Everybody knows the story of Job. He was a wealthy man and everything had turned out right for him. He had a nice home, a nice wife, good kids and a successful business. He was devout. Then calamity upon calamity. He lost everything. His children were all killed. Finally he was attacked by a disgusting disease.
Everyone he knew reasoned that Job was responsible for his own woes. His friends reasoned that he must have done something terrible to be punished in this way. Of course, Job knew that this was not true, and when his wife suggested that he curse God and die, he refuses. But he is perplexed as to why God should treat him so.
Of course, he doesn't know what we know, that he is being allowed to be a test bed of Satan to demonstrate that his faith is true, but he demands that God tells him why this is all happening.
God answers him, but he doesn't give him an answer. He merely scoffs at Job's presumption. Who is Job to tell God how to run His universe? Finally Job is humbled. "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."
In the end God blessed the latter part of Job's life more than he had the first.
I guess there must be plenty of people suffering at the present time. Bankruptcies and foreclosures are the order of the day. I am conscious that many of my readers have dread diseases. If not they themselves, then often a relative. Here a sister whose breast cancer has returned in her bones; here a wife with unresponsive lymphoma; here a father with bowel cancer; there will be friends who have been struck down with a brain hemorrhage, many who have lost their grip on the present as they wander down that dark tunnel called dementia. Others, who have not yet been diagnosed who are waiting for the results of tests, will be imagining the worst and be unable to sleep. The carers also suffer. How do you keep cheerful when all seems dismal and depressing?
For some it is not illness but unkindness. A lifetime partner who has left for a younger model. An angry silence pervading the home or workplace. The fat or skinny or lame or bald, who are the butts of everyone's jokes; I know it hurts.
Many will turn to the book of Job and complain that Job may have suffered but in the end he was given even more than he started with. They can see no way that their fortunes will be restored. "I have only death to look forward to; and that after a deal of torture."
But this is to mistake the meaning of Job. We must read the Old Testament through the spectacles of the New. Prosperity for us is not gold or dollars, new houses, smart furniture, jewelry and clothes from Armani. Today's financial shutdown must show us the hollowness of all that. Our riches and inheritance are in Christ and what he has purchased for us on the cross.
Stuart Townend says it in an unrivalled way.
THERE IS A HOPE that burns within my heart,
That gives me strength for every passing day;
A glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre part,
Yet drives all doubt away:
I stand in Christ, with sins forgiven;
And Christ in me, the hope of heaven!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
To make His will my home.
There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Saviour there!
Through present sufferings, future's fear,
He whispers 'courage' in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.
There is a hope that stands the test of time,
That lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave,
To see the matchless beauty of a day divine
When I behold His face!
When sufferings cease and sorrows die,
And every longing satisfied.
Then joy unspeakable will flood my soul,
For I am truly home