What is the point of the Book of Job? That the innocent suffer? That the Lord simply picks on people? That sometimes friends and wives are wrong or that Satan is on the prowl?
I think a simple answer to that complex question is that the Book of Job simply shows us how to endure.
A couple of months after my first child died I was walking our dog in a large state park. I met a man. A man grieving.
He was sitting on a rock, gazing at the Willamette river. There were furrows in his brow, and a pain in his eyes that had been there a long time. His was the kind of internal pain that one sometimes sees in people that says that they are hurting, that they are tired of talking about it, but would still like some company... someone to sit beside them and provide a connection to the rest of the human race.
I let my German short hair, Elvis, frolic while I struck up a gentle conversation.
Though he was obviously tired of grieving, he couldn’t help sharing his story once again.
Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
His wife and son had died. Car accident. He had been attending a church for years when it happened. He questioned... everything.
Does it please you to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?
So this man, sitting above the winter-swollen river in the third year of his grief, told me, a man in his second month of grief, that he had not walked into a church again.
I came away from that conversation wondering many things. I thought about 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Was this man given more than he could bear? What of my own fresh grief? Should I walk away from the Lord? I had just found my way back into a church after almost ten years and this is how I am rewarded? With my hopes and dreams shattered? This man’s abandoning of God seemed to say that I would be justified to curse the Lord.
“His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
Is that what I should do? I told the man about my son Willy, and that I was still going to church. He looked at me sadly, like I was a fool.
Since that day I have met many others who are grieving. Each one approaches their hurt uniquely.
I never tell anyone that I understand what they are going through. We are all different. Even identical events will feel different for each of us.
I remember another man I had met in the same park the week before the gentleman mentioned above. He told me that he understood what I was going through. He explained that a couple of months before a dog he loved died. I was astounded he would make such a comparison. I made some sort of small sympathetic reply and walked on.
No, we don’t know how anyone else really feels, really experiences their lives... but we can see what they do in those dark times.
Some walk away. Some stand and hold firm to the Lord.
That is what Job did. He stood his ground.
As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit.
And that is the point of the Book of Job. It isn’t about the why’s and the how’s. It is about standing true. Job was a good man. The Lord was pointing out that He could rely on His servant Job to stand firm in his faith regardless of what happens. Satan believes that the things of the earth are what make people what they are. His point is that how many employees a man has, how much livestock he owns, the blessings of children, his health, those are the things that make a man what he is. The Lord holds that it is something deeper, something intrinsic to the man himself.
The Book of Job is about how to suffer.
This life is a brief gig. The whole thing runs its course in less than a century. But what we learn here, and what we do here, is far more important than what we buy here, or what we drive here, or who we know, or how many times our names have appeared in the paper.
The whole point is how well we follow these two basic laws:
He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "
Stand firm. Stand true. That is the point of the Book of Job.