There once lived a man who faced a litany of untold suffering, whose riches could not buy relief. It is said by some he never lived, that he was simply a character in an allegorical story. Personally, I prefer to acknowledge Job as a man who truly lived and walked upon this earth, likely in the time of Abraham, according to our pastor. So, what can this old man teach us today?
Job was a man who faced extreme adversity amidst his own physical and emotional frailties. While his friends questioned what sin he might have done to cause the devastating calamities that struck him… and though Job was a man who questioned God’s faithfulness, and even rued the day he was born… yet he was a man who clung to a sliver of faith in Yahweh, Jehovah God.
Studying the book of Job currently in Sunday School, though having written this poem and blog several years ago, I find in Job’s struggles and ultimate praise of God a wisdom I can look to in dealing with life’s difficulties. When faced with our various problems in life, often our first question is why, perhaps followed by what did we do to cause this? I’ve been there with both questions.
Sometimes, we may become angry at God for allowing distressing trials. Sometimes, we may turn our back on God… because He does not seem to embody love to our way of thinking. Perhaps He did not prevent a catastrophic event in our life and we lost everything. After all, we reason, haven’t we lived a good life? We haven’t committed any horrible sins. So why should we suffer?
My husband’s ongoing multiple health issues and blindness, my diagnosis of cancer a few years ago, the untimely death of our daughter at 25, and numerous other difficult situations have tried our faith and patience, never mind the bonds of marriage. But, we are not alone in these various trials as the depths of tragedy and pain are evident in so many families around us.
In all honesty, though I have questioned why and wondered what we had done to cause the various problems we’ve faced, I have not been angry at God. To me, He is my creator. He is omniscient. He knows best why He allows the storms to happen. He knows how all things will work out for good even though I don’t like the bumps in the road. (see Romans 8:28) And, like Job said, shall we not accept and endure the trials just as we gladly accept our many blessings? (see Job 2:10)
Often, these difficulties can only be viewed through the perspective of a rear-view mirror with amazement at how the Lord has walked with us, even carried us, through all of life. And, I have found that even in the most difficult situations, including the loss of our daughter, Jenn, there was always something to be learned from living through the pain. For they were trials by which I gained a greater wisdom and understanding, even empathy for others, that I would not have earned had I not gone through adversity.
And so it was with Job. He lost everything… except his wife… a woman who has managed to go down in history as the biblical woman who told her husband to curse God and die after all that had happened to them. Actually, I rather appreciate Tim Gustafson’s comment in “Our Daily Bread” devotional for Sunday, 06/24/18: “[Job] merely noted that she spoke ‘like a foolish woman.’” We tend to gloss over Job’s reply to his wife, thinking poorly of her. (Job 2:10) But, like Gustafson, I suspect Job’s operative word “like” intimates that he knew his wife far better than the rash statement she had just uttered. For if Job were so highly respected and honored, it would only seem logical that his wife was also more of an upright and honorable woman than her words implied. Spoken from the depths of her own pain and anguish, she shows evidence of her frail humanity just as we do all too often.
We need to remember that she lost everything too, the most painful being the loss of their children. Their many servants were gone. Great herds of cattle and camels – gone. Huge flocks of sheep – gone. All the crops to feed everyone, including the great herds – gone. Ten beloved children, likely their spouses and children, and their homes – gone. And to top it off, Job’s health failed and her dear husband lived a miserable, painful and pitiful existence… on a garbage heap… mocked by his friends.
Yet through it all, Job did not sin. Soon after their losses, he said to his wife, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21b) He did not blame or curse God for what had happened. But, in questioning God and hearing the Almighty’s questions of him, Job was able to acknowledge an understanding of where he fit into the overall scheme of life… that God was far greater than he. God was in control. And, ultimately, God blessed him even more than before.
I am impressed with Job’s humility as he learned to put his trust and faith more fully into the hands of our God who is all knowing, all powerful, and so loving He wants the best for us, even when that comes by living through severe trials. And may I, too, be found worthy at the end of the journey.
Ode to Job
Linda A. Roorda
(Based on the book of Job)
One day Satan had a talk with God…
I’ve been out walking on this earth of Yours
And have my eyes upon those who claim
They love Your word and follow Your way.
But now I want to ask of You this…
Who will they follow in depths of despair?
Will they lose all and cling to their God
Or will they curse You even to Your face?
And God answered thus, Have you considered
My faithful servant, a man of honor?
For he is blameless, a man who loves me,
Who heeds my words, and shuns evil ways.
Then Satan mocked the great I Am.
Why should he not? You’ve blessed him richly!
Take it away! Strip him of it all!
Leave him destitute! Then learn of his heart!
In your hands gently I will place my man,
But one thing only you dare not commit.
Take away all, whatever you wish,
But take not his life while evil you bring.
And so began the worst day of all
When everything owned was taken by storm,
From crops to cattle, servants to children
All was destroyed, in mere moments of time.
In deep humility this man bowed to God,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb
And naked I leave; for as the Lord gives
So shall He take, praised be my Lord’s name.
Friends soon came to share his great pain
Tenderly bearing overwhelming grief.
But then they pointed with fingers of blame,
What evil within your soul is the cause?
Why me, Lord God? What have I done?
What did I do to bring on such shame?
Even my wife says to curse You and die,
But shall we accept the good without bad?
Yet now I rue the day I was born.
May its light darken, and no good recall.
Why did I live and not die right then?
For I have no peace, only turmoil within.
Even my friends betray me with words
Recalling my faith which flees from my soul.
But where is my hope, my confidence true?
Fleeting as wind when evil disrupts?
These friends say appeal, to God bare my soul.
Is it not He whose wonders we see?
As God corrects the man He calls blessed
Do not despise His wounding to heal.
So will I seek and call on His name
For what is man that He blesses much.
I know all my sin, for mercy I’ll plead;
Remember me God, forgive my offense.
Another dear friend now lays on my heart,
Does God pervert that which is done right?
No, for your sin does penalty come.
Plead now with God that He may restore.
How can I dispute and come out unscathed?
Can I be righteous before a just God?
With wisdom profound, His power is vast.
Were I but guiltless… but I can’t ask of Him.
If only I had died on the day I was born
I loathe my life and bitterly speak.
Does it please You, God, to oppress my soul,
To smile on evil and favor its schemes?
Yet You formed me. Your hands shaped my life.
Will you now destroy and turn me to dust?
You blessed me with much and watched over me.
Why did you hide your wrath until now?
And still my friend is asking of God,
Will this talker be vindicated?
Will God speak words against His own heart
Or will He utter His secrets of wisdom?
Though I can’t fathom the mysteries of God,
Can we set tests of Almighty’s power?
Higher than heaven, deeper than the depths
Can we yet measure how vast is His world?
You tell me to end the evil of sin,
Stretch out my hands with heart devoted,
That in this hope my life is valued
While the wicked fail like a dying gasp.
And yet I say, do not men at ease
Show their contempt when misfortune knocks,
And see him merely as laughingstock
The one who slips though still he loves God.
How I now long for the days gone by
When God as friend watched over my soul…
He knew my paths, that evil I shunned,
I feared my Lord with righteous wisdom.
I hear them mocking, men younger than I
Detested am I, they spit in my face.
In my affliction their snares set a trap
As I cry to God and plead for answers.
Unending pain and suffering confront.
Have I thus sinned or denied some their gain?
Have I rejoiced at my enemy’s fall?
No, I have not hid my sin from my God.
So let Him hear! Let Almighty speak!
If I have sinned to cause my deep shame.
Let the earth cry out against me with tears,
As the Lord my God will question me…
Where were You when I set the foundation?
Did you measure, its dimensions gauge?
Did you determine where cornerstone lay?
Did you cause stars and angels to sing?
Did you speak orders to bring forth the dawn?
Do you know the home where light and dark live?
Have you set time for birthing of young?
And provide food that all are nourished?
Will he who struggles to understand Me
Correct My ways and tell Me to change?
No, Lord, I will not; no answer have I.
Unworthy am I to even reply.
For who am I to question motives
And ponder means which you employ
You draw me near, Your wisdom to seek
As Humbly I bow before your glory.
In my humanity I can’t comprehend
Your higher ways from which I should gain,
Learning by faith to grasp adversity
Knowing Your will has my good at heart.
Lord, now I know you won’t abandon,
Your loving heart will gently embrace.
Your words will guide my soul through dark days
That through the trials I’ll praise your name still.
You’re in control, all things You do well,
Great wisdom is found within Your counsel.
I cannot measure Your wonderful ways
I spoke my turn without true knowledge.
While I like Job of long ago days
Cannot fathom wisdom from above
Not mine to know, but His to decree
The reasons and plans which He has set forth.
So, guide my feet Lord, let sin not take hold
May You yet impart wisdom to my heart
That I may praise and worship You, Lord
For my life exists to glorify You.
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