Responding to the Loss
Today we begin a sermon series on the book of Job. Which is great because I have been doing an online daily devotion on Job for a while now and I know that people have been struggling with it so my prayer is that this will help us all understand the story and meaning behind this wisdom literature just a little bit better.
I truly believe that one of the hardest topics we deal with as people in general, but also as Christians is the topic of suffering. Our lives and our faith go along just fine until a tragic event occurs that causes us to to jolted from our comfort zone into a place that we do not like. A place out of the ordinary, a place that is uncomfortable, a place called suffering.
I, like all of you, remember the major points of suffering and loss in my life. I remember when my parents divorced and what that was like. I remember my dad marrying his second wife and the difficulty I went through with that. And I of course remember the pain and heartache of the loss of my mom. The loss is a great hardship and perhaps one of the main reasons why these events are so difficult for us is because they are a loss. What I mean by that is that not only is something missing now, but it also means that the normal life that once existed is no longer there, and it goes hand in hand with the loss. Because of this tragic event not only is that thing or person missing, but because that is missing my life is no longer ‘normal’.
When life is no longer normal we sometimes have a hard time with doing the everyday normal things, but also we struggle with our faith.
That is the heart of the opening of the book of Job. Job has an amazing life with so much going for him between his abundance of livestock, servants, and children. He has pretty much everything he needs in life and he recognizes that it all comes from God so he makes sure (maybe even to a bit of paranoia) that he gives God the credit for it, and to make sure that all sins are atoned for, just in case.
Now what we have in our translation of the Bible as Satan is literally translated as The Accuser. Every time The Accuser is mentioned it always has the article “the” before it as if signaling that is the title of this heavenly being, not the beings actual name. The argument that God and The Accuser get into is all about whether Job has a strong faith or not. And it’s based on the fact that God believes he is upright, but The Accuser challenges God becuase Job has had a comfortable life. Job 1:9 asks the question, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Basically The Accuser is saying that of course Job is faithful. You have done nothing but bless him with good things in this life. It’s easy to bless and love God if nothing truly bad has happened in your life. So God, believing in Job, allows The Accuser to take pretty much every blessing from his life to see if Job will still have faith in God and not curse God.
Now in this story of Job it is a literal direct attack on him. The Accuser is allowed to take away all of his livestock and all of his children away from him. And in Job 2 we see that Job’s own health is also attacked. How often have you heard someone say that during a loss or tragedy they feel that God is attacking them or punishing them for something they did? It is probably one of the more common conversations I have when I meet with people who have just gone through a loss or tragedy in their life. They want to know what they did wrong to have God upset with them. Or why did God allow this to happen to them or their loved one. We want an answer to the suffering that has occurred and to accept the reason could be the natural world or some other reason tends to fall short for us and we tend to turn to God for blame or answers.
Throughout the story of Job we’ll hear plenty of discussion and arguments as to why Job is suffering and what sin or sins Job may have committed to have caused this suffering so we’ll leave that for another sermon.
This opening to Job shows us the universal truth that suffering happens. In Job’s story it happens to occur because of a debate between God and The Accuser, but the truth behind the story is that at some point in our lives we are going to experience suffering and loss. So the real question is now when will that happen, but rather how do we respond in the times that we endure suffering and loss? In a time of pandemic, which has caused so much loss on so many levels, from actual loss of life, to loss of jobs, and loss of physical contact and so much more, it is our response to that loss that matters even more than the loss itself.
The Accuser says it’s easy to love God when everything is going fine, but Job gives us a glimpse of what it is like to love and bless God when pandemics happen. When injustice happens. When loss and tragedy happen.
After tragedy struck Job responds in this way in Job 1:20-22 he falls to the ground and worships God. He recognizes that everything he had; all that livestock. land, and family were all things that came from God and are all things that would eventually return to God. That may have returned sooner than expected, but nevertheless they returned. At the end of Job 2:9-10 he again persists that not only are things temporary and all belong to God but also that in everything that happens we should love God in the good and the bad.
At the end of both chapter 1 and 2 the text tells us that Job did not sin nor did he ever charge God with wrongdoing. Even in suffering Job recognizes that everything is a gift from God and that all earthly gifts such as physical possessions and physical health are temporary. Job teaches us to give thanks for those gifts and that when they are gone it is a loss for sure, but perhaps we can miss the thing that is no longer there, but still bless and thank God for the time we had it.
God gives us so much in this life. We wake up, we have food, and shelter, we have so much to be thankful for. As hard as it is to lose those things in our lives maybe we should try, even if we don’t always succeed, to thank God for the time we had that person, or blessing in our lives for however long we had it. That doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt when it’s gone, when they’re gone, but ultimately to praise and worship God for the time it was there. To recognize all things in life and death as a gift from the One and only God who loves us and blesses us with this beautiful gift called life on earth. Suffering is not something to be solved or cured, but to be shared with a God who loves us during and beyond the suffering, and who provides all good things in this life. Amen.