So things have been a bit difficult around our homestead lately. I'm not going to get into it here, because that's not what this blog is for, but suffice it to say, the hits just keep on coming! Well, my wife and I have taken to joking that we are like Job as we are 'suffering many tribulations'.
So my whole life, I had heard the expression "the patience of Job." as in, "those kids are so rambunctious, their mother must have the patience of Job."
Well, I had never actually read the book of job and figuring that after all I heard it must be a stellar example of patience through adversity, which I am certainly running short on, maybe I should give it a look. So I did.
First off, it's pretty long. Forty-two chapters! How am I supposed to suffer through this to find patience? But I forged ahead and over two days, I read the book of Job. As a side note, I was finishing it during down time at work by reading it online. When you're reading something online that says "Job" across the top of the page, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for your boss. Just a tip from your uncle P.D.O.
Anyway, after my initial reading I was left perplexed. 'What?' I thought, 'This is the patience of Job?!? The guy complained to all his friends for like, fifteen chapters? What can I learn from this, I'm just as bad!'
Then it dawned on me that nearly two thousand years of biblical interpretation is a pretty serious body of evidence against a guy who read something while he was nodding off and in between fielding calls from cranky customers, so I looked a bit online. I was careful to try not to find someone that would interpret it for me entirely and I found, instead, a site that simply broke down the structure into synopses of each chapter. Sorry, I didn't save the link, otherwise I would share it here. The site pointed out something important that I had missed, but I'll come around to that in a bit. First, a bit about the story of Job.
Job was a pious and righteous man, so much so that God, while talking with Satan one day, points him out as an example. Satan basically says,"Job. Big deal, of course he loves you, you've given him protection and anything he wants. Let him have some hard times and we'll see how righteous he is!" For the record, I am just paraphrasing Satan here, it's not some laid-back, Cali, stoner translation or anything.
So God pulls His protection from Job leading to two trials from Satan. In the first, Job loses everything important to him, including all of his children, and he says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall go back again. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" (Job 1:21)
For the second trial, Satan attacked Job directly, giving him severe boils from head to toe, causing even Job's wife to question him by telling him to "Curse God and die." But Job says to her, "We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?" (Job 2:10)
Next, a group of people show up, among them three of Job's friends. Job and his friends then go back and forth speaking. His friends are convinced that since Job is suffering, he must be hiding some awful sins that only God knows about and he is therefore being punished. Job asserts his innocence, saying that he doesn't understand why he is suffering. He does point out that God is doing it, which is where my original opinion of his complaining came from. At this point, Job's patience is extremely tried. Not only is he suffering horribly, but most of his friends and family have abandoned him, and these friends are mercilessly attacking his character. In his duress he does speak angrily about God and asks Him why he was even born and why he cannot be taken now. Eventually, after the debate between Job and his friends, a young man stands up and speaks to Job about repentance for the things he has done and the way he has been speaking.
The next to speak is the Lord. He reprimands Job for demanding an explanation, and Job ask forgiveness, disowns what he has said, and repents. The Lord then defends Job to his friends saying that He is angry with them because they had not spoken rightly about Him as Job had. The Lord then tells them to offer a sacrifice (it IS the Old Testament, you know) and let Job pray for them. Job's prosperity is then returned to him doubly and for the rest of his life he is more blessed than ever.
What I realized after the second time I read it, is that at no point, even in his duress, does Job doubt God. He is frustrated, he is confused, he is upset, but at no point does he question God's love, His justice or His wisdom. Job only wants to understand:
"He has barred my way and I cannot pass; He has veiled my path in darkness" Job 19:8
Later in the same discourse, he re-affirms his faith while asserting his innocence:
"But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives. And that he will at last stand forth upon the dust." Job 19:25
So now that I feel I have a better understanding, Job's patience is in the way he never cursed God. He never doubts God's love for him. He accepts and endures his suffering as the workings of a just God that are simply beyond his understanding. The Lord rewards him because when things got tough, Job was still seeking God for the answers. The amazing thing is that I got that message by searching in God's word for the patience I need to endure the things we are going through. Incidentally, our tribulations are pale in comparison to Job's, lest anyone be concerned.
What Job's story leads me to ask is what we do when we are in a similar position? When you come to the realization, as we all sometimes do, that God's plan and your plan have some irreconcilable differences, what do you do?
Do you rebel?
I was a staunch atheist for a while. It was during a time when I was certain that God had no plan for me. So I assumed then, that there was no God and that anyone who believed or gave any time to that notion was a sad, misguided, ignorant person refusing to see the science right before their eyes. I was completely miserable for cutting myself off from Him and I didn't even realize it at the time.
Do you run away?
How many times do we put off going to reconciliation because certainly our sins are so grave that the Lord could never forgive them! Or perhaps some people will leave one church for a theology or philosophy that aligns more with their desires. It's all just losing faith and running away, denying that the Lord is loving or wise enough to want what is best for us.
Or, do you run toward Him and pray for understanding?
Do you have faith that the Lord loves you and wants what's best for you? The only way to understand His plan is to go to Him and ask for that understanding. God talks to us in a million different ways, but to hear, you need to open your ears and your heart to what He wants for you.
I was speaking to my father about destiny recently and realized that there was never any point in time when I did not think I would get married and have a family one day. There was a brief time (just before I met my wife, by the way) when I resigned myself to the idea that if I was not 'destined' to be a husband and a father, then I would make the best of it. But there is no question that this vocation was a part of me for as long as I can remember. Is it an easy vocation? No. Does it involve sacrifice? Yes. I struggle every day to go to a job which, albeit a great company, and a good job, is without a doubt, not the right fit for me. I don't do it for my health. I don't do it for fun. I do it for the benefit that it brings to my family. I have been searching for something more bearable for a while, but it is God's plan for me to be here right now. I don't understand it. I don't enjoy it. And a lot of times it seems like I am really suffering. But it is in God's hands and I know that He is leading me toward something that is best for me in my vocation. I wouldn't trade my wife and daughters for the world, and if this is where God has led me to provide for them for now, then this is where I need to be.
Guess I'll just have to pray that the Lord gives me 'the patience of Job'.