(Reviewing Road Reports archives, I came across this post of 8/13/2013. Three-plus years later, it still hits the spot so share it again along with a few tweaks learned since then…)
We were in our 30’s when some of the guys in our family started an annual“Boys” winter weekend in northern Michigan. Now the oldest of us are in our 60’s.
During those weekends when we were younger, we imagined what the years we are now living might look like, something like:
- careers on cruise control
- money for retirement
- children grown and on their way
- plans for our senior years nearly complete
Things didn’t play out like that for me. As I was turning in my mid-50’s toward a last push of accumulating for retirement, my life ship hit an iceberg. I didn’t sink but a lot of our cargo jettisoned into the cold, dark waters called “Detour! Change of plans.” As I tread water to keep my face on the air side, my faith in Christ became a lifesaver. A Bible story that resonated with me was Job.
The premise of the story is disturbing – a debate between Satan and God that turns into a bet, like roulette. After God singles Job out as a righteous man, Satan protests that Job’s faithfulness is all due to the favor God has bestowed on him – prosperity, health, family, and status.
Retorted Satan, ”But (if you) reach out and take away everything he has, he will surely curse you to your face!” (Job 1:11, NLT)
So God permits Satan to stack the deck against Job by devastating his livelihood, family and health. Then God puts all his chips on Job and spins the wheel.
The rest of the story is a series of monologues by Job reacting to his plight and by three of his friends who weighed in with their own views about Job’s situation.
Some friends, right? They lead off well with comfort and empathy but soon get frustrated as Job’s situation drags on. Their monologues bounce between offering hollow answers and blaming Job for bringing this plight upon himself.
In my early readings of Job, I used to camp on Job’s speeches more than of his friends. Knowing how God favored Job at the beginning of the story, I surmised that Job’s discourse would be the most right on. Also, I KNEW the other guys’ reasoning about what caused Job’s plight was off.
Now I realize Job didn’t have the corner on wise speak. In each man’s reasoning is shades of truth, speculation and error. In these discourses I was reminded that we all sin, all fall short and that none of us can make much sense of life sometimes.
Although God attributed righteousness to Job, his friends also followed God even though their judgment about Job’s plight were completely off base. In the end, they each admitted their error by dutifully paying the penance God demanded of them.
I see my own story in Job’s. A detour interrupted my plan and as I dealt with it, I groped for answers that don’t exist. In Job’s story, we see a victim dealing with trial while he and his friends conjecture about what happened..
When all the saying is said, Job clings to God so God wins the wager but Job also recovers to a new normal. Best of all, Job’s relationship with and awe of God moves to a more enlightened and practical place.
Clearly Job’s “rightness” with God is more about God than Job. Because God had Job, Job had God. Don’t you love the end of the story when Job realized he only needed God, not God’s answers?
Trial has a way of helping us to really “see” the God we only heard about before, and to truly get that God is always for us and never against us. When we respond by aligning with God, we win and the next detour is a little easier to navigate.
Job’s story illustrates this principle well. I hope my story does that too.
Here’s a good book offering insights from the experiences of the prophet Elijah: “I didn’t sign up for this” by Aaron Sharp