“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21).
In February of 2019 my husband taped a sign on our refrigerator that said, “It’s been 0 days since an incident in this home.” He was trying to bring some levity to a horrible week for our family. One thing after another occurred and we were exhausted from dealing with all the emergencies. I remember feeling on edge with the thought of, “What’s next?”
On a much bigger scale, Job understood what it was like to receive one tragic report after another. In Job 1:13 a messenger arrives and tells Job about the Sabeans who came, taking all his oxen and donkeys and destroying his servants. While he was still talking, another messenger entered and told Job that fire consumed all his sheep. While he was still talking, a third messenger informed him that his camels were stolen and more servants killed. And while that messenger was still talking, a fourth comes in and tells Job that all his children perished in a horrible house collapse.
His children, his livelihood, his finances… all gone in a single day. How did Job react? And how can his response encourage us in our sufferings today?
He took time to grieve:
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head…” (Job 1:20a).
Job didn’t gloss over his pain, and we don’t have to either. He started by humbly submitting his neediness and grief to the Lord and acknowledging the depth of his suffering.
When God made the world, he declared it good. Sin has marred that goodness, and it is right for us to long for the Lord to restore all that is broken back to the wonderful way it was created to be.
I have found deep personal comfort in the fact that Jesus took time to grieve at the grave of his friend Lazarus (John 11), even though Jesus knew Lazarus’ life would be restored just a few minutes later. If Jesus could pause to grieve, how much more do we get to grieve while we wait for the unknown time of the final restoration!
One advantage we have over Job is that we suffer on this side of the cross. Job grieved with a hope of what was to come; we grieve with a hope that has come and will be fully satisfied when Christ returns (Hebrews 9:26-28, Revelation 22:1-5).
He worshiped the Lord:
“…and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20b).
One way Job grieved with hope was through worship. This is the part of the passage that convicts me the most. Job knew that no matter what hardships he faced, God always deserved his worship.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely worship while grieving, but if I’m honest what I tend to worship is the idol of self-pity and my own immediate comfort. Wanting to be served, rather than to serve. Losing my temper when my family doesn’t follow the plan I had for the day. Not extending grace toward those who try to help but end up saying something hurtful to me by mistake. There are so many ways I worship my own priorities and preferences. And it can be easy for me to disguise it all under the “I’m suffering” banner.
In Psalm 59, David talks about being hunted by his enemies. He’s overwhelmed and terrified, yet his heart is still positioned toward worshiping the Lord. In verse 16 he wrote, “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”
Job displays this same God-focused worship. He could have whined and placed unreasonable burdens on his remaining servants and his wife, but instead of worshiping his own comfort, he worshiped the Lord.
He continued to trust God:
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b).
Trusting God can be hard when we are in a season of suffering. Sometimes we blame God for our pain. We might start to believe the lie that God isn’t loving or kind. Or perhaps we forget the ways God has provided for us in the past, and therefore only are afraid as we look to the future.
When deep pain and sorrow come into our lives, we experience a crossroads of sorts. We can either turn away from the Lord—deciding that God is not who he says he is and that he is holding out on us in some way— or we draw closer to God, believing that God’s character is unchanging and is always good (James 1:17).
When Job said that the Lord gives and takes away, he acknowledged that all we experience has passed through the loving and purposeful hands of a trustworthy God. Throughout the rest of the book, Job continues to wrestle with what happened to him and what he knows is true about God. This is not an easy truth to grasp, but Job was willing to press into the Lord in search of the truth. As readers we watch his friends struggle with their own understanding of who God is. As we read the story of Job, there is much we can learn about how God works in our lives (Rom. 8:28).
Grieving, worshiping, and trusting are not easy things to do in face of hardship. The story of Job shows us how we can engage God in our sufferings. As we do, we remember that we have access to the Holy Spirit who comforts us, guides us, and reminds us of what is true. We have a Savior who intercedes for us as only our Royal Brother can. And we have the Father, who always acts justly and mercifully on our behalf.
If all of this sounds too difficult in your present suffering, I want to leave you with the reminder of Jesus’ promise in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash