I dare say people the world over have at least HEARD of the biblical account of “Job,” the man who went through terrible suffering. It’s become an iconic precedent by which many of us measure our pain.
“She’s a modern-day Job,” or “just call me ‘Job.'”
Most of us grew up hearing the story summarized like this:
“Job lost everything, including his health and his children. He suffered for a while and then, in the end, God blessed him with DOUBLE what he had before!”
Isn’t that a great story?
But in between losing it all and getting back twice as much as before, the man and his wife went through HELL. In fact, she was so livid toward God, she begged Job, “Why don’t you just curse Him and die?!”
This is from Job 1:
“There once was a man named Job. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters. He also had many servants…(and) was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.”
This man and his kids reminded me of MY family, as they apparently loved each other greatly. They were always hangin’ out together:
“Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. (Job 1:4)”
But that all came crashing down one day. Again, from the first chapter we read a fascinating account of the Devil himself appearing before God:
“One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. ‘Where have you come from?’ the Lord asked Satan.
“Satan answered the Lord, ‘I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.’
“Then the Lord asked Satan, ‘Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.’
“Satan replied to the Lord, ‘Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!’
“’All right, you may test him,’ the Lord said to Satan. ‘Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.’ So Satan left the Lord’s presence. (Job 1:6-12)”
What happened next was unprecedented in the history of mankind. A series of messengers came running to him, breathless, announcing:
SERVANT #1: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
SERVANT #2: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
SERVANT #3: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
SERVANT #4: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
Imagine, he’s the richest man in the land, and in one fell swoop, he loses it all. His children are dead. All his possessions are GONE. From glory to agony in one hour. From prosperity to poverty in a single afternoon.
But here’s a thought: as this pertains to YOUR suffering, maybe you’re not being tormented because God’s picking on you. Perhaps He’s been braggin’ you up to the Devil, and ole Slewfoot got plum ticked off about it and asked the Lord for permission to make ya suffer.
The Devil seen your potential and wanted to crush it. He seen your future and wanted to destroy it. He seen your happiness and wanted to kill it.
While it may feel like you’ve done something to deserve all this, we have to remember that a test is not a punishment. God sees what you CAN be, and allows you to go through struggles in order to ready you for the future.
A soldier doesn’t just walk onto the battlefield without months, perhaps YEARS, of preparation, right?
Back to Job. Even with the richness and depth of this story, with its many twists and turns, here are two of my favorite words in the whole book:
So the exchange went like this:
- Lucifer slips in the back door and is hangin’ out with the angels
- God asks him, “What are YOU up to?”
- Satan says, “Just roamin’ the Earth, watching everything go down.”
- God responds, “Have you noticed My servant, Job? The dude is KILLIN’ it, man! He’s on point.”
- Satan replies, “Well of COURSE he is, look at how much you pay him! If you make him suffer, he’ll turn away from you.”
- God agrees: “Ok, you can take everything he has, but don’t touch his body.”
- SATAN….LEAVES. Not, “Ok, but what about…?” or “Can we negotiate this?” No, God sets the boundaries of Job’s suffering, and the Devil, who is bound by the laws of his Creator, accepts the terms and LEAVES IMMEDIATELY.
We see this again in chapter two, when, after losing all his possessions, his children being killed and all but a couple of servants dying, he STILL hasn’t turned his back on the Lord. Once again, the Devil has come into God’s presence:
“The Lord asked Satan, ‘Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.’
“Satan replied to the Lord, ‘Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!’
“’All right, do with him as you please,’ the Lord said to Satan. ‘But spare his life.’ So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.” (Job 2:3-7)
WHOA, there it is again: “Satan left.”
“Do with him as you please,” God tells the enemy, “but don’t kill him.” No wrestling match for Job’s soul; the Lord lays down the law and SATAN LEAVES, with no backtalk or haggling. No matter how powerful he tries to appear, the Devil can only carry out what God allows.
God sets the limits of your suffering, KNOWING how much you can handle, KNOWING it will not destroy you, and then Satan does his best to torture you within those preset boundaries.
So Job was struck with terrible, painful boils all over his body, and things went from bad to worse. We’d love to skip over all the bad stuff, and just get to the part where the Lord restores Job’s life. Just like our own lives, however, we can’t gloss over the pain.
We must endure.
Lest you ever think you’re alone in your affliction, check out the lamenting of Job when he was right in the midst of his “dark night of the soul”:
“And now my life seeps away.
Depression haunts my days.
At night my bones are filled with pain,
which gnaws at me relentlessly.
“With a strong hand, God grabs my shirt.
He grips me by the collar of my coat.
He has thrown me into the mud.
I’m nothing more than dust and ashes.
“I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer.
I stand before you, but you don’t even look.
You have become cruel toward me.
You use your power to persecute me.
“You throw me into the whirlwind
and destroy me in the storm.
And I know you are sending me to my death—
the destination of all who live.
“Surely no one would turn against the needy
when they cry for help in their trouble.
Did I not weep for those in trouble?
Was I not deeply grieved for the needy?
“So I looked for good, but evil came instead.
I waited for the light, but darkness fell.
My heart is troubled and restless.
Days of suffering torment me.
“I walk in gloom, without sunlight.
I stand in the public square and cry for help.
Instead, I am considered a brother to jackals
and a companion to owls.
“My skin has turned dark,
and my bones burn with fever.
My harp plays sad music,
and my flute accompanies those who weep.”
That’s heavy, man. Many of us can relate to that depth of pain. “I’m a good person, Lord! Why do you torment me like this? Just let me die.” Yeah, I’ve prayed that, too.
But Job endured. Even his own wife didn’t think they could live through such terrible sorrow and agony, but they did. He was king of the mountain one day, and the next was childless, poverty-stricken and in great pain. But it wasn’t PUNISHMENT, remember that; it was a test. It was boot camp, preparing him for war.
The Devil was hoping he could break Job and his wife, but he couldn’t.
Just as your trial will not break you.
The only difference between Job’s story and YOURS is we can see the end of his story. We’d rather breeze past his pain so we can get to the end: “And he lived happily ever after.”
Life is no fairy tale, however; it’s a war. Right now, in the middle of the night, when the bitter, frigid wind is howling, the rain is beating down and the demons are whispering “give up,” it feels like you will never again see the light of day.
But sunrise is comin’, my friend. Stay the course, never surrender, and you WILL be victorious!
I know it’s tough, but I’m rooting for you. I’m praying for you.
Job suffered, writhing in anguish and pain, but survived, and went on to see everything returned. God blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! His fortunes were restored. He and his wife had seven more sons and three more daughters. It was said, in all the land, no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job.
Job chapter 42 ends on a high note. This is the “payoff,” so to speak:
“(He) lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life.”
If you’re barely hangin’ by the proverbial thread, just keep hangin’. You’ll make it.