He had always been a cautious man. He had no love of guesswork or speculation, and risk-taking bothered him. He had accumulated his wealth by the blessing of abundant natural increase, and he was careful correct and God-fearing in all that he did. Always conscientious, he was perpetually scrupulous in his dealings with God and man, and even made sacrifices on his children’s behalf, in case they, in the carelessness of youth, should fall into sin and offend their maker. He was a great man, the wealthiest in those parts, and had no idea how much that irritated the envy of his friends. “Surely he couldn’t have got all this by honest means?” they would wonder.
Secure in his safe and upright life, he had no expectation of calamity. But there are things that happen in realms beyond human knowledge or control which can directly affect a man’s existence, and so it came to be. In a single day, all his wealth was taken from him: seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys. And as if this wasn’t calamity enough, he lost all his children: seven sons and three daughters, destroyed by a mighty wind that blew the house down on top of them even while they feasted and drank.
Numb with horror, he sought refuge in the rituals of grieving, tearing his robe and shaving his head. They gave a structure to his pain, even as he reached out and clung blindly to the God whose goodness he was still willing to declare. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away,” he cried out in his anguish, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” He held on fast to his belief in the goodness of God.
But worse was to come – the affliction of his own body as well with painful sores from head to toe. There was no place, sleeping or waking, in mind or in body, that he could find any respite from his pain. Everything had come unraveled. Yet still he held on. God was good. It was the only thing he had left.
Even his wife had given up and told him to “Curse God and die!” But still he held on.
His friends came. At first, overwhelmed by such calamity, they simply sat with him in his pain. But when the first shock had passed, they began to wonder, and, human-like, found dagger-sharp words to house their half-formed thoughts. If Job was suffering so much, he must have done something to deserve it. They had always suspected there was something wrong. What was the real reason God was punishing him, they asked. Wasn’t it time to confess the truth? But he still held on. He held fast to the goodness of God and his own innocence.
In the end it was God who answered, overturning their petty, self-protective theologies with the mighty wind of His Spirit. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Designed the stars? Crafted the uniqueness of each creature? Can you comprehend the secret counsels of God?”
They were overwhelmed by His majesty and wisdom, pierced to the heart by His truth. And, stunned and broken with wonder, Job held on to the truth he knew. God was God, and he was but a man, a finite man who had presumed to speak of things he knew nothing of. “I had heard of You, I thought I knew You, but now I have glimpsed something so much greater, I repent of my small, careful theology.”
And in the end he knew that the God he had been trying to hold onto had in fact been marvelously and lovingly holding onto him