Lessons from the Life of Job
Many scholars agree that Job is probably the oldest book of the Bible. It seems appropriate, then, that the oldest portion of Scripture immediately addresses the age-old question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Job is introduced to us as a very wealthy man (1:3), and one that God Himself regarded as "perfect and upright." His net worth in modern currency could have exceeded $5,000,000, which makes his morality all the more remarkable. After all, how many present-day millionaires "hold fast their integrity" (2:3) as Job did? And yet even when he lost everything, Job's heart-cry seemed to be very much in line with Paul's in Acts 20:24, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy . . .to testify . . . of the grace of God."
Most of us have been encouraged by Job's story at some point in our lives. Here was a man who had what many people spend their entire lives striving for: money, friends, family, and plenty of possessions. He achieved his culture's version of the American Dream, and yet his first priority was never keeping up with the Joneses; it was walking with his God. Of course we all know the story of what happened next. In a matter of moments, nearly everything Job claimed as his own was stripped away. The most tragic loss was that of his children:
"...there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead." (Job 1:18-19)
That's when Job realized this was more than just a bad day. The Lord Himself had indeed "put forth His hand, and touched all that he had" (1:11). In what had quickly become the darkest moment of his life, Job was understandably overwhelmed with grief. He tore his clothes, shaved his head, and collapsed to the ground. And yet even as he faced circumstances that would no doubt be unbearable for many of us, Job looked to heaven and cried out, "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (1:21). In the days that followed Job lost his health, the support of his wife, and eventually that of his closest friends. But as he sat among the ashes scraping his boils with a piece of broken pottery, he asked rhetorically, "What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (2:10). What astounds me about Job's spiritual strength is that it doesn't seem to be something he acquired during his trial like most of us. His acceptance of God's sovereignty was immediate, not eventual. Here was someone who had figured out during the good times what many of us are forced to learn in the bad times: that God is all we really need. He held everything loosely, except for his relationship with God. You may never face a valley as dark as Job's. You may always (or never) be blessed with good health, financial security, and supportive family and friends. Either way, remember that Job's story is not about a man who lost everything, but about a man who found everything he needed in God. When everything and everyone else in his life proved unreliable, he found his strength in the everlasting arms of the Lord (Deut. 33:27).