The book of Job deals with issues of faith amidst great suffering. The book appears in the bible in the ‘Wisdom’ section, along with Psalms and Proverbs, but historically it is believed to be a lot earlier, maybe around the time of Moses, or even Abraham.
The story of Job is a story of riches-to-rags-to-riches. Job is described as a righteous man who loses his family, his wealth and his health, but whose faith remains and whose fortunes are eventually restored. This is how Job responds to the news of the loss of all of his livestock and the death of all of his children.
Bible Reading:Job 1:20-21
Job fell to the ground in worship and said,
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord."
1 Timothy 6:6-8
Godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
In the security of our own lives, our homes and our country, we may simply read the story of Job as a theological discourse about faith and suffering, concerning a man who lived many thousands of years ago and many thousands of miles away. To do that, though, would be to lose sight of the physical, financial and emotional loss that many people face today, and the faith that sustains them in their adversity.
We may think also that Job’s simultaneous loss of family, wealth and health is unusually bad luck, but then we heard on the news of an earthquake in Haiti which killed hundreds, injured tens of thousands and made hundreds of thousands homeless. And this was preceded by both years of civil unrest and a pandemic and followed by a storm.
In the face of trouble and hardship we can respond to God in one of two ways. We can lose our faith and turn away from him in the misguided notion that he has deserted us, or we can do like Job, call on our faith and turn to God who meets us in our need and carries us through.
I sometimes struggle with Job’s notion that, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away’, but in the reality of loss and hardship, it is good to remember that God is still sovereign and that he is worthy of our worship.
It is also good to remember with Job, and with St Paul in his letter to Timothy, to hold lightly to our possessions, for we came into this world naked, and we will leave it naked. And let us also learn to be content with what we have.
Sovereign God, for all who struggle amidst great hardship and adversity,
be their peace, their strength, their comfort, their provider and their hope.
Blessed be the name of the Lord