“How are you?” I asked a friend this week, calling to check on her.
“I’ve been reading the book of Job,” she said.
“That’s a real pick-me-up,” I joked.
“Actually, it’s great,” she replied. “The more I read about all of the bad things that happened to Job, the better I am!”
We both laughed. The book of Job starts out as a tragedy. Likely the oldest recorded text in the Bible, it takes the form of a traditional three-act play. Whether it was written as a piece of performance art meant to reveal deeper truths about God, or whether it records an actual event, theologians disagree.
Internal biblical evidence supports the idea that Job was a real person, ranked right up there with two other champions of faith: Noah and Daniel. But the writers who dipped their reed pens in ink pots or scratched metal styluses across clay tablets to compose the scriptures relied on a variety of literary forms and techniques, including poetry, parables, metaphor, and hyperbole.
I take the book of Job literally, as did James, the brother of Jesus, who quoted from it in the New Testament. But however you take it, the very first line reveals that Job, a man from Uz, was “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (1:1 NASV). Yet, despite Job’s good standing, in the course of a single day, all of his flocks and herds were stolen or destroyed. His servants were slaughtered, and his sons and daughters perished in a storm. Soon after, Job broke out in painful, oozing blisters.
Some days feel like that—like in spite of how hard you’ve worked to do everything right, one wrong thing after another keeps wrecking your life. In response to his suffering, Job’s wife suggested that he curse God and die (2:9). His friends weren’t much better. Instead of comforting job, they blamed him (4:7-8).
It’s easy to blame God or others for life’s calamities. But little did Job’s advisers — or perhaps Job himself — know that the real culprit in this story wasn’t God or Job. It was God’s enemy, Satan, who had received permission to test Job’s faithfulness to God.
Instead of cursing God, Job cursed himself, wishing that he had never been born. After enumerating all of the ways in which life wasn’t fair, Job ultimately repented of his rebellion (23:1-3), sought God (42:1-6), and prayed for the very friends who had failed him (42:10).
In the end, God restored Job’s fortunes. In fact scripture says, “the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (42:12).
Although we often don’t know why troubles come upon us, we can be assured that God still loves us. Trusting God in hard times is, well… hard. No one wants to suffer. But despite our losses, we can hold onto hope, knowing that God promises to bless those who trust him. Like Job’s, your life may have started out like a tragedy, but it doesn’t have to end that way. With God, good things are still ahead.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of The Backward Easter Egg Hunt and four other books in the Lantern Hill Farm children’s picture book series, celebrating the holidays with stories that build children’s faith.