Picking Up The Pieces
Sermon Series: Confronting Our Doubts
October 15, 2017
The Book of Job is about losing something or someone that is very important to us…something or someone that is very, very dear to our hearts. It’s about the questions and anger and hurt and the pain that we experience because we’ve lost something or someone very dear to us.
But before we get into all of that I want to take a moment and talk about a phrase that we use to refer to Job. I want to talk about what we call the patience of Job. You and I have used the phrase the patience of Job time and time again to describe someone who has had to deal with difficult people or a trying situation and they made it through all this by having a calm, positive demeanor, so we say that person had the patience of Job…which refers back to Jobs patience during a very difficult time in his life.
But somewhere along the line we have mistaken Jobs attitude because while the Job we meet in the Bible is many things – he’s wealthy and he’s faithful – at the same time we find that he’s also a very angry, frustrated man who shows little or no patience.
Oh, he’s patient in the first two chapters of the book but in the forty chapters that follow he’s far from a patient man. He begins chapter three by cursing the day he was born and from there on he complains and moans and groans to his friends and to God about how he has done nothing wrong and how his pain and suffering is undeserved. Eventually he goes so far as to demand that God meet him face to face and that God give him a list of all his sins so that way at least he’d know why he was being punished.
To describe Job as a patient man as he suffers is to read only chapters one and two. To go beyond the first to chapters is to find that Job is not so patient…in fact, we find that Job lacks in patience and that Job is a lot like you and me.
To say the Job lost everything is an understatement. He lost his servants, his livestock, and all his property and then came the biggest blow – his sons and daughters were killed. In just one day (in seven biblical verses), Job, the father of ten, the wealthiest man in the world, lost it all and found himself with absolutely nothing.
We talk about the patience of Job, but that’s not what the book is all about. Job is a lot less about patience and more about loss…loss that can’t be measured.
Loss creates doubt. When we lose something valuable, be it property, or status, or a relationship, and especially a loved one, our faith is often stretched to the limits, especially if the loss comes suddenly. How do we emerge from the shadow of doubt when the things we value or the people we love are suddenly taken away from us? In the wake of our loss how can we continue to keep our faith?
Job’s story is our story; so with that in mind I think we can learn something from him. Look at how he responds to all the bad news. He stood up, tore his clothes and shaved his head. What he did might seem kind of strange to us, but what he was actually doing was going through the grieving process in accordance with Hebrew custom. His actions “were a way to give physical, tangible expression to the rage he felt at the world and to the frustration he felt toward God. Job’s behavior was a vivid, dramatic way to tell God, ‘I’ve had enough of this’” (Talbot Davis, The Shadow of a Doubt, Nashville, TN; Abingdon Press, 2015, 73).
Job let it all hang out as they say. He didn’t try to deny it happened. He didn’t try to put on a happy face or keep a stiff upper lip. He let the anger out of his system. When we’re faced with the unfairness of life the healthiest thing to do is to face the fact head on and vent our anger at God.
After all, if we go back and look in the Bible, we’ll find that people are always mad at God. The Book of Psalms is full of angry people who are always voicing their unhappiness with God. Jacob, in the 32nd chapter of Genesis got so mad at God that he spent the whole night wrestling with him. And despite all the anger and all the frustrations that are vented toward God, their relationship with God continued on.
God didn’t turn away from the psalmists; he didn’t turn away from Jacob, and he didn’t turn away from Job just because they were mad at him. And because of what we’ve seen in the past, we can be assured that no matter what happens to us and no matter how mad we get at God, God will never turn away from us either. He’s not easily intimidated. God has big shoulders. He can take as much anger and frustration that we can throw at him.
The truth is when we vent our anger and our frustrations at God, we are actually acknowledging that he is in charge of our lives. That’s why Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb; naked I return there. The Lord has given; the Lord has taken; bless the Lord’s name.”
Even in the worst of times, even in the face of excruciating pain and loss, God is still in control. He has always been sovereign and he will always be that way. He is present during the best of times and he is present during the worst of times. God gives…and God takes.
So in the midst of his terrible loss, Job’s words are meant to direct a question to us: You trusted God during the best times of your life. Can you wholeheartedly continue trust God when the bad stuff happens? Can you continue to trust the God that could have prevented your illness or could have prevented your financial loss? Can you continue to trust the God that could have prevented the death of your loved one? Can you wholeheartedly continue to trust the God who lets bad things happen in your life?
So why does Job, who was a righteous man, a man who loved God and walked the straight and narrow line of life, have to go through all of this and suffer like he did? That’s the question Job and his friends discussed at length throughout thirty plus chapters of the book. His friends believed that Job was being punished. He must have done something terribly wrong and he deserved to suffer for what he did. Job on the other hand maintained his innocence and said that he had done nothing wrong at all.
If only we, as the reader, could tell him that he is part of a test between God and the Satan and that he is a pawn whose faith is being tested. Better yet, if only God would show up and tell him what’s going on, I’m sure that Job’s mind would be put at ease knowing the true story.
But it never happens. Oh, God does finally show up in chapter thirty – eight and they have a long conversation, but God never lets Job in on the secret as to why all of this has happened and why he’s suffering. After all that has happened, Job ends up being left out in the dark and God was never even courteous enough to let him know what was really knowing what was going on. He lost everything he had and he’s left on his own to suffer without every knowing all the facts, without ever understanding why.
Job lived a long time ago but in many ways we’re no different than he was. Like Job, we’re never told why things happen like they do. That’s why Job’s story is our story. Job is left hanging with all sorts of questions as to why everything happened like it did. All sorts of questions…and no answers. And we are no different.
Maybe God allows disappointment to come into our lives to offset the glamour and the riches of the world in which we live…to bring us down off our high horse…to bring us back to reality. Maybe it’s because we’ve lost focus on what’s really important. Maybe it’s so that we’ll learn to trust him rather than being enamored with the things of this world. Maybe our losses are supposed to separate us from the manmade idols that we have come to worship…and maybe God is taking them away to show us that idols can come and go…but he remains faithful forever.
There are all sorts of reasons we could come up with as to why God allows all sorts of bad things to happen to us. And like Job we can sit around and discuss it until the cows come home and we will never, ever be able to completely explain why things happen like they do and why we have to endure the pain and the suffering that goes with it.
We’ll never know because it’s none of our business. God doesn’t have to tell us. He didn’t tell Job simply because he is God and he doesn’t have to answer to Job. Nor does he ever have to explain anything to us because God doesn’t answer to us either. So just like Job, the man who loved God, the righteous man, the man of faith, we too have to respond to whatever happens to us without ever knowing the real reason.
We can isolate ourselves from God and allow our anger to build up inside of us until it starts to gnaw away at us and begin to turn our faith into doubt…or we can turn to God to express our anger and bring our doubts and our questions out of the shadows of darkness and into God’s light. And right or wrong, we can depend upon him entirely to give us the strength we need to make it through the most difficult of times.
The Book of Job is a story about our life with God and at the same time it’s a story about the savage reality of loss…a reality that eventually spares no one (Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament, Louisville, Kentucky; WJK Press, 2003, 302).
Throughout the entire story Job challenges us to attempt to find an explanation for Gods ways, but God has his own purposes…purposes with the sky and the earth and all the animals…and God has his purposes with his people as well. So try as we might, the story of Job leaves the unexplained mystery of suffering unanswered. But the crux of the human problem isn’t the pain and the suffering…the crux of the problem goes back to our relationship with God. It’s a relationship that is based on confidence – confidence in knowing that our good times and our bad times are in God’s hands.
What Job lacked in patience he made up for with his faithfulness. After all this happened to him, Job tore his clothes and shaved his head and he “fell to the ground and worshiped.” Despite losing everything he had, Job chose to worship the one who could have prevented the tragedy in his life. Despite not fully understanding God’s purposes in all that had happened, Job still knew that God was in charge and that God could still be trusted. Maybe Roy B. Zuck said it best: “[Our] worship should stem from an appreciation of God Himself, not a comprehension of all God’s ways” (Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Colorado Springs, Colorado; ChariotVictor Publishing, 1985, 766).
Job couldn’t figure it out himself and after sitting around with his friends for days, they still couldn’t figure out what Job did and why he was suffering. Job even went so far as to ask God what was going on and God refused to give him an answer.
Yet Job chose to worship God simply because he had always been faithful to God…both during the good times and the bad…and God in return had always been faithful to him. God is in charge and worshipping God helps bring our doubts and our fears out into the open and into God’s healing light. Worshiping God during both the good times and the bad – it is not only the first step toward healing; but it is also the first step in strengthening our faith and restoring our trust in the Lord.