Worship from an Ash Heap
You know those "you can tell you're going to have a rotten day when" jokes? They always follow with something outlandish -- something that's really bizarre or out of the ordinary. Something like, you can tell you're going to have a rotten day when your twin sister forgets your birthday.
There was a man in the Bible named Job who had a really rotten day -- the worst possible day of anyone I've ever heard.
The Bible tells us Job was very wealthy. He had ten children and a multitude of livestock. Not only that, but Job was also upright, blameless, feared God, and shunned evil (see Job 1:1). He was "Mr. Godly"; God Himself bragged about him (see Job 1:8).
So why does Job's story tend to bother Christians so much? Because of what happened to him.
Job 1:13-19 tells us about four rapid-fire disasters that took away everything Job loved and owned: his children, his wealth, and nearly all of his servants. Here was this man -- a man who hated evil and loved good -- reduced to ashes. Everything that could've gone wrong in his life did. And what was his response?
"Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.' In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong" (Job 1:20-22).
He was an incredibly godly man, but he still suffered immensely. You need to realize there's no guarantee that when you come to Christ, He'll take away all your problems and protect you from pain. If you're godly, that doesn't mean you'll never suffer.
Look more closely at Job's response. He "arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head" (v. 20) -- all signs of mourning. He wasn't some super spiritual, emotionally aloof individual. His first reaction was to grieve. We need to allow people to grieve when they go through tragedy. It's a part of life. I still remember the phone call that came when my dad died; it was the same day my wife Lenya lost her pregnancy after three months. We all experience tragedy and grief.
However, there are three things we can learn from Job's response to suffering.
Our grasp must be light. Have a loose grip on the things of this world. Like Job said in verse 21, we came into this world with nothing, and we'll leave this world with nothing. Paul wrote, "Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20).
Our God must be enthroned. Job recognized that God is sovereign. In times of extreme suffering, how many of us would be able to say, "Blessed be the name of the LORD"? That's rare; that's unexpected; that's worship. Worship is the act of placing God above everyone and everything else in life.
Our goal must be submission. We must take our rightful place before the Lord. A better translation of verse 22 would be, "Job didn't sin by blaming God for the calamity." Job didn't have a rational or even a theological explanation for his suffering, but still he trusted and worshiped God. If Job was able to do that, we can too.
We may never know while we're here on this earth why certain things happen to us. But we do know God is always on the throne. May we never trade in the things we do know for the things we don't yet know.
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