On Tuesday, we met my mother and my brother and sister-in-law for supper and then attended the opera.
After supper, we both drove to the concert hall.
I dropped Carla off in front and then went to find a parking place.
My brother left the restaurant parking lot after I did and after I finally found a place to park, walked all the way back to the concert hall and walked in, there was my brother already waiting for me.
When I asked him how he had gotten there so quickly, he told me that he had parked just across the street.
I asked him how he got a place so close and I had to go so far for one he replied, “because I live right.”
He was joking, but the idea is no joke.
We live by it.
If things go well, we think that we deserve it because we have done something right.
Do you remember the song in “The Sound of Music” with the line “somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
That line assumes the life understanding we are talking about.
If something good happens to us, it is because we deserve it.
If something bad happens to someone else, we look for some cause, assuming that they must have done something to deserve what is happening to them.
Of course, when something bad happens to us, we are puzzled because we are sure that we don’t deserve what is happening to us.
Trials of various kinds come to us in the course of life.
It may be illness, it may be job loss, it may be our car breaking down or anything else.
When these things happen, we look for an explanation and we need help to cope with the difficulty.
One of the best books ever written to help us understand and deal with trial is Job.
I don’t know which author it was, I believe it was a secular author, who suggested that Job is one of the most wonderful and amazing pieces of literature that has ever been written.
Job is not a simple book, but rather complex and having many aspects to it.
It can teach us a lot about life.
One of the lessons is the lesson of trials.
It has much to say about trials and how we handle them, how we understand them.
This morning, we will study this aspect of Job.
I. It’s Not Fair
When my brother said that he got a better parking spot because “he lives right” I could easily have challenged him on that.
Don’t I live just as right as he does?
As we read Job, we come face to face with the apparent injustice of trials.
!! A. Job is Good
Very early in the story, one of the powerful impressions that we are given is that Job is good.
In fact, this impression is sustained throughout the book.
We are to understand that Job is a good man.
This idea is clearly presented right in the first verse it says, “This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”
His uprightness is described in the verses that follow.
We particularly notice it in verse 5 which tells us that he even offered sacrifices to cover for the sins of his children that they might have committed inadvertently when they were having a party.
This evaluation is reiterated by God in 1:8 and 2:3.
Job 1:8 says, “Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?
There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
Throughout the story this impression is reinforced.
The uprightness of Job is further described in chapter 31, just in case we might have forgotten.
Job 31:1 tells us the desires of his heart for a pure mind.
In the rest of that chapter, we find that he was concerned to walk in honesty 31:5; considerate of justice for the oppressed 31:13; he had compassion for the poor and the widows, 31:16.
In James 1:27, pure religion is defined as looking after orphans and widows and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.
Job did all of this.
The word that is used to describe Job is upright.
When I was building out my basement, I soon found out that as much as I might try, and I didn’t even always try, I would never be able to make the walls perfectly straight.
We used a level and found that the foundation was not perfectly straight and the existing walls were not straight, which meant that we would have a hard time making the new walls straight.
If there was a plumb line or a level or a transit to see if people were morally straight, Job would have measured up well.
The word “upright” is a word that means straight.
Job was straight, there was nothing crooked about him.
Even after all the hard things that happened to him, Job 2:10 says, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
Job was as good a man as any on earth, in fact, God says that he was better than most men on earth.
Job was a good man.
!! B. Job Loses Everything
The difficulty of the book comes and challenges every notion we might have about how things should work when we see just how devastatingly Job experienced trial.
He lost everything except his life.
He lost all his possessions and became a poor man.
In 1:14, 15 it describes how his oxen and donkeys were taken away.
Job 1:16 tells how his sheep and servants were burned up, 1:17 talks about how his camels were carried away by the Chaldeans.
He lost his family.
In 1:18, we are told that all his children died when a wind came and caused the house they were in to collapse so that they all died.
But that was not the end of his loss.
In chapter 2, we read that on top of all this loss, he lost his health.
He was reduced to poverty and assigned to the ash heap to scrape his wounds and mourn the loss of all he had.
When his wife came and told him to “curse God and die,” we are to understand that he lost his relationship with his wife.
No longer was she a support to him.
As his friends came to mourn with him and sat with him for seven days, we think that he may still have something left on this earth, but as they begin to accuse him and find fault in him, we learn that he has also lost respect and the support of his friends.
He was utterly alone.
In 7:16, we learn of the inner effects of his trials.
We learn that he lost all meaning in life.
He says, “I despise my life; I would not live forever.
Let me alone; my days have no meaning.”
In the depths of that suffering, we learn also in 14:19 that he has lost all hope in God.
He says, “as water wears away stones and torrents wash away the soil, so you destroy man’s hope.”
Suffering is about loss and Job lost every possible thing on earth.
He lost his wealth, his family, his health, his wife, meaning in life and his hope in God.
He was utterly and totally alone.
He expresses his utter loss in 19:13-20.
In asking ourselves the question why bad things happen to us, we may consol ourselves with the thought that someone else is worse off, but Job could not do that.
There is no one who has suffered like Job suffered.
His lot is absolutely the worst.
He is described as the best man that could be and his suffering is described as the worst it could be.
The utter contrast is given to jar our complacent thinking.
If the best man who has ever lived could suffer the greatest suffering that could be, then something is terribly wrong according to the way we understand that things should be.
How Do I Handle It?
In a few moments, we will deal with this difficulty, but first, let us learn, from Job, a few lessons about handling such difficult times?
!! A. Yes, It Is Hard!
James 5:11 talks about the patience of Job and when we read in 2:10 that Job did not sin in what he said, we agree that he was patient and had perseverance and accepted his suffering.
But that is not the whole story.
Where was the patience of Job in chapter 3 when he began to curse the day of his birth.
3:3 says, “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’”
He continues with such expressions of hopelessness expressing the wish that he had never been born.
Where was the patience of Job when in chapter 6:2 he expresses the terrible suffering he was experiencing.
“If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales!”
Where was the patience of Job when a few verse later, he expresses the wish that he could die.
“Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!” Job freely expressed that death would not be as bad as what he was suffering.
Where was the patience of Job when repeatedly he requested an answer from God, when he accused God of hurting him without cause.