Job searches for cause and effect. He examines his life and his actions. He remembers the good that he has done. So why?
“I thought, ‘I will die in my own house,
my days as numerous as the grains of sand.
19 My roots will reach to the water,
and the dew will lie all night on my branches.
20 My glory will not fade;
the bow will be ever new in my hand.’ (Job 29:18-20, NIV)
His pain, suffering, and exclusion would have made sense to him if he were a terrible man, even a secret sinner. But he was a good man. So why?
“If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune
or gloated over the trouble that came to him—
30 I have not allowed my mouth to sin
by invoking a curse against their life—
31 if those of my household have never said,
‘Who has not been filled with Job’s meat?’—
32 but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
for my door was always open to the traveler—
33 if I have concealed my sin as people do,
by hiding my guilt in my heart (Job 31:29-33, NIV)
It’s a formula I’ve come to count on, perhaps erroneously. If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. Good job performance should equal a raise or promotion. Kind acts should beget kindness returned. But life is much more complicated than that.
I have grasped grief and hope with the same hands. And Job’s grappling with his situation feels like hope being pried from his grip.
“Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My lyre is tuned to mourning,
and my pipe to the sound of wailing. (Job 30:24-31, NIV)
In the bigger picture, the one of holding this book in my hands and knowing the start of Job’s story to the end, I want to whisper to him in these chapters, “It isn’t over yet.”
I know that God considered Job faithful. I know that Satan wanted to test Job’s faith–and likely more than that, wanted to completely destroy it (after all, the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy). The battlefield moves inward as Job expresses those thoughts aloud. Outwardly losing his wealth and family, suffering in health, to inwardly the thoughts that circle in his mind–the grounds for anger, resentment, confusion, doubt, despair. Which is harder: the outer battle or the inner battle?
When my thoughts try to pry hope from my grip, I want to remember this–the bigger picture. The bigger picture Job didn’t see. The bigger picture that tells me in the hardship, “It isn’t over yet.” The bigger picture where Jesus declares it is finished and that he is coming back.
Lord, I’ve lost years in the grapple to make sense of what is with what should be. In the heavy days of what is, let me remember the hope of what will be.