Today I continue my new practice of self-plagiarism. I composed the following a week or two ago for one of my classes, in response to reading selections of Job from a compilation of readings on the cultural heritage of the West. To give the drift of the paper, allow me to insert a quote I just received via internet from home. It is the quote of a British evangelist who only recently died:
"The only time you can really say that Christ is all I need, is when Christ is all you have." ~Leonard RavenhillCompared to most of the people I know, my life has not been very hard. I have lived through the deaths of three of my grandparents, suffered a few painful injuries, and occasionally have been treated wrongly by others.
So when I watch my friends and family going through “the valley of the shadow of death,” whether it be serious injury or illness, deaths close to them, struggles with horrible sins, financial hardships, or romantic disappointments, I find it both hard to understand what they're going through, and easy to understand that it must be really bad!
My reaction to the book of Job must be the same. I have never had great wealth, a family of children, and my health and rest taken from me in the space of just a little while. But I can imagine to some degree what it must have been like, especially as Job, irked by his friend's accusations, describes how he feels to have these things happen to him. And, as God says, they happened “for no reason” -- Job is a righteous man.
I have had many more opportunities in the past year at college than I had previously to be around Christians who were suffering. So, while little has occurred to cause me to suffer, I have been much more aware of suffering in the world around me. As a result, I have tried to understand better how Christians are to react to suffering. Studies in Job have, of course, been very useful.
Job is brought so low that he would very much like to die, or, better yet, to never have been born. It is difficult to blame him. Christians are called to rejoice in the Lord always. But that is not quite the same as calling Christians to be happy and excited to have all the things they hold dear on Earth be stripped away from them.
I was prompted to write on Job when I noticed in my used copy of our textbook I noticed a note in large letters in the margin. “God is...” began the note, but the rest was marked out with pencil. I finally made it out “...arrogant [bad word]” it read.
I laughed at first, but then tried to get into the head of the student who had come up with this conclusion from reading Job. How should I react to it? Had the author of the note been in the room with me, should I have come down hard, rebuking them for flying the face of God's majesty? How can God be arrogant when all the things He says are true, and we, His creatures, say just this sort of thing back to Him? Or should I not act upset, and quietly try to reason with the author, using the text of Job itself to reason with him or her?
The note was beside 39:26-30, and 40:1-2 were circled with what appeared to be the same blue pen that had written the blasphemy in the margin:
“And the Lord said to Job:I did not come to a conclusion; I could not determine in what spirit the author had scribbled the note, more than that they had much better handwriting than I, which was something I would not expect from someone who said such things about God.
'Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.” -Job 40:1-2
I wonder if in reading Job the author had run out of intellectual excuses for ignoring God's greatness, and had tried to dismiss what they were reading by questioning God's character. Was God just posturing to look big? Was He throwing around His weight? After all, He does go on to give Job back twice what was taken away (that part was underlined in the blue pen). He Himself admitted He took it “for no reason”. Did God, after blustering at Job for a while, quietly make restitution for injustice?
If He did, He owes a lot of apologies to my friends.
I had a conversation about sin and suffering with a friend yesterday evening. We considered how we didn't deserve for Christ to die for us – we were not “worth” Him – yet God the Father sent Him, in a sense assigning a value which neither of us could see. We agreed we certainly wouldn't have done what Jesus did. Anything good is better than we deserve. We know from our Bibles and pastors that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So Job “deserved” what he got. But as God said, and backed up by his rebuke of Job's friends, it was not for some sin that He let Satan hurt Job.
It seems that at least part of it was to show Satan, the “Sons of God” and every person throughout history who has heard of Job, that God is the reward. Those who serve Him, get to have Him as their God and all the richness that relationship entails! Riches, health, life, friends, spouses, are blessed additions.
This summer a few of those blessings were taken from me against my will. I complained a lot. It seems God was teaching me that I was not poor if I only had Him. If He chooses to take away the people and things I love, and give me in their place more of Him, I can mourn my loss, but how can I not rejoice in my gain? A man will serve God for nothing, by the power of the Holy Spirit, because God Himself is the reward.
I expect God shamed the Devil with Job. I can think of little greater honor than to be held up by God as an example to prove the Devil, and perhaps whoever wrote that note, wrong.