My maternal grandpa was a funny, good-natured old guy.
I remember when he came to our house one time wearing a very nice hat with a big patch in the front.
“Dog chewed a hole in my hat,” he said. “And I said, ‘Get away puppy!’’”
Then my grandpa smiled. I seriously doubt whether that dog suffered any consequences other than being shooed away. Grandpa just patched up his hat and went on with life.
He was like that.
I remember my mom saying she and her dad had the patience of Job — that longsuffering guy in the Bible.
Now, as a kid, I knew Job had gone through some terrible stuff, but I assumed he was a “put-up-and-shut-up” or “grin-and-bear-it” guy — kind of like my grandpa.
That notion changed, years later, when I started studying the book of Job.
Found in the Old Testament, the story tells how Job was a very rich man with 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 female donkeys.
Why would anyone want all those camels?
What happened to all the male donkeys?
I dunno. The story doesn’t say. However, we do know Job was a big employer with many servants. And he had seven sons and three daughters.
One day, Satan comes to God. During their conversation, the Lord poses a question, “Have you considered my servant Job?”
There is nobody like Job who’s so blameless and upright, the Lord says.
Quickly, Satan fires back with “Do you think he does this for no reason? You’ve put a hedge of protection around him and everything he has. You take that away and he’ll curse you to your face.”
So the Lord tells Satan he can do what he wants with what Job has — but not to hurt him.
Human enemies steal all the donkeys and oxen and leave just one servant to tell Job what happened. Next, fire falls from heaven and burns up all the sheep. Only one servant is left to tell Job.
More enemies steal all the camels and, again, only one servant is left to break the bad news to Job.
Then comes the worst news of all — a big wind hits the house where Job’s children are eating and drinking. The roof falls in and they’re all killed – with only one servant surviving to tell what occurred.
Job tears his own clothes — a common sign of grief in those days — and then does something few people might do.
He worships God.
And not once does Job sin or blame God.
Satan returns to the Lord — who points out how Job has stayed true and kept his integrity even though the devil tried to destroy him.
The devil then basically says a human will do anything to save his own life.
Satan will be allowed to afflict Job, but not kill him.
Next, Satan strikes Job with terrible sores from the top of his head to his feet. The sores itch (and ooze) so badly that Job scrapes himself with a piece of broken pottery. He sits in a trash heap among the ashes.
By now, Job’s wife has had enough and tells him to curse God and die.
Job says she’s being foolish.
“Can we accept good from God and not bad?” he asks.
Some of Job’s friends come to comfort him. But when they see him from a distance, they don’t even recognize their poor pal.
They do something that’s probably good advice for anybody with a friend who’s in deep pain — they sit with him and don’t say anything. And they do it for seven days.
Eventually Job starts talking. Poor Job wishes he’d never been born.
At one point in his story, he’ll even say a tree has it better than a person. If a tree gets cut down, it will sprout green again. But if a person dies, he’s buried and that’s it, says Job.
As Christians we know we have the hope of eternal life through Jesus after we die.
And Job eventually will say: “I know my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:25-26)
But when Job is talking about a tree, he’s in so much pain it seems like even vegetation has a better life than he does.
Job also does something I found a little surprising - and even comforting.
He pours out his complaints to God. Sometimes, Job wants God to leave him alone. Sometimes, he’s desperate to hear from God. Job even wishes he had a mediator – someone who’d testify on his behalf.
Christians know Jesus is our mediator. Christ went to bat for us — to the point of dying on a cross so we could spend eternity with him.
Again, however, Job is speaking out of deep grief — never rejecting or cursing God — just expressing his feelings.
I think that’s a lesson for us. Like Job, we can pour out our complaints. I’ve done so quite loudly, especially since the death of my husband, Chuck, more than four years ago.
At first, when it came to talking to God about Chuck’s death, I was afraid to ask the big question, “Why?”
So I just asked, “How come?” (Yes, I know that’s basically asking the same thing.)
Then I realized something.
Even Jesus asked, “Why?”
Don’t you remember?
The Scriptures record that darkness covered the land for about three hours while Jesus was dying on the cross. Then he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Commentary by Donald C. Stamps in the Fire Bible says Jesus wasn’t just suffering from excruciating physical torture, but horrible separation from God the father. And although he’d never sinned, Jesus took on the full weight of guilt and punishment for every sin which ever was and will be committed.
“No human ever endured just a strong sense of judgment and isolation from God … He died forsaken so that we would never have to be forsaken,” Stamps wrote.*
By his death, Christ restored those who trust him into a right relationship with our Lord, who is a God of mercy and justice.
Sometimes, we say nobody can ever know what we’ve gone through at times in our lives. But how can any of us know everything Christ suffered on the cross?
I don’t know if Jesus got the answer to his “why?” question while he was still on the cross.
But I think he knows why now when he looks at us — when he sees a sweet child’s face or watches a guy tenderly caring for his invalid wife or listens to the quiet prayer of anyone who’s decided to forgive someone who really hurt them.
It is with that same love — both fierce and tender — that he cares for us. If our Heavenly Father loved us so much that he sent his only son and if Jesus loved us so much that he died for us, can we trust our God to carry us through this life and into the next?
I’m sure Job wondered why all those bad things happened to him, but if you read the rest of the story you’ll learn that God later blessed Job with twice the livestock he had before and seven more sons and three more daughters.
I plan to write more about Job in upcoming weeks, because I think we can learn so many lessons from his story.
In the meantime, I like to imagine how much Job is probably enjoying himself in heaven – a place without loss, sadness or pain.
And I’d like to think he’s had at least one good conversation with my grandpa.
* Fire Bible, English Standard Version, Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, page 1590