Job, Sitting in the Ashes
Thought for the Day: “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 maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” Job 2:8-10
Each time I read the account of Job I am faced with puzzling questions. I don’t understand why Satan was allowed to inflict such devastation on Job’s life. After all, Job was a man of faith, a man who believed in God and lived to bring honor to God. Then one day Satan comes before God. God asks where Satan has been, and Satan only offers he has been roaming around the earth. God then brings up Job. God is proud of this man of faith and describes Job as a blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. Satan’s deduction of Job’s loyalty was simple, Job is only worshiping you and giving you his full allegiance because he has all the wealth, health and happiness one could possibly endure.
Now, I do not believe Satan has any power over the God of the Universe. But God knows everything there is to know about each one of us. Psalm 139 is clearly a testament to this fact. God knew Job’s heart and dedication and regardless of what Satan was allowed to do involving Job’s family or even his physical body, God knew Job would remain faithful…and that Job did.
Do I understand this story of God allowing all these incredibly hard losses to Job in children, workers, livestock, and material wealth to transpire because of Job’s stellar faith? Can I fathom how a man would be sanctioned by the God of the Universe to suffer because of belief in that same God? To be perfectly honest, I've been a Christian for a long time and I still get stumped and scratch my head as I ask God to reveal hard answers on a child-like level so that I might get the picture. God has infinite wisdom and with the finite mind I have been graciously given, how can I even begin to explain the ways of the Almighty?
I like to deduce it like this...when our little ones were babies and we tried to communicate on their level, we didn't usher in concepts and dialogue they would not understand. We simply smiled and used soothing sounds often reading to them and telling them about the colors, shapes or animals on the pages. Even then they didn't have the conceptual wisdom to comprehend. They just loved being held and given attention.
Likewise, we are babes in Christ. He can't explain all of creation because his knowledge is far beyond anything we can perceive. He reveals life in bite-sized pieces according to our spiritual growth. As we grow in our knowledge of him, we are given more insight. But we continuously question God's intentions as if he owes us any explanation at all. Honestly, it reminds me of children who demand, "I can do it myself!" Shouldn't we at least stop and thank God for what we have been given?
So, here's my meager explanation on the story of Job. Believe it or not, scripture tells us that God doesn't allow us to be tested or tempted beyond what we can endure. (I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can ear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”) Of course, I believe that pertains to believers and that's what Job was....he loved, served and believed in God. But if you look at the story, Job was living a great life. Satan believed the only reason Job was giving any time or allegiance to God was because he was living a "charmed" life...if you will. God knew that wasn't true, so he allowed Satan to test Job.
You can call it unfair, totally out of the realm of reasonableness, but Job withstood the terrible things that happened to him and in the end was doubly blessed. Why do I still believe in a God that would do this? Because I, too, have felt suffering. Not like Job, of course, and I would never equate anything I have faced in life thus far with Job's ordeal. But here's a truth I've come to acknowledge, God can remove every pebble in the path of my journey. He can make my life one of total Cinderella adventures and zip lining blessings. But instead of being a Cinderella, I often feel as though I'm walking barefoot on a rocky road that has no smooth places for my feet to rest. Every time I feel as though I'm getting a break from the cuts and bruises of those stones, another one shows up. However, this I know...God has His eye on me. He knows where I am at all times and what is happening in my little corner of the world. He is Omnipresent, he's in all places at all times. That in itself is an awesome thought far beyond anything I can understand. If I was never desperate for God's presence, would I give him more than a passing thought? (Psalm 18:36 “You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.”)
If you read through the book of Job, you will discover, as all who are tested through sufferings can testify, Job's faith increased, and his spiritual resolve grew even greater. And that, my friend, is the goal. Greater faith, greater perseverance and a greater witness for the Lord. Why? Because we often learn through the hardships God is greater than our circumstances. (James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”)
Is suffering something we need to experience so spiritual growth can occur? Maybe not, but I will share when the hard things of life happen, and I have no other place to turn, God has always been there, and the result is a greater trust in who he is and what he can do. God is Omnipotent....all powerful, He's Omniscient....all knowing, and He is Omnipresent…in all places at all times. We need to realize there are circumstances in life we will never fully grasp so for now, we pray that God will help us face whatever each day brings and that He will grant us the fortitude to surrender our will for His! There is coming a day when suffering will be over, and our path will render a smoothness for our feet never before felt because it was handcrafted by the Lord himself!
- Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.