Have you ever met anyone whose favorite book of the Bible is Job? It’s a tough read. However, when I first met my husband, one of the many topics of conversation during dates was that of our faith in God. One day, he mentioned that one of his favorite books of the Bible was Job. I thought he was crazy. I always found Job to be a pretty depressing book, and one that was fairly difficult to understand.
In the years since, I have changed my tune on the book of Job. While challenging, the book holds with in it much hope for anyone that is going through suffering. In fact, I find Job to be a thoughtful and honoring glimpse into the human mind as the text wrestles over living for God in this fallen world. So many of the big existential questions that we, as humans, face in the midst of suffering are voiced in the words of both Job and his friends.
That still doesn’t make it easy to read. In fact, a casual read may easily be confusing. Verses taken out of context can completely change the concepts in the book, or the Bible for that matter. In the past, this confusion has led me to read through it as quickly as possible, which caused me to miss the depth of hope found therein.
Maybe you’re a lot like me. Sometimes, talking about suffering can be too much. Personally, I’ve been through a lot of suffering. Why would I want to engage with it more? Why would I want to read about someone else’s suffering when I’ve got enough for myself?
Or, on an even deeper level, maybe you’re just trying to “get by,” and fear that engaging in a discussion about suffering feels like it may just break you. You’ve gone so long pushing back the depression, despair and anxiety that taking any sort of look at it sounds utterly daunting.
I once lived with a family that owned a chest freezer. They bought half of a cow to feed their large and growing family, and stored it in that chest freezer. It was good meat. A wonderful blessing. Unfortunately, not too long after its arrival, someone accidentally flipped off the electrical circuit that the chest freezer was connected to, without realizing that the precious cargo would soon turn to rot. And let me tell you, the stink was real, my friends.
The unfortunate soul that discover the putrid contents of the non-functioning chest freezer quickly realized that the contents would somehow need to be discarded. Uncertain how to do this, they turned the freezer back on, in hopes of freezing the smell. Forcing the meat to halt in it’s decayed state.
And it worked. For a while. Except no one could use the chest freezer. The awful pile sat in the garage for weeks taunting everyone. It took up space, it used up energy, and from time to time you could still smell the stink. They finally decided the putrid meat had to go, but now it was almost impossible due to its frozen state.
I think sometimes we treat the stinky stuff in our lives like this family treated the rotten meat. We do the best we can to just get by. We freeze it in place, stuff it down and try to forget about it. The idea of taking a close look at our suffering is as revolting as taking a close look at rotten meat. We want nothing to do with it.
However, just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. When we stuff it down and let it fester under the surface, we end up with a bigger problem in the end. It drains our energy, it takes up our mental space, and it sometimes makes our lives pretty stinky.
In the book of Job, we meet a man that deals with A LOT of stink. He wrestles with a lot of the same questions you and I wrestle with when we find ourselves in the low points of life. Through the pages, he processes through these thoughts and emotions, voicing his complaint, lament and heartache to God. And God answers Him! Though, maybe not in the way we expect.
We will be taking several weeks to work through these ideas and questions together. I think we will learn a lot from Job’s story, through his words and God’s answer. Job dove right into the stinky stuff with God and I am so glad he did. He shows us that God isn’t afraid to go there with us, and chisel out some of the frozen rot in our souls. He shows us that God doesn’t shy away from the stink, in fact He’s in it with us so that we aren’t alone in the middle of it.
The key character in The Book of Job is God. This is His Word after all! He included this book in the Bible for a reason, and, just like every other book, that reason is to show us more about Himself. We will wrestle, along with Job, as we see God allowing a hard season to happen to a good person. And we will praise, along with Job, as we see God working out the stink for Job’s good and His glory.
In addition to Job, we get to meet his four friends. Here, we will get to see how even the best intentions can turn sour. We’ll see how they came to comfort him but ended up hurting him more in the process. I think this will be key for many of us to dive into. For those of us that know someone who is suffering, Job’s friends will teach us what not to do. For those of us that are suffering, it will help us navigate the negative effects of painful words from those that may not understand our challenges.
Let’s dive into the mess together, and see the hope found within this book. We can live the hope because…
“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” – Job 19:25