"Wrestling with God" by Diane Cowie
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God; Job 19:25-26 NIV
If anyone ever had a list of legitimate complaints, it is the venerable Job of the Old Testament. When we first meet him, he has lived a charmed life – nice home, great income, good health, healthy kids. His future was secure. But that all changed in the blink of an eye. He lost it all. It was agony.
Reading through Job can be a chore at times, slogging through the conversations Job has with his “friends.” (“With friends like these, who needs enemies?” applies here.) But for those who persevere to the end of the book, we can gain insight about going through hard times.
When Job finds himself at an all-time low, he doesn’t curse God and die – a suggestion from his wife. He decides to deal with life the way it is. In Job 1:21 he has already declared, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Then his physical pain and suffering increase. His sores are legendary. He complains that he wishes he’d never been born, and more words of distress were recorded than words of praise.
Job clearly discerns the truth of his situation. He doesn’t deny that his life is beyond awful. A case of bad breath that makes his dear wife avoid him (19:17) is one of his many laments. Lamenting has its place in a balanced life. It gives us a chance to work through grief. It is not an indictment about our spirituality or lack thereof. To lament is to recognize what we have lost, and gives us a space for coming to grips with it. Job doesn’t cut short the grieving time by plastering on a fake smile and claiming victory over disaster.
In addition to the physical distress, Job has the emotional stress (6:14-15,16:1-4) from his friends’ accusations. They are nice to Job at the outset, by not saying anything for a week. However, on day eight, the gloves come off, and the friends start verbally punching away. The attacks are often cruel. In Job’s case, people – even friends – could not be counted on to be his source of encouragement at a time when he desperately wanted some.
Job lashes out in anger against God, but God doesn’t abandon Job to his boiling emotions. He assures Job that He is all-knowing and all-powerful (chapters 38–41). Job comes to realize that he was wrong to question God’s motives, that he should show humility, so he asks to take back all he said against God. Then the blessing comes.
While the biblical text points out the physical and material blessings Job received at God’s hand, I have to wonder if peace with God was not the greater reward. I’m glad to know that my redeemer-vindicater lives, and doesn’t abandon me when I take issue with Him for what he allows in my life.
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