Would it have been ok if the book of Job had ended with chapter 42 verse 9? “…the Lord also accepted Job.”
Speaking from a very human point of view, what if all Job got for his suffering was God’s approval, a good word, a restored and stronger relationship with his Creator?
What if patient, honest, crushed Job didn’t get twice as much in riches and the most beautiful daughters in the land?
What if his friends didn’t see his righteousness and praise him after his horrific loss and suffering?
What if Job died with his skin diseases, friendless but for the face of God?
Job’s wife had cursed him and God.
His children were killed.
His crops decimated.
His animals destroyed.
His own body made to look like a scalded, skinned carcass rolled in grey dust.
He lamented the day he was born in ferociously eloquent words.
Job didn’t take into account how his mother might have felt about that.
Or what God might have had planned for his life.
Job told his friends and God how good he was.
He sang his own praises through his parched and painful throat.
He mocked his friends and answered them accusation for accusation.
In the end, God reprimanded Job and his friends but showed everyone Job was upright in His eyes.
When I am suffering, I keep my focus on that which I want to end my suffering.
Rather, my eyes and my heart are drawn to it as if they have no other course.
I imagine I know what will make the pain ease
…if only he lives.
…if only I can make sense of this.
…if only I can get through this week.
…if only I could find the right house.
…if I could just stop hurting.
…if I had better support.
…if only we could talk.
…if I could just save this much more.
…if only my friend would
…if only my child wouldn’t
But what if the book of Job had ended with God’s approval of Job and nothing more?
What happens when we, like Job, are sitting in ashes and trying to figure out why we are going through a heartache we didn’t see coming, had tried to avoid, worked to correct, or had spent time thanking God we didn’t have to endure?
What is the message of Job for us who live by grace and know we need our physical, mental, and emotional needs met too?
But our particular grief seems to end with God’s approval while the waiting, the tears, the questions, the chest pain continues.
In the practical sense, Jesus is not all we need.
We need companionship, a safe place to live, food that sustains us, clean air.
More than just companionship, we long for those who support us and fill us with joy, those we can give back to and be satisfied knowing we make their lives better just by being ourselves.
A father, a child, a mentor, a lover, a friend who embraces our weaknesses.
If your felt need is not met, but you sit in the approval of God through Christ Jesus, your soul will be sustained even in its unmet need.
If you do not believe, in faith, that you have the approval of God and instead
writhe under the fear that He hates you,
wilt under the sense that He ignores you,
go numb under the belief that you don’t care..
then your felt needs will always be your focus.
There will be no peace.
The questions will surface again and again turning over in your mind like a useless ballerina in an empty jewelry box, the music of your tired thoughts torturing you out of rest.
Having your mind planted in the knowledge of the approval of God is another story, an ongoing story for me.
But from there, you are free to roam in your questions because you know God isn’t angry at you for asking.
You’re free to weep over that which was lost or never gained because you know your standing with God doesn’t depend on having a dry face and non-puffy eyes.
You’re free to wonder and replay and speculate and wish and agonize because you know God will not condemn you for being human.
But you will not find peace.
The thing we most want may never come to us. Maybe..
The baby is never born,
The husband never stops drinking,
The wife never stops berating,
The son never returns,
The job is never offered,
The hard work doesn’t pay off,
The disease is never cured,
The money is not returned,
The bills keep arriving in your mailbox,
The leadership fails you,
The lover never calls back…
master the part,
pass the class,
build the project,
find your papers,
understand the language,
reach your daughter,
break your addiction.
Maybe the substance of our lives cracks open, alters our entire landscape, and leaves us to live.
Maybe the mountains fall into the sea.
Maybe you are left to keep trying forever, until you die.
Maybe you remain faithful but you don’t get ten new children, thousands of camels and cows and goats, restored health, and friends who bring money while praising you for your patience and the favor of God they see in you.
In a situation where we have done all we can and our ache is still a physical pain in our heart, or literal death and destruction is on our doorstep, God is saying to us……
I approve of you.
I see your faithfulness.
You are kept by the power of Jesus Christ.
I found a formula while my heart beat heavy in my chest and my brain issued commands—find joy, focus on the good, be grateful, look for others to bless, take your eyes off yourself.
Tears dripped out annoyingly.
My breath came hard and sticky like sucking humid air after the rain stops on an August day in Mississippi. It’s not cool and refreshing; it’s dense and soaked with unseen moisture.
It was so formulaic I questioned it’s validity.
Perhaps there’s a hidden spiritual meaning here.
Still, I read it over and over and practiced it too, purposely and even harshly, in case self pity crept in.
Melancholics easily acknowledge pain in themselves and others; we even enjoy the depth of feeling in heartache.
We don’t enjoy hurting, but the ability to feel pain deeply and honestly is appealing. When I first read this about my personality, I was struck with guilt because it was so true.
And everyone knows being happy is best.
Melancholy introverts are not eternal optimists because we are comfortable admitting that pain is painful.
We see the value and necessity of developing a sunnier outlook, rising out of and above very real pain, but we’re ok with letting it wash over and in and under and through us as we process it.
So if we, like Job, are sidelined and sitting in ashes surrounded by well meaning detractors, and our hearts are a wreck with grief which can’t be ignored, but we also know simmering and stewing in hurt is not healthy or glorifying to God, we find relief and solace God’s formula found in Philippians 4:4-8, especially lovely to me in the Amplified version.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.
7 And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
8 Finally, [a]believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”
We aren’t promised anything else.
Success, recovery, answers, something or someone better…
We pour out to Jesus Christ—the Lover of our souls Who has fully accepted us even in our turmoil—our requests with thanksgiving, simultaneously lifting our blighted eyes to that which is beautiful.
We cease speculations, circular questions, self-defeating musings….
and the formula proves true..
He gives peace.
Priceless perfect peace.