After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again…
The Bible often deals with truth of such magnitude that only the extreme examples do justice to the message. In simple and clear words we can say that God rewards humility, that He blesses the forgiver, that He lifts the poor from the dung heap, but what example would we give to prove our point in real life? God gives us such examples in His Word, and the clarity of the message is matched by the experience of a life lived out in the truth that it proclaims.
Job’s was such a life: a righteous and godly man whose first life was seemingly filled with all the good things imaginable – the challenges and the blessings of making money, raising a family, and establishing himself in the community. The first few verses of his story describe the best ambitions of most people, and anyone who had achieved such success, wealth and status, such a happy family as well, would have done so only through hard work, much learning, and in spite of many mistakes. Many times in his early life he had risen from ash heaps and had to overcome his misjudgments, difficult seasons, droughts, thieves, etc.
But God has a way of marching into such earthly scenes, that to our unimaginative minds seem so wonderful, and pointing out the spiritual emptiness and void. A wave or two of misfortune washes over us, ones much larger than others we had faced, and we feel undone. All that we work for can be taken from us so very quickly, but even in the taking of it, our true spiritual condition is unmasked. Success breeds pride, and therein lies a real spiritual danger. Until pride is broken – and it must be shattered – we will never become inwardly all that God desires us to become, and thereby we will not receive spiritually all that God plans for us to have.
Layer by layer the confidence and joys of Job were stripped away. At first it seems horrible, but this was all inevitable anyway. He lost nothing that he would not have lost at death. His children’s sudden passing, as tragic as it was, was mitigated by the fact that no one died who would not have died anyway. Earthly life and earthly things are temporary, but they seem to hold some peculiar sway over our hearts as though they were eternal. They are not. They are all made of dust and one day they shall be separated from us or we shall be separated from them. If we could have God’s view of life, if we could see the passing of time as He sees it – an entire life span as a second, an eon as a blink of the eye – we would see how silly we must appear to Him, to surround ourselves with the dust of earth as though it by itself was of any real or lasting value.
But there was something of value in Job’s life, and that was his own soul, and in the story he stands for us all. He is the everyman in the story to whom we all relate, in whose life we see our own struggles and losses. There is more to life than what earthly things we have or how long we have them. His journey in grief, sickness, and loss, his emotional pain of false accusations and the condemning preaching of his friends, was also a personal journey of discovery. If there is nothing else we take from Job, we should take this, that what seems to be tragedy from our poor perspective can become the greatest turning point of life. In and through his losses and sufferings, Job entered into a greater spiritual depth.
We have to ask ourselves if we could have endured what he did. Could we have maintained our sanity, and not taken our own life in grief? Would not most of us have much earlier cursed God and chosen death as his wife had said? But he held on, even though his faith was as thin a thread as imaginable, it was enough to hold him through and to steady his heart and soul, and to finally bring him into a greater spiritual realm than before.
At the end of the story, Job had to forgive his friends and pray for them. They needed his prayer more than he needed theirs, and he needed to pray for them. The humility that results in forgiveness of others is a most prized possession of our souls. Anger rising from mistreatment and misunderstanding can bubble and boil in our breasts until it spews out in harmful words and hateful actions. The person who can forgive others is the only one whom we can say is truly rich. Un-forgiveness taints every possession and every relationship, until it is all tasteless and twisted.
God made Job richer than before, but afterwards he viewed everything he owned differently. He held it in humility, not in pride. He never again, we may presume, trusted in such things for his own sense of significance and importance. He had learned the temporariness of earth and the eternal nature of God, and treasured God more than life. He had learned the blessing of knowing the Giver was infinitely greater than receiving the gifts.
When we think we have arrived in life, when we have pulled ourselves through struggles and achieved our goals – some of them at least – the struggles do not really end for us. We will continue to face challenges right up until the end. We can face them in faith or without faith, but they will come our way. The last thing that we face as an enemy is our own death. Are we ready for that? Are we ready for separation from all that is on this earth, from those earthly titles and possessions we seem to own. All that is eternal is of God and His grace, and of the souls of people.
Our true significance is found in the truth of God’s redemptive act toward us in Christ Jesus – Christ who lifts us from this earth to His eternal kingdom. This is the lesson we must continually learn and relearn on this earth.
Relating back to the first paragraph above, most of our lives are not lived in such clarity, with such dramatic and clear swings. We vacillate slightly, up and down, back and forth, experiencing neither the extreme heights nor the lows that Job lived. Yet I believe it is important to understand that from his personal perspective – at least for that portion of his life told in the book – clarity was lacking. Trouble has a way of clouding all of our thoughts and feelings, preventing us from recognizing when we are at the extreme end of the situation or not.
But even if we live in the ho-hum doldrums of normal earthly life, each of us can mount up with wings as eagles spiritually. We can all learn in Christ how to run up steep slopes and not be weary and now to walk through dry desserts and not faint. We may all venture into the extremes of living life in the fullness of the Spirit.