by Tad Lindley
There were ten caskets at the funeral. Ten bodies carried to the cemetery. Ten fresh graves and ten new gravestones. They were the seven sons and three daughters of Job and his wife. All gone in a single day. Crushed in the collapse of the oldest brother’s house where they were feasting.
Job’s response to tragedy
In a time frame of about 15 minutes Job’s entire life was ripped out from under him. He lost all of his wealth and then all of his children. Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20-21 NKJV)
He refused to own it
We can trick ourselves into thinking that bad things don’t happen to good people. That if we pray enough, and fast enough, and tithe, and don’t skip church, and don’t hunt or fish on Sundays, that God will recognize it and protect us. Then something bad happens, someone close to us dies unexpectedly, we begin to wonder if it was our fault. The thoughts begin to creep in about what we could have done differently that would have resulted in a different outcome. “Maybe if I had prayed harder…”, “If only I hadn’t…”, or “I should have called them when…” We can torment ourselves from here to our own grave if we torment ourselves reliving what we did or didn’t do. Job reflected on his life, but even in his darkest days he was able to lay the fate of his ten children in the hands of God, The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Job realized, he did not give them life, nor did he take away their life.
In the darkest days of his grief
And yet in spite of a solid spiritual foundation, Job knew the depths of despair. Although Job had a vibrant prayer life, there came a time in the depth of his grief that he no longer could feel God. It was as if his prayers hit the ceiling and then clattered down on the ground at his feet. He said, Oh that I knew where I might find him… (Job 23:3) Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him. (Job 23:8-9) Even though he felt forsaken by God, he never gave up.
What kept Job going?
We marvel at the steadfastness of Job. A man who kept persevering. Even after the death of all of his children, and his bankruptcy. Even when the people that he used to help now spat at him. Even when he got sick with boils and his wife told him to curse God and die. In the thick of terrible circumstances Job never gave up. In 19:25, he reveals to us what it was that kept him going: For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God… (Job 19:25-26) Job had faith in God. He saw and understood things about Jesus that were centuries ahead of his time. He saw the resurrection long before the prophets were ever born. He had no Bible to read, only the testimony of the ancients and a close walk with God, but that was enough to keep him going.
Refusing the bitter fruit
Job refused to give up when even his wife told him to. He refused to torment himself taking responsibility for the deaths of his sons and daughters. He refused to give up on God, even when he could no longer feel him. Because of that, and because of his faith that God was in control, in spite of the depth of his tragedy, God brought him to a place of life that was so far better than where he started from: so the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning. (42:12) Now I want you to imagine for a moment that Job had allowed himself to be imprisoned in thinking of all of the things that he could have done different and perhaps his children would have lived. And that when he no longer felt God he had quit seeking God. And that he had focused on paying back those who had wronged him. God could not have blessed him. His latter end would have been so much less than his beginning.
Take home message
Many of you reading this have lost loved ones to premature deaths. Depending on how you handle your grief, it can either become a prison or a stepping stone. Job has carefully laid out for us the path to turning our tragedy into a deeper relationship with God and a more blessed life than we ever had before.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.