The book of Job is certainly a heavy way to begin a fresh, new, year-long journey, but what better time in our journey than right from the get-go to realize that as Christians on a mission to deepen our faith and understanding, problems still happen. When we walk with God, it doesn’t make the issues in life magically disappear, but it does help us cope. Loved ones will still die, illness and poverty will still happen all around us and maybe even to us, our worst fears will strike. Just because these things happen, it is critical for us all to understand that God is not against us. No matter how painful, we must persevere and learn through each experience, just as our friend Job is doing before our eyes.
Yield to Him
Day Six: Job, chapters 10-13
We know that Job is in great pain. I liken Job’s pain to those who lost entire families to 9/11, Hurricanes Ike, Katrina, or most recently, Sandy. These kinds of disasters have shaken us to our core. When you literally lose all that you have in this life, how do you keep standing? Job asked of his Maker, “Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me?” (10:8) This is where an important point that keeps coming up in my own mind is relevant: Job didn’t realize that God was not doing these things to him, Satan was. As humans, we often go through trials that are not from God’s hand, but from purely human ones. We bring pain on ourselves, then have a tendency to blame our Lord for letting it all happen. What is wrong with us that we can’t see what we are doing and correct ourselves, before the proverbial poo hits the fan? I’m not suggesting, as Job’s friends did, that Job did anything to deserve all the pain that was sent his way, but so often WE DO.
Job cries out, “Are not my few days almost over? Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy before I go to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and deep shadow, to the land of deepest night, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.” (10:20-22) I am not claiming that just by writing in this public forum that I even have a clue what I’m talking about, so bear with me, but when Job is crying out these things to the Lord, I have a two-fold response.
Job wants so badly for God to just cut him some slack! My initial thoughts on this short passage is a purely human one. The land of gloom and deep shadow is a place that I believe we all know very well. We run into an obstacle, we have pain enter our worlds, we feel overwhelmed by situations we feel we can neither control nor heal, and we sink into that dark place, that pit of pity. In that dark place, in the recesses of our own minds, we would give anything for a hint of sunshine, and the light at the end of the tunnel, but so often we forget to actually look up and around enough to find that light in the darkness. Sometimes, we prefer to live in the dark and just have pity rather than look up and find the lesson and the Light.
Then, I also see that Job has been told again and again by his friends that he must have done something horrendous to deserve this torment. As we know, when you hear something enough times, we begin to believe it is the truth, even though Job knew he had lived as purely as he knew how to do (and succeeded). So, Job’s answer is to beg God to give him some time out of this pain because with all the evil he thinks he must have done to deserve all that has been brought on him, he knows he must be going to a dark and painful place for eternity.
Zophar speaks next, “Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides” (11:5-6). With friends like these…well, you know. When my friends are rallying around me to help me through a particularly difficult time, I hope they never say, “I hope God will tell you right here and now everything you have ever done wrong to deserve this pain.” That may take me off the deep end! But after saying this which seems awfully harsh, Zophar says this passage that is almost poetic:
“Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch our your hands to him,
if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
then you will lift up your face without shame;
you will stand firm and without fear.
You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.
Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.
You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.”
Now, those, my friends are words to live our lives by. Remembering that good things happen to good people, but so do bad things, living our lives by the Lord makes us secure, because there is hope.
Job reminds his friends that, “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (12:10). I want to remind myself daily that my life is in His hands, and He is able! Our Maker is able to do great works through us, and to make great examples of us through works, through words, through our resilience, and through our faith in the face of fear and danger. I look at the challenges that come my way as pass/fail classes in college. There’s very little gray area here, you either follow the course He has set, do what is best and true in any given situation, and pass, thereby continuing on to a likely more difficult challenge that will require us to show our faith even more than before…Or, we fail, and I know all too well what it feels like to fail at a task He has placed before me. I may not fall far behind, but with every “fail” comes an opportunity to fall back into that pit of sin. Every “pass” brings a greater opportunity to show our love and faith in Him. My greatest hope is to pass more often than I fail!
In Job’s angry response to his friends (which I can certainly understand after the lectures he has sat through at this point), he says something that would have probably come out of my mouth a lot sooner (but it probably wouldn’t have been worded this gracefully). “Would it turn out well if he examined you?” (13:9) When we are milling these issues over, when we are debating with ourselves or with others, and certainly when we are supposed to be comforting others, let us be very careful not to throw stones. Our brothers and sisters in Christ deserve more than to be thrown under the bus, they deserve our encouragement and our prayers of support. We so often see the fault in those around us but do not see that we act in the exact same way (yes, we’ll be studying that scripture on down the line, as well). But the Lord judges us by the same level of severity that we judge others (also to come in our year of reading), so I want to be very careful to mind my thoughts, my judgmental attitudes, and especially my mouth. Job was still speaking to his friends when he said, “Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may” (13:13). One of my favorite saying is: “There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth.” So true, so true!
“Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay” (13:12), continues Job to his friends. And this is what I want to avoid. As I build on my knowledge and understanding in the coming year, I do not want proverbs of ashes or defenses of clay. Rather, I want to be able to deal in every moment of my life just as God intended for me, and taught me to do. I want to stand on the Word of the Lord and never waiver. I want to be able to head-off evil at the pass and do so with good. Friends, God is good, and I am excited for this dive into the inspired Word. As I read and learn, I hope to deepen my relationship with Him. I know that I still won’t catch everything. I know that I will misunderstand and write some ridiculous stuff, but that’s OK with me. I’m still human, but I’m trying to do right by Him even in my humanness.
Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (13:15).
Please read that again. Job, though a book heavy and difficult to read at times, is a book of great faith and hope in him. Glory to God!
Tomorrow’s reading: Job, chapters 14-16
Make it a great day,