Job… in case you were wondering.
In case last week when I said, “No one ever sends you to Isaiah in the midst of tragedy,” you asked, “Well, then where do they send you?”
In my experience, the answer is Job. I think this is an appropriate response, really. I don’t think Job is a bad book to send someone to when they are struggling through one hard hand after another. I do, however, think the book of Job should be handed over with a few disclaimers, and a little bit of context. I think we often fail to do this.
It’s easy to send someone to Job when they are hurting.
It’s easy, because Job was handed a pretty rough go-of-it.
It’s easy, because Job was not thrilled about this rough go-of-it.
It’s easy, because through it all, Job stayed faithful.
It’s easy, because Job ends with a happily ever after.
And there it is: both the actual reason that we shove people toward Job, and the reason that this shove without any context or disclaimers can be a bit dangerous.
The happily ever after.
Job got a 42:10 finish. ” 10 When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”
We love this part of the story, because when your life is in chaos you want only two things:
- Life to stop being chaotic
- A resolution that makes it all “worth it.”
Job provides a promise for both of these things. It’s a story with a good resolution, one that makes sense of pain.
And you know what? YOU TOO should buckle down and endure, because YOU TOO may find your doubly-blessed life following this trial.
Except when you don’t.
Because sometimes that happens. Sometimes our tragedy does not lead to this Job-y earthy resolution, these world-comprehension answers.
And then what? We get mad at God?
Suddenly, we have this expectation, this entitlement, because we have been conditioned to believe we are owed something after our greatest pains. We are conditioned to believe that “everything happens for a reason” and that we have a right to know that reason, benefit from it.
But we don’t all get that Job finish, that trophy for passing a test, the blessing bought with pain and faithful acts, at least not always on the earth.
But we don’t tell that to the grieving person, because that kind of defeats the purpose of sending them to this story in the first place.
Instead, we paraphrase. We go directly from chapter 1 to chapter 42. Problem to solution, and we summarize that Job was faithful, and then he was blessed.
End of story.
Well… if you didn’t skip 41 central chapters, you would know that Job also got mad. He was faithful, sure. But he was pretty mad.
Job cursed the day he was born. If that isn’t anger at your maker, then I don’t know what is.
But we don’t tell that part of the story. We don’t tell about Job’s middle-school temper tantrum, because then we would have to face the reality of our own. We don’t talk about Job’s fit, because then we’d have to share God’s response to it, and suddenly this story doesn’t seem like the right fit for your grieving pal anymore.
Except, this part is what makes it the right story.
This section, God’s response to Job’s pitty-party, Job 38-42, that’s the section that we really need when our grief evolves into indignant anger.
My grandma used to call this the “How Great Thou Aren’t” section.
We skip this over because it makes us face our own humanity in comparison to divine immorality.
We skip this over, because, like Isaiah, it’s not warm and fuzzy.
We skip it over because we live in a ‘Google’ culture where we can manipulate facts to fit our narrative, to create the ending that we want, and when we remove this section from the entire story, we get that hope of an ending that appeases our earthy minds.
We skip it over, because we demand answers, we demand resolution, we demand the Job ending, and it is difficult to face the fact that we are not owed any of it. Neither was Job. We may not get a “fair” and “earthly” resolution at the end of our trials.
A lot of people have sent me to Job over the past few months, and my story bares a few similarities to Job’s, I won’t deny this. Honestly, anyone who has pain in their story at all can make this claim.
But my story is also different from Job’s. The number one difference? I don’t look around my little post-disaster life and feel doubly blessed. I don’t know if I ever will. I have grown, yes. I have learned, sure. But the people and dreams I’ve lost, are gone, and I simply can’t imagine a circumstance ahead of me that could make these losses make sense or turn into doubled blessings.
My most recent pain may never serve a purpose that I can pinpoint in my life.
I have to be okay with that.
I think life can resolve, and it does. I think I’m in the beautiful and awkward grips of that process as I write this.
I think I will find moments of immeasurable joy in the remainder of my time here. I think, in a sense, I already am. but I don’t think I paid for this abundance, this joy, with my pain, and I don’t even think it’ll ever make sense of my pain in any way. I think I’ll find blessings here, maybe double than I even know today, but not because I passed some test, not because I earned it or deserve it.
But because He is good. He is God. He has a plan beyond my single speck of a life here. And still, He chases after my heart every day, and I can only imagine that blessings will arise when I chase Him right back. Through the good and the bad, blessings exists when your eyes stay ahead. This is not to say this life will be easy, that pursuing him will be a chase without struggle. This world is bad, and in that bad comes cancer, and Covid, and death, and depression, and all of these ugly, horrible, devastating, attacks.
But He is still God.
I am not that Job-y. The ending to my story may not be that Job-y.
But Job and I, we serve the same God, and that’s truly the only comparative that matters.