of her husband’s grief and seeks to see his suffering end, we aren’t sure. Whatever her motivation, it warrants a strange response from Job.
“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
Job didn’t seem surprised by trouble. In spite of Satan’s charge that Job’s reverence found root in God’s blessing, Job still worshiped in his sorrow. His circumstances seemed almost unrelated to his faithfulness; he did not worship because of them and he did not cease to worship in their absence. Job’s eyes remained fixed on the LORD, who remained worthy of worship regardless of Job’s experiences.
Job didn’t deny the pain of his situation, however, and his example may instruct us. Just as celebration and enjoyment are the right responses to the sweeter things in life, so sorrow and lamentation are the right responses to tragedy. Job mourned. The author records Job’s response to the bitter news.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Job grieved his losses, feeling deeply the weight of his hardship. He struggled to understand his situation, as seen later in the book. Yet through it all, Job did not sin or accuse God of evil. His grief was not sinful, and his tears were not inappropriate. His faith remained firm, though, fixed on an unshakable foundation. He knew that his life was the LORD’s, and he received whatever the LORD saw fit to allow.
I want to be like Job, but I’m often quite dissimilar. I fret when plans fall through, fear when comfort gives way, and forget the goodness of God in the face of adversity. I tend to grow bitter when I don’t get my way. I want to receive good, but I don’t want to receive adversity.
I can learn much from Job. He received no answers to his questions, no explanation from the LORD for his tragedies. But he knew the LORD and came to know him better through his adversity, and that was enough. Likewise, I can trust the Almighty. I can receive whatever God chooses to give because whatever he gives, wanted or not, can further my relationship with him. And ultimately, that’s the goal, the purpose, the only hope. His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Maybe, by learning from Job’s example, I can accept adversity with worship, holding fast to the one who is holding fast to me.
Photo by Bjørn Tore Økland on Unsplash