Wednesday, October 13, 2004


The Berean's Book

That's what friends are for, all right. Job loses everything and those who
call themselves friends land on him with both feet.

I admire Job. Even God admits he's blameless. When Satan asks permission to
ruin the man's life, God says "Go ahead. He will not curse me." This is
interesting. Satan has to ask for permission and even then can only go as
far as God allows. "Do not touch the man." Satan, for all of his pride,
dances to God's tune.

This dance has some hard steps. Job loses family, land, flocks,
possessions. Everything but his health. He remains upright. God points this
out to Satan, but the Devil says that if Job were afflicted himself, he
would crumble. God gives His permission. "Everything but his life."

Job breaks out in boils. Pain in every moment. Yet he maintains his stance
on what he has perceived as truth: there is no reason for his torment. He
asks questions, raises issues, doesn't understand, but he waits for a real

By this time his friends have found out. Three of them come by to help.
Their brand of help is very common. Every woman who has been blamed for her
own rape, every man who has been told to stop crying and act like a man,
they know all about this.

This is why I never ask for help. This whole story has been burned deeply
into my soul and nothing is worth risking that kind of pain. I know I have
problems. I don't need someone else to come along and point out the
problems and then tell me I should buck up and smile. Or that it's all my
fault and if I were just a little bit different this wouldn't happen.

That's the route my brother went. He's dead now, of alcohol and
hopelessness. He covered over his essential fragility with a brittle
bluster, and he tried to teach me the same.

This may be the earliest sign of God's presence in my life. I didn't buy
that solution, believing, for reasons I never could explain, that there was
something better. I believed that everyone else in my life was wrong. If
I'd have known Job's story at the time I might have had more courage.

Eventually Job's three friends give it up as a bad job. Job is inconsolable
and refuses to admit his sin. He won't let them talk him into admitting
something he can't believe. There's a line here we all have to deal with:
how long do we hold onto our own truth? People who don't hold on get blown
every which way, but those who hold on too long, as did my brother, are
destroyed by their unchanging stance in a changing world. Job stands by his

So another friend, like the "closer" in a car deal, comes by to really
ream him out. Job is sitting there, covered in boils, dust, ashes and
sackcloth, and this nice guy comes along. Ken Medema wrote a song about
people like this: Hey, Goody-Goody, way up in the sky..." Job stands up to
this man also, He curses the day he was born but won't say anything against

And then God enters the picture.
"Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!"

Job, recognizing truth, replies.
"You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you
and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you
Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

God is sovereign. The pot can't complain to the potter about how it's made
or the course of its life. Job did the only thing he could have done when
presented with the truth: he rolled over.

At first I wanted nothing to do with God's help. Only desperation got me
through that. He started in small things. I made some mistakes and learned
that God never jumps on the downtrodden with hobnailed boots. He corrects,
but he doesn't hold grudges. He offers answers but, unlike Job's and our
friends, God isn't doing this to shore up his shaky pride. He has one goal
in mind: restoring the wounded.

God restored Job. Children, flocks, lands, everything and more. Job learned
something, presumably his dense friends learned something, but Satan didn't
learn a thing. He's still running around like a lion, trying to ignore his

May God grant us all the grace to become flexible before God, so that the
lessons can be gentle.

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