As we consider the terrible events of Hurricane Katrina, or the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we can find wonderful encouragement in the Old Testament. When we hear the personal stories of loss, final moments of conversation and escape, and the pain of living through a tragedy, many of us find it difficult to imagine what those directly affected feel. We often wonder how anyone could handle such a tragic event and cope with the loss.
The book of Job tells the story of a man who suffered the most chilling loss that any man could face. In a matter of hours, he lost all his earthly, monetary possessions and all ten of his children. We can draw comfort that God is at work in tragic circumstances. God cares about our suffering and meets in the middle of those times. Consider the following four lessons we can draw from Job.
1. God is always in control. In the first chapter of Job, we see that there is a source or cause for the evil that attacked the house of Job. This source of evil is Satan, or the devil. Why would this source of evil attack such a good man? Truthfully, we as humans may never understand why a particular tragedy happens to us or to our family or friends.
Yet even though the devil attacked Job in every way possible short of death, God remained in control of the events. God did not send the evil and suffering on and to Job, but controlled the source of evil, Satan. Notice that Satan actually had to have permission to attack Job. While evil is rampant, it is not uncontrolled.Sometime later, this ultimate source of evil attacked Job’s health.
As tragedy struck Job, he was able to respond to the multiple tragedies because he believed that God was in control. The disease came suddenly and completely debilitated him. Job said, “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” The Bible continues by saying, “Job did not sin in what he said [about God].” This response tells us of a great faith in an unseen God in whom Job placed his faith and life. Job said:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
May the name of the Lord be praised.
Job did not understand nor did he immediately ask why. This ability to resist the need to ask why is the first evidence of the depth of Job’s faith in the eternal God of heaven and earth.
In Psalm 139, David confesses that God has written his life history before he was born ( verses 16). We often like to think that this shows that God has a wonderful plan for each of us. If we stop and think a moment, we soon realize that if God has written down every day of our lives as David believed, then He ministered to David during those difficulties and will minister to us. If we believe that God is trustworthy, then we, too, can believe that God is in control of all the events in our lives.
2. God’s interests may far exceed anything we can understand initially. You see, God was doing something much larger than anything Job could imagine.
One major problem we have is that we see history in snapshots. Unless we stop and allow the Lord to open our understanding to a much larger picture, we spend most of our time during crisis or tragedy focused on ourselves. Job was able to look beyond his immediate troubles. While we might think highly of this man, Job did not have a supernatural faith.
After some time of suffering, he began to wonder and ask why these horrid things had happened. I encourage you to read every word that Job spoke as recorded in the Bible. You will be amazed at what you find as you carefully read and reflect on this man’s suffering. If you doubt Job’s humanity, read chapter three. Job expressed his frustration and remorse at his circumstances. His frustration stemmed from his lack of understanding of why this complete devastation has come on his house.
Job had spiritual needs that might never have been corrected without the time of suffering. One is found in Job 3:25, when he says, “…what I feared has come upon me.”
Job harbored a secret fear that he would loss everything. In his heart, he cherished his possessions far more than he should have. His devotion to the Lord was not as deep and complete as he thought. This spiritual need might well have plagued his life until death had Job not suffered so deeply.
Just as you and I are struggling with the events of recent days, Job struggled with the events that seemed unjust and unfair in his life. He was, on the one hand a very good example of spiritual devotion. On the other hand, he was no different from the thousands of Americans who are struggling with loss, unanswered questions, and confusing emotions. Job suffered and asked God why, just as we do today. We do not know how long Job suffered before God responded to him—certainly, it was weeks, more likely months, and could well have been many months.
3. God’s ultimate purpose is to deepen our relationship and understanding of Him. By the end of the book, we see that Job comes to understand who God is in a way that reached beyond anything he could ever have considered possible. Job had a limited view of the God of heaven. He knew that God was worthy of worship. He knew that God was worthy of reverence and devotion. He knew that God was a judge. Yet, somehow in a life of worshipping the one true, living God, he had missed the reality of the living God.
After God confronted Job with the veracity of his presence, Job’s lack of knowledge of the Holy God humbled him before God. It was at this moment that God was able to do something extraordinary. God drew Job into a very personal relationship with Himself. Job responded to this relationship with true worship. In Chapter 42:2-6, Job expressed his humility before God. In this seemingly poor state, still having nothing of value in this world, he was still satisfied to love and worship God.
4. God’s purposes always end with God’s blessings in some way. Finally, his friends came to him requesting intercessory prayer. Job was elevated to the position of priest. He was now fulfilling the task that he longed to fill in his family’s life. After he selflessly interceded for his friends, God intervened with blessings beyond Job’s greatest dreams. The Scripture says, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.”
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