What choices will you and I make when faced with unspeakable pain and loss? How will we respond? The story of Job is powerful. Why? It’s about the power of choice. The issue is not, “Will I someday experience a trial in my life? Will I someday experience suffering? Will I someday experience some random act of pain or violence in my life or a family member’s life? That is not really the question. The question for you and for me is, “How will we respond?”
That is the question. When we are faced with the finality of a terminal illness…cancer…divorce… death…abuse…after the shock, after the tears, after the crying out, after the phone calls and emails and text messages cease and we are left alone…how are you going to respond? How will I respond?
There are many choices, aren’t there?
In Job chapter one, Job lost it all; he lost his businesses, he lost his money, he lost his savings, he lost his employees, and worst of all he lost all ten children. Job’s life was completely shattered. How does he respond and what choices does he make in the middle of his suffering? In chapter 2 Job loses his health. Job 2:7-10, “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the souls of his feet to the top of his head.
Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding onto your integrity. Curse God and die.’ And he replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?’ And in all this Job did not sin in what he said.”
How does this story hit you? How does it make you feel? What does it do to your theology or your belief in God, that God would enter a wager with Satan and allow Satan to destroy Job’s life? This is a powerful and perplexing story. It scares me. Does it scare you? It scares me because what if it happened to me, this major league level of suffering and pain? What if one day God is up in heaven and Satan and the angels come to present themselves to God and God says, “Hey, Satan, have you considered that guy down there? Have you considered Darrell? Have you considered John? Have you considered Lisa?” And God let our lives be shattered like this. What if? It is perplexing.
Look at what happened to Job’s wife. In one or two days she lost her husband’s job, their finances, their security, everything they had banked on was all gone. The ten precious kids, these babies that she carried in her womb for nine months that she nursed at her breast, that she went to their birthday parties and cheered, laughed, and watched them grow up with so much success and prosperity. All ten were gone. Dead…they were not coming back.
And now she looks at her husband and she can’t even recognize him because he was covered with boils from his feet all the way to the top of his head and they were oozing puss and all he has left to do in life is scrape himself with a piece of pottery. And what does she say, what is her option, what is her choice? I think the choice she made at this time and the choice that she wanted her husband to make is, “Are you still holding on? Believing God? Are you kidding me? Are you still holding onto your integrity? Curse God and die! If there is a God, then He doesn’t care. If there is a God, then He must be limited in His power or He would do something to intervene to stop the death of all 10 children, to lose everything, and allow you to be inflicted with all this grotesque sickness and suffering. Give up this Sunday school, pie-in-the-sky before you die God.”
Our response could be atheism. “There is no God. Or maybe if there is a God He doesn’t really care or can’t really do anything, He is irrelevant. Tragedy of this magnitude and catastrophe is usually a polarizing event that draws us closer to God or farther away from God. It is a choice.
I read recently that Ted Turner (the billionaire owner of CNN, WTBS and the Atlanta Braves) when he was a young man in high school was a devout Christian. At the age of 18 Ted Turner devoted his life to become a missionary. But something happened to Ted’s sister, Mary Jane. She contracted a rare form of lupus and Ted watched his sister slowly die for about five years. And when she was dead, her death killed his faith in God. And he has been an atheist ever since.
Some people are going to choose atheism and some people are going to say, “Maybe God is there but I can’t handle the pain. I can’t handle the trial; I am just going to drown myself in alcohol and in drinking.” Or, “ I am just going to find some drugs whether they are prescription or non-prescription or on the street. I am going to find some drugs to lose myself, to lose and ease the pain through that.” Or, “I am going to go to work and I am going to work myself to death.” Or “I am not going to do anything. I am just going to sit there and fall into a depression.” For some it is so tough they have to try to find some outlet and they take their own life.
I think about Mother Teresa and some of her journals and letters that were released a few years back. Mother Teresa had given her life to comforting the sick and the dying in the streets of Calcutta, she lived among the poorest of the poor and there are many times in her journals where she struggled with her faith. She doubted with God’s love for her. She couldn’t hear or sense His presence. She held on and kept serving even when it was not easy.
One thing that amazes me about this story of Job and about our own choices is that your choice matters to God. Job was just like you and I. When something hits our life, when a storm comes into your life or my life and it rains and it doesn’t’ stop raining and pretty soon the water rises and it floods and it starts to take us away. We don’t know where it is coming from; we don’t know what God is up to. What is amazing is that we are such small specs on this beautiful, blue marble planet called Earth but our choices are significant. They matter to God.
We saw at the end of chapter 1…what did Job say when the first round, the first wave hit him? He said, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” How did Job respond? Job responded with raw worship. Then we read in chapter 2, “Shall we accept good things from God and not accept bad things from God.” What was Job saying? What was Job’s response? “God, You are in this!” And he cried out from the ashes that he was sitting on as he was scraping himself with the pottery, he said, “God You are in this! And I am going to hold onto You no matter what comes my way. I am going to hold onto You. I don’t see it, I don’t understand it. He was sad, he was mad, he was angry, he was perplexed but he said, “God I am holding onto You…I am going to trust in You no matter what.”
We will see in the following weeks that Job was no super saint…Job was just like you and just like me. As this story unfolds, as more chapters unfold in Job’s life we are going to see Job gets pretty real. But Job says, “I am going to hold on. I am going to hold onto God no matter what. I don’t care how I feel. I don’t care how disfigured I am. I don’t care if it looks like I am going to die; I am holding on.”
That is the choice we can make too. “God, I’m holding on!” I am confident that whatever you are going through in your life that God is watching over you. He has not forgotten you. And as you and I hold onto Him tightly, He is holding onto you and me. He will see us through, just hold on.
Additional Sources: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry, Life Application Bible Notes, Dr. Ben Young, A Search for the Meaning of Suffering