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Tammy Real-McKeighan

, Spiritual Spinach

My poor parents were so perplexed.

Standing in the bathroom of our small home, they couldn’t figure out what had clogged the toilet.

Meanwhile, I sat quietly in my bedroom. I was a teen at the time and should have known better.

But I flushed an apple core down the toilet.

Worried that my parents might find out what I’d done, I stayed out of sight after telling them the toilet wasn’t flushing very well.

My parents, Glenn and Evelyn, were reasonable people, but they probably wouldn’t have been too happy if they’d found out what I did.

So I remained incognito.

And I don’t know if I thought God would keep me out of trouble if I read the Bible, but I started reading.

Did I read the Psalms?

A story about Jesus?

Nope.

For some reason, I began reading the book of Job.

I couldn’t have told you what I read that day. But the older I get, the more I appreciate this Old Testament book.

The story begins when Satan approaches God, who describes Job as blameless and upright.

Satan then claims the only reason Job is so good is because God has blessed and protected him.

“But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face,” the devil declares.

So God lets Satan afflict Job.

Raiders take Job’s 500 oxen and 500 donkeys and kill all his servants, except one who comes bearing the bad news.

Fire falls from heaven and burns up Job’s 7,000 sheep and all the servants but one. Other raiders take his 3,000 camels and kill servants.

A big wind then strikes the corners of a house where Job’s 10 children are eating. It falls and kills them.

After hearing the news, Job tears his clothes (a sign of grief in those days), shaves his head, drops to the ground — and worships God.

Our Lord again commends Job when Satan approaches God a second time. This time, the devil claims if Job loses his health—then he’ll curse God.

The Lord lets Satan afflict Job, but says the devil must spare the guy’s life.

Job breaks out with terrible sores from head to foot.

He looks so bad that three of his friends — Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar — don’t even recognize him.

For seven days, they sit and don’t say anything because Job’s grief is so great. That was pretty smart. He needed their presence not their philosophies.

But his friends’ attitudes change when Job erupts with pain, saying he wishes he’d never been born.

Obviously taken aback, Eliphaz reminds Job that he was the guy who used to comfort everybody else.

“Shouldn’t your exemplary life give you hope?” Eliphaz asks.

That could be a lesson for us — not to put confidence in our own faith or good life, but to trust God alone.

After Eliphaz makes these less-than-stellar comments, he and the others launch into dialog reflecting a faulty belief that while bad people suffer, good people won’t.

They assume Job must have done something wrong or this terrible stuff wouldn’t have happened.

And they think if Job will confess his sin, then God will make his life great again.

But there’s a problem.

Job can’t figure out what he did wrong. He helped the poor, the fatherless and widows.

“I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame,” Job says. “I was a father to the needy….”

Because of this, people respected Job. Young men made way for him. Aged people stood. Princes quieted down when he came around.

“Men listened to me and waited and kept silence for my counsel,” Job says.

But since Job’s multiple-calamity situation, young men now laugh at him. Street urchins taunt him. Relatives and close friends have forgotten him. Servants ignore him. He’s become a stench to his wife.

To top it off, Job is in pain — physical and emotional.

Job mistakenly thinks God has turned against him and wishes he had an arbiter—somebody who could plead his case before God.

As Christians, we know Jesus is our mediator, who died on a cross to save us from our sins so we can spend eternity with him.

The Apostle Paul talks about this in a letter to the Romans: “…Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

In other words, he’s sticking up for us. He’s our personal public defender.

That’s great news for us, but Job lived about 2,000 years before Christ.

Poor, miserable Job. Sometimes, his pain is so great, he thinks he’ll die soon.

At one point, Job even seems to think a tree has it better than a human.

“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again … but a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last and where is he?”

I feel so sorry for Job at this point. His friends don’t understand him. He thinks God is against him.

Yet Job never quits on God.

Instead, Job says things like: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”

And Job says something so precious to many Christians:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God….”

Sounds like Job knew there would be life after his earthly existence had ended.

That had to give him hope. And it can give us hope, too. If we believe Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins; repent (turn from) our sins and ask Christ into our hearts, we can go to heaven.

And just as a tree needs sunlight and water to thrive, we need to pray and read the Bible to get that daily strength and insight from God, who speaks through his word.

God did answer Job with some tough questions.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” God asks. “Have you entered the storehouses of snow? Does the eagle soar at your command?

I don’t think God was being callous. He was making a point.

There’s so much we don’t know about God, who created the universe and sees the future that we do not.

In the end, I believe it boils down to trust. Do we trust that God, who sent his only son to die for us, is good?

One verse that’s comforted me is Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord of hosts, “Plans to prosper and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’”

I’ve said that verse with joy and with tears running down my face, because while I’ve suffered, I’ve seen God work in amazing ways.

Job, too, experiences God’s amazing grace. Job repents for things he’s said. God corrects Job’s friends. He has Job pray for them.

After that, God gives Job twice as much livestock as he had before. Job will have seven more sons and three more daughters.

And the guy who figured he was surely going to die — did so — but only after he’d seen his descendants to the fourth generation.

What happened to my misadventure with the apple core?

My parents unclogged the toilet and I never told them what happened.

But I like to imagine them laughing about it now.

And maybe even doing so with Job.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is a reporter with the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.

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