This past week, in the Daily Audio Bible’s journey through God’s Word, we slogged through the book of Job. I know I’m not alone when I say this is one of the most difficult books of the Bible to process–if not the most difficult. In fact, a dear friend of mine believes that this book should not have been selected as one of the books of the Bible when it was canonized. I also think he’s not alone in that assertion.
For anyone not familiar with this book, here it is in a nutshell: it appears that God more or less challenges Satan to find any fault in Job’s faith. As part of this dare, God allows Satan to do anything to Job except take his life. As a result, Job experiences what I think is one of the two worst days described in the Bible (the other being Jesus’s crucifixion). In a single day, Job loses all of his 10 children and all of his wealth.
What’s most troubling to me about this whole situation is that God allows Satan to do this to Job. Or even worse, could it be that God caused this to happen to Job? I can hardly even consider this as a possibility, but Job 42:11 says this: “All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.” (NIV, emphasis added).
When I dwell on this, there’s a part of me that can’t help but wonder if my friend isn’t right about this book not fitting into the Bible. Whether God allows this to happen to Job or, worse, causes this to happen to Job, either way, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s very difficult to reconcile this picture of God with the way I tend to think of Him–a kindly Father who wants what’s best for us and loves us so much that it ends up costing Him His son.
But here’s the thing. With God, there are often 2 sides to the same coin–a deeper theme or high story arc than what you see at first glance. Jesus’s crucifixion, for example, made absolutely no sense in the moment. I mean, God was executed in the most painful and shameful way possible? Really?? But to those of us who have grappled with, understood, and accepted the bigger story arc, we realize that this was the only way that we could have been made right with God, and we also see that God is giving us a glimpse of the ultimate victory we who call on His name will all experience over pain and suffering and death.
And so it is in the book of Job. While I confess that most of the first 41.5 (out of 42) chapters of the book are terrible and I dread them each year I make this journey, at the same time I have to point out that there’s a deeper theme as well: through all his misery and suffering, Job never lost his faith in God. Sure, he was angry with God, but it never rocked his faith. And in the end, God appreciated Job’s honest anger much more than the shallow platitudes Job’s well-meaning but bumbling friends had babbled on about. In fact, God left it up to Job whether to pray for his friends to be forgiven for their foolishness (see Job 42:7-9).
And also in the end, God rewarded Job for his faithfulness. At the start of the book, Job was a very wealthy man, but at the end–in the last 11 verses out of 42 chapters–he was even wealthier:
This is all because he never lost his faith.
Finally, there’s one last thing to keep in mind from this book. Sometimes whether or not a story has a happy ending depends on where you define the end to be. By earthly standards, it makes complete sense that Job could have said that his life was over on that terrible day when he lost everything. Who would blame him if he had declared that to be the end? But he didn’t. And because of that, his story–this miserable book of the Bible–has a happy ending.
There are a lot of endings in this world that do not appear to be happy. Far too many people die sooner than they should, from war, famine, disease. Watching the news, it’s easy to conclude that evil has the upper hand.
But your definition of a happy ending depends on where you draw the finish line.
Most would draw it on the day you lose everything. The day you die tragically early. The day you lose your spouse.
But Job saw beyond that, and God wants us to do that as well. God declares that our ending is really just our beginning. The first 41.5 chapters vanish in an instant as we are drawn into the Light of His presence. Everything that ever went wrong in our life is suddenly made right.
If Job’s story can have a happy ending, so can ours.