Sunday, January 2, 2011

JOB 3:16

     "Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw
 the light of day?"  (NIV)
    Whew... If this quote sounds depressed to you, your sensitivity is intact.  When Job spoke these words, he wasn't just a little down.  He wasn't just "in the pits".  He was in THE pit. In fact, he was in the BOTTOM of  THE  pit!
     The book of Job starts with a couple chapters, giving background about Job and his life.  These chapters set the stage for the rest of the book.  Essentially they say that Job was a righteous man;  a prosperous man;  a family man; a man of God; a man with good morals; a successful farmer; a man of integrity; a good father of seven sons and three daughters.  And, a happy man.

    So, along comes Satan, and says to God, "I think ol'  Job is only faithful because you have blessed him so much. Everything is going his way.  Allow me to take away a few of his treasures and let's see what he's really like."  And God, knowing Job's heart, allowed the testing.   In rapid succession, Job's sons and daughters were killed,  all his livestock  driven away, and then Job was stricken with a terrible skin disease - he was covered with painful sores all over his body.

 Full of sorrow, we find Job sitting in a mound of ashes, scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery, and mourning his losses.  His wife told him to give up.  His friends told him he must have done something evil and that he must deserve all this suffering.  Job argued that he had searched his soul and that he couldn't come up with anything he had done to deserve such punishment. His friends didn't believe him, and their words became even more harsh.
     Job gave in to depression.  His wife told him to curse God and die, adding. "Are you still holding on to your integrity?"  Job didn't curse God.  In spite of his pain and depression, he held on to his belief in God, and drew strength from Him.  Naturally, a lot of soul-searching and learning went on during this process. Finally, God speaks from a whirlwind and reveals to Job another part of the character of God:  God is sovereign, all-knowing. God does not have to explain to Job or his friends why He does what He does.  He doesn't have to justify His actions. His ways may well be beyond human understanding.
     From this, Job learned to trust what he cannot understand.  And, as in ALL battles, Satan lost.  God rewarded Job for his faith.  At the end of the story we find Job restored to health, with a home and twice the land he'd had before,  twice the cattle, twice the wealth.  He also was blessed with children - seven sons and three daughters.
     Faith in God doesn't promise us an easy life.  Suffering is a divine mystery;  it is beyond our understanding. But God will be there to guide us, support us, and instruct us during the rough times.
     Lessons from Job:   God is sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful, and just.
                                    Satan's goal is to convince us to doubt God when we are suffering.
                                    Our goal is to grow in faith despite suffering.

  Without fail, the strongest people I've met throughout my life are the ones who have been through trials...and come out at the other end with their faith intact.  Without fail, these individuals' faith is stronger after the trials than it was  before.  Although we hate the "going through",  we can rejoice in the "having gone through."
     One more interesting thought... Job's friends were corrected by God. Because they lectured Job rather than comforting him, because they tried to blame Job for his own misfortune, God instructed them to make burnt offerings... sin offerings.  God did not instruct Job to do so;  Job remained righteous throughout the story.   Job, in spite of his wish that he'd never been born, remained  in God's good graces. (Apparently, God understands depression;  isn't that wonderful?)  And, Job's wife, too.  Had Job's wife been considered  sinful for her unkind words to Job,  he would have been instructed to make an offering to cover her sin.  Although her words sound harsh to the reader,  we must remember that she also had lost everything;  she was, no doubt, very depressed as well.  Apparently God took that into consideration.
     So, the story ends with Job living to a ripe old age, surrounded by four generations of offspring, and remaining the picture of spiritual integrity.                  

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