23 October 2013

Job Had A Midlife Crisis

Scripture: Job 13-14 NLT

“Look, I have seen all this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears, and now I understand. I know as much as you do. You are no better than I am. As for me, I would speak directly to the Almighty. I want to argue my case with God himself. As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks. If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do. Listen to my charge; pay attention to my arguments. “Are you defending God with lies? Do you make your dishonest arguments for his sake? Will you slant your testimony in his favor? Will you argue God’s case for him? What will happen when he finds out what you are doing? Can you fool him as easily as you fool people? No, you will be in trouble with him if you secretly slant your testimony in his favor. Doesn’t his majesty terrify you? Doesn’t your fear of him overwhelm you? Your platitudes are as valuable as ashes. Your defense is as fragile as a clay pot. “Be silent now and leave me alone. Let me speak, and I will face the consequences. Yes, I will take my life in my hands and say what I really think. God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with him. But this is what will save me—I am not godless. If I were, I could not stand before him. “Listen closely to what I am about to say. Hear me out. I have prepared my case; I will be proved innocent. Who can argue with me over this? And if you prove me wrong, I will remain silent and die. “O God, grant me these two things, and then I will be able to face you. Remove your heavy hand from me, and don’t terrify me with your awesome presence. Now summon me, and I will answer! Or let me speak to you, and you reply. Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin. Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me as your enemy? Would you terrify a leaf blown by the wind? Would you chase dry straw? “You write bitter accusations against me and bring up all the sins of my youth. You put my feet in stocks. You examine all my paths. You trace all my footprints. I waste away like rotting wood, like a moth-eaten coat.

“How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear. Must you keep an eye on such a frail creature and demand an accounting from me? Who can bring purity out of an impure person? No one! You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer. So leave us alone and let us rest! We are like hired hands, so let us finish our work in peace. “Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays, at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling. “But when people die, their strength is gone. They breathe their last, and then where are they? As water evaporates from a lake and a river disappears in drought, people are laid to rest and do not rise again. Until the heavens are no more, they will not wake up nor be roused from their sleep. “I wish you would hide me in the grave and forget me there until your anger has passed. But mark your calendar to think of me again! Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death. You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork. For then you would guard my steps, instead of watching for my sins. My sins would be sealed in a pouch, and you would cover my guilt. “But instead, as mountains fall and crumble and as rocks fall from a cliff, as water wears away the stones and floods wash away the soil, so you destroy people’s hope. You always overpower them, and they pass from the scene. You disfigure them in death and send them away. They never know if their children grow up in honor or sink to insignificance. They suffer painfully; their life is full of trouble.”

Observation: I know that's a LOT of scripture, but honestly, it's important. Thanks for sticking it out. ;o)

In yesterday's reading, I saw hope in   words to Job in chapter eleven.  He was urging his friend to do what he had done in his own life, what had worked for him. "Stop worrying and defending yourself, trust God, and worship Him. Then He will pour blessings out on your life, and you can be happy again!"

But today, I heard Job's inability to grasp what his friend was offering. His misunderstanding of his friend's intentions, or the words he chose.  Job rejected that hope, and then went and ranted at God, feeling a healthy dose of self-righteous pity from his fleshly perspective.

The story of Job might be more like a midlife crisis.  His thinking may have been topsy-turvy with the whole "This is NOT what I signed up for!" that comes when life takes a turn that you really, really weren't expecting, did your best to avoid, and don't feel you deserve.  His friends, who love him, (Hello! They sat on the ground, silent, for a WEEK, people!), were offering hope and help as best they could, from their own perspective and experiences . . . but none of it reached Job, other than to prick and poke him enough to get him off of his rear and onto his knees.  Then he rants. He complains. He whines.*  And God starts doing cartwheels because His son is FINALLY opening up to Him, and is getting ready to listen.

*(I especially like 14:21, where Job complains about how when God strikes people down, they don't get to live to see their children grow up, and to see if they do well for themselves in life; I find it pretty hilarious Job would complain that way, when all of his own children were dead. It's like he was running out of things to complain about, and was repeating things he had heard others say, the way my children will when they're out of ideas, but their angst isn't yet spent.)

Application: This story of Job's is so much more complex than I ever thought before.  Up until yesterday, I thought the story arc went something like this: "Good man is tried with horrible, undeserved trials. His friends come to lord it over him, and judge him. He is humble, bears testimony of God's goodness, and God restores to him all he lost and more. The end."  But with the really difficult things adulthood has thrown at me, the way God has taken my life up, shaken it hard so I had to hold on to my marriage, my family and my faith, letting everything else fall away, has shown me a totally different story.  One where these trials bring out a weakness in Job that he learns to overcome. One where he is all tangled in his situation and despite the best efforts of the imperfect people that love him, can't "just get it right" or "get over it".

I also love how this new take on Job shows (again!) how, truly, God is big. So powerful. So forgiving. So purely patient. He has big shoulders. He can take our ranting, our raving, our complaining.  We can pound on Him until our strength is spent, and we can't hurt Him in doing it. He sees what we're going through, understands it perfectly, and has total mercy for us as we flail and thrash through it. And he LOVES it when we come and rant, rave, and complain to Him, because it means that we're paying attention to Him!

Prayer: Lord of Heaven and Earth, I love you. I just want to sing and shout to the skies my gratitude and my rejoicing when I stop and think about who You are, what You are, and how that makes everything perfectly and completely okay. Thank you for all You have done for me. For the way You love me without any reserve, without any failing. Because it changes everything. And I will never be the same. :o)

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!