The Story of Job Brings Cold Hard Comfort That Isn’t…

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 hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:1-12 NIV)

If I never heard myself referred to as a modern day Job again, I could die a happy man.

Trust me when I say, nobody wants to be a Job.

Nobody.
Ever.
Guaranteed.

A long time ago I had a friend who used to say, sure the early bird gets the worm, but who wants to be the worm? And he was right

The story of Job is not comforting in the least. It is scary, terrifying, horrifying, sickening… I am sure you get the picture.

Even though at the end of the story, Job was given a new family, a new life, I can hardly get past all the horror he endured in the process. That includes the bad advice of his friends. The minute they opened their mouths, Job’s situation became much worse.

The admission of my struggle to understand how God operates in this world, in our lives is not hard to understand why. Anybody who reads this blog knows I wrestle to understand why He failed to stop what I recognize as the evil work of Satan.
Wouldn’t you?

On the other hand, I understand creation is broken. The Apostle Paul says it groans in eager anticipation/ expectation of being renewed. I get that mankind has free will. In the brokenness of our world, we can and do choose what is wicked, wrong, and hurtful.

The human monster who wrought destruction in our lives? I have no doubt in the simple fact he most likely had horror visited into his life by another sin scarred wicked man.

It is bad enough to wrestle with those things, but then Job’s story adds another whole dimension.

If you read the scripture above, you might draw some difficult conclusions. Not only did God fail to protect, He actually removed Job’s protection and suggested Satan have a go at him.

What does that tell me?
Are you ready for this?

I don’t know!

And therein lies so much of the struggle.
One of my new blog friends makes a persuasive argument that God neither causes (which I want to agree with) or permits evil. It is simply a product of the created–you and me.

I have long held that bad things happen because we live in a broken, it-desperately-needs-redeeming world (and if the story of Job didn’t exist, I might still hold that belief albeit not quite so tightly as before). I shudder now at all the times I offered such a belief as an answer to suffering and heartache. Who needs or wants such cold, unhelpful pseudo comfort?

But Job?
Job turns my neat theology as upside down as any tragedy that leaves us gasping.

God pointed Job out and gave Satan the opportunity. In my little theological world, that is both cause and permission.

If all I had to deal with was the question of why my family/ ministry wasn’t worth the protecting/saving hand of God, that would be one thing.

But Job?
I may never understand. And while I wrestle and struggle with my understanding of God’s nature, I am beginning to believe the only way to ever have peace is wrapped up in the concept of mystery.

I want answers now, but I may have to settle with a mystery to be revealed later.

It’s not what I want, but it may be just what I get.

What do you think about the idea of mystery?

The next post will hopefully frame my anger and frustration in a way you will have no trouble understanding.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing the struggle.

Yours,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

23 thoughts on “The Story of Job Brings Cold Hard Comfort That Isn’t…

  1. I am glad I found your blog, you have put into words so many of the questions I find myself struggling with. My son was murdered 18 months ago, stangled to death. Several weeks before he died he shared with me that he had been reading the book of Job. He asked many of the same questions and he said he never wanted to be him. Anyway, good thought provoking blog. Thanks and God bless you and keep you.

  2. I have interpretations, theories and possibilities about what the book of Job means. Some of them give me comfort. Some don’t. They change over time, and so do my preferences.

    I don’t know either.

    I just know that – as my wife Angi puts it – we either trust God or we don’t.

    And she’s the one with the cancer, not me.

  3. I’m with you. It all comes down to the mystery. Job never gets answers, not even in the end of the book. Who knows if he ever found out why he faced what he faced? I imagine maybe by now he knows.

    But in the end, there was something in the presence of God that was able to bring him to comfort, even without the answers. That last line Job says, “And I repent in dust and ashes,” is a terrible translation that has created terrible theology which keeps us from being real with God. It translates as “repent” a word that every other time it is used in Job, means “comforted.”

    If Job repents, the whole book is pointless (cause the whole book was based on the wager that Job would not sin if he suffered… if he repents, he sinned), but our translations say “repent” because we feel that Job has crossed a line and it makes us uncomfortable. If Job is comforted, though, we can cry and whine and yell at God “Why!?” all we want cause He is big enough to take it and through all the pain, somehow, even though we may never understand, we can “be comforted” in His presence and say like Job, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You.”

    I have heard many things about God all my life, but there is a mystery which I cannot fully know until I am face-to-face with Him.

  4. Well said, Kyle… there is so much of your dad in both you and Conner… 🙂 it makes my heart happy to see that… I’m sure it does for your dad as well.

    I never thought about the “mystery” part of God, before… this post has left me with a “hmmmm…..” thought…. I need to examine that more…. I think maybe you might just have the answer, Les. Yet I’ve never grasped it quite like that before….

    Thank you.

  5. This is a very impassioned and thought-provoking post, Les. I tend to look at the book of Job fairly allegorically, but I have a much harder time looking at the theodicies in Lamentations in the same way.

    These thoughts bring up many questions about our soteriology, too. It’s easy and somewhat simplistic to to blame Satan for everything bad and evil that happens, but, as you mentioned, God allows these things, at some level. Also, how much can we blame on Satan, and how much blame do we accept as part of our own broken nature? And if we maturely accept the blame for our own actions, we have to consider that Jesus came to save us from ourselves.

    I can’t stand to watch the local news these days, there are so many things that make me want to weep inconsolably. I doubt that I’ll ever know any answers in this life, but I still cling to His hope, and keep seeking the good God. Some days, that’s the best I can do.

    May God bless and guide us all, Les. We need that desperately.

    Love and prayers for you, Brother,
    Eric

  6. I confess that one reason I love the book of Job is that God clearly lets us know what He thinks of the opinions “Job’s Comforters” bring. As the recipient of that kind of “comfort” in the past, at least I recognize it now.

    As to the rest? Yup, mystery.

  7. I think we all struggle with the “God is Love” thing. We are told that God doesn’t hate, but over and over we see in the Bible the things that God “hates”. If we are honest, we realize there is a WHOLE lot we don’t know or understand about God. God says “Revenge is mine; I will repay”. I think about the finite and infinite and I have to say, I can’t really grasp the concept fully. But I think of how you can describe heaven with finite words but really not understand an infinite world. Our knowledge is limited and we know that God’s ways are not like ours. God has ALL the wisdom and we are limited to the small amount our human finite brain can process. When I think about that, I truly am humbled. Some things we have to pray God for wisdom, but a lot of wisdom is beyond our grasp.

  8. I Corinthians 13:12,talks about seeing darkly now&how its a mystery right now. Unfortunately,most of human suffering comes thur humans. We can just be innocent bystanders& have our lives totally devastated by their actions. Buchman should have been put to death years ago,im sure karen &Cole werent his first victims&our system knew it. Beyond “sorry” for your “Huge”losses. Jesus came to even our playing field w/ole satan,the father of all lies&heartaches. Since God gave us free will

  9. I don’t see Job, the book, as a commentary on God so much as a commentary on the predominant theology of the culture of that time. The folks of that era framed God as an entity that played the puppet-master with human beings. So I don’t find mystery in the idea that primitive human beings saw God that way. I do find mystery in the idea that people who have read the gospels still embrace a puppet-master sort of God.

    The best things that I have gotten from the book of Job is the idea that grief is a universal experience. Who cannot see Job struggling with denial as he originally speaks of God in cliches then curses the day he was born. Most of the book is all about bargaining, anger and eventually acceptance – Kubler-Ross’ grief phases.

    So, in summary, I think that one would probably have to have a narrow view of God (as Job and his friends did) to come to the conclusion that God is a divine puppet-master who sics Satan on his friends.

    Probably not something that most are able or willing to hear but at least something to think about.

    Hope all have a great week!

    Blessings, Bob

  10. Long ago during the aftermath of prolonged terror, two unrelated events began to slowly bring me back to life.

    One was someone pointing out a bible verse, “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”

    The second was spending a few years as a nanny for a wealthy family. This lifestyle put me in a position of being with people all day who I knew would not victimize me. The children were very small and brought me great joy one-day-at-a-time.

    So I just wonder if your little guy is able to have joy? Seven is not very many years in a persons life.

  11. Hello Les! You have a very powerful and strong story behind you. A lot of people would not have been able to handle that, and would have taken the easy way out. But you stayed strong, and persevered. Of course nobody would enjoy being a Job or even handle being a Job, but you did handle it, and you still are handling it. Quite well if I say so myself. Instead of ending your life with a period, you ended it with a semi colon. You did not close the book, you simply turned to the next chapter. Several humans, would get tired of writing and end the sentence with a period, or stop reading because the book was so hard to read. But the fact of the matter is that you didn’t. Although you might still be battling some things today, you still made it. And since you are making it, your sons will be able to make it too. You are making it possible for your loved ones around to persevere just as you did. That within itself, is more powerful and willing than most people nowadays. Continue to set a positive example in the world. We need more strong and willing people like you. All I have left to say is thank you. 🙂

  12. I think we’ve heard so many sermons/books/whatever on Job & other things that it is almost impossible to have a fresh look on something without these preconceived ideas flooding back to us. As far as God telling Satan to have a go at Job, I’ve got a different perspective on that at the first link below.

    I’m not shilling, these things just have long explanations that I think may help in some way if you take a look.

    http://love-god-love-others.blogspot.com/2012/10/satan-is-not-gods-attack-dog.html
    http://love-god-love-others.blogspot.com/2012/11/god-is-not-all-knowing-god-is-not-in.html

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