The story of Job as told in the Hebrew scriptures – also part of the Old Testament canon of the Christian bible – has mystified ministers, theologians, and laymen alike for centuries. What are the odds a knucklehead like me is going to unravel it in a couple hundred word blog post? Nil. Will that stop me from trying? No chance, Lance.
For those who aren’t familiar with the book, it tells the story of Satan trying to convince God that a good man named Job (rhymes with “robe”) is only faithful because he has been blessed with so much. To prove Job’s faithfulness, God allows the devil to put the man through a series of intense trials. In spite of the loss of all his possessions, health, friends, and family, Job doesn’t give up on God.
The questions are many. Why would a loving God allow such a decent human being to suffer untold misery simply to prove a point to his Arch Enemy? Why does God feel the need to prove anything to Beelzebub? Why is He even dealing with the Evil One? Do those two hang out a lot? When did these events take place? What lessons are we to take away from this strange tale?
The most critical question from my perspective is this: Is “Job” a true story? If it isn’t, most of those other questions disappear. Poof. They’re no longer meaningful.
I can hear my more conservative friends shouting, “What?!? Surely you aren’t suggesting that part of the bible isn’t true!” Well, yes. In fact, there are a lot of sections of scripture that aren’t meant to be taken as truth, in the sense that they describe events that have actually occurred. Jesus specialized in them. They’re called parables.
In another, very real sense, those parables are as true as this morning’s newspaper. (More true, for the cynical among us, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) The lessons they teach are not only true, they’re timeless. I would humbly suggest that the “parable of Job” falls into that category.
People with advanced MS might have a singular insight into Job’s struggles. Some have lost everything: health, jobs, friends, mates, and possessions to MS’s greedy grasp. Some can still say with Job,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
But who could blame those who fail that test?
There are plenty of lessons to be drawn from Job’s tragedy:
- Remaining faithful in the face of trials is difficult but worth the effort.
- The inscrutable Nature of Things in general and God in particular.
- Supporting rather than attacking those who are down and out is a Good Thing. (Seems kind of obvious if you think about it, but Job’s buds must have missed the memo.)
To me the biggest point is that the story has a happy ending. Job remains faithful. God restores his fortunes and shames his fair-weather friends.
The lesson extends to us today. God promises that His story has a happy ending. All our pain is removed and tears are dried in a place where suffering isn’t even a memory.
You may write this off as classic “pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by” and you may be right. You might also be wrong. It’s hard (and uncomfortable) to imagine it while lazing about in our first world luxury but everyone suffers some and most suffer a great deal, from sickness, oppression, poverty, and other forces outside their control. To what else can someone suffering in this world cling?
The alternative is another old philosophy: “Life stinks and then you die.”
Which makes for a better outlook on life for someone living with MS, where every day is a struggle, even the simplest task is a major chore?
I’ll take hope.
Note: For the coolest retelling of Job’s story, you must listen to “Song of Job” by one of the great but sadly shortlived bands from the 70’s: Seatrain. You can hear it on YouTube here. Highly recommended.