I’ve been putting off writing this for a while but since I can’t seem to forget about it I suppose I should just do it. Here goes…
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.
When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed Gd in their hearts.”
This was Job’s regular custom.
I think that most of us know how the story goes. If not, you can find it in the book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible.
I took Job as a class as one of my Old Testament electives in college. And according to my Dad (who is unbelievably biased), I wrote a darn good paper. You know, stemming from all the wisdom I’d accumulated in my 24 years. And apparently there is some debate about whether or not Job was a real person or if it’s a fable. When I heard that in class I had a momentary freak out. It doesn’t really matter though because the story of Job speaks to the human condition. It’s an extreme situation but it’s one that most people can relate to in terms of the tribulation that comes from loss.
I’d like to fast forward past the tribulations themselves because the end result is that Job loses everything. Kids, wealth, health and ultimately his friends. In chapter 3 Job curses the day of his birth. I can’t say that I blame him. Then Eliphaz speaks and starts this dialogue on a collision course of accusations and well, bad theology. The jist of it is that his friends are determined to make him confess his sin and Job is determined to declare his righteousness.
Bildad the Shuhite says in chapter 8 verse 3 and 4:
Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When Your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
When they sinned? How does he know that? Was Bildad there? Did he see them sin? The Bible doesn’t say he was. So was it his opinion stemming from the theology that only good things happen to righteous people and bad things to the unrighteous?
Job responds in chapter 9 and I’m quoting from verse 14-17:
How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him?
Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.
Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing.
He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason.
I’d been reading Job a while ago and, honestly, I don’t really enjoy reading it. I enjoy reading it even less because the accusing from Job’s friends and Job accusing God makes me cringe. Really, people, it gets ugly. But mostly I cringed because I recognized myself in Job. Not in the degree of suffering, of course, but in what has come out of my mouth during times of struggling. I’m not gonna lie, the last, um, lifetime has been hard but especially these last 9-ish years. But no matter my struggle, what was in my heart came out of my mouth and it was exceedingly ugly at times. Not always but there were definitely times that it was.
Hadn’t God seen my obedience? Didn’t he know that I studied to be in ministry? Did he remember that I was in ministry? Did he realize that I gave that up because he wanted me to? I embraced uncertainty, moved to two different states and six different cities, cried every single day for his will to be done. And the more I cried and prayed the harder things got. I tried to be perfect in my obedience, perfect in my perspective, perfect in looking on the bright side and perfect in listening for and doing his will. And our finances failed in spite of giving, my health failed in spite of my best efforts to be healthy and my marriage was miserable.
Why would someone offer sacrifices for their kids just in case they sinned? Who does that? I think that Job 3:35 answers that.
What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.
In my non-theologian opinion, that verse speaks volumes about Job’s motives. Now, before you get ready to stone me, I’m not saying that he didn’t suffer, I’m not saying that he wasn’t righteous. The Bible says he did suffer greatly and was a righteous man. And yet, in his heart, he believed that all his piety would save him from suffering. And in that way, I am Job.
It was a Saturday like any other Saturday. I’d like to say that the Buttons are an incredibly productive lot on Saturdays but we usually aren’t. We had a late breakfast and Travis started going through the bills and once again, our backs were up against a wall and our financial position was going to change and not in a good way. So he and I prayed like we always do in those situations. When it was my turn, I asked God to reveal if we had done something to keep us from experiencing breakthrough in our finances. And after we prayed I decided to take some time and pray by myself. And like a movie, I could see myself over these last several years praying and crying and declaring my innocence. “I’ve done everything the right way!” I declared it over and over. Yes, I did seek the Lord in every area, every aspect, every decision. But why? Yes, I love God with all my heart. But was there something else? Unfortunately there was. It’s the formula, Amy+obedience= God’s blessing. My faith wasn’t in God’s faithfulness or his love or his ability to deliver and heal me. My faith was in my obedience. That if I am faithfully obedient enough, God has to bless me.
When the realization of my sin hit me I was humbled. The Lord didn’t say to me like he did to Job:
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Chapter 38 vs. 3-4
And for that I am very grateful. Instead he poured his love out on me as I sobbed in repentance. I felt like Paul in Romans 7:24;
What a wretched (wo)man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
To be perfectly honest, I hate admitting any of this. And I’m only talking about myself. I’m not trying to drag any of you down with me. I never really related to Job because his circumstances seemed so severe, who could relate to that? But the book of Job is a book about the human struggle. Everyone struggles in different ways. It’s my response to my struggle that matters. I still find myself wanting to be perfect. I still try to never be anxious or disappointed, out of fear that it will make things worse. I try to find the good or the reason for everything. And then I’m brought to a point or situation that is going to make my circumstances something that I don’t want. But my lack doesn’t change God’s character.
2 Timothy 2:13 says;
If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
And that, my friends, is what I’ve been thinking about.
Addendum…I should add that my marriage is no longer miserable. We’ve really seen restoration in that area and I’m thankful. I just didn’t want to get any phone calls and e-mails from concerned friends and family or freak my husband out.