When grief pays a visit.

I was reading the story of Job recently; a man who knew grief and the horror of sorrow.

Prior to devastation walking into his life, Job was rich, extremely well-respected and known locally as a kind, loyal God-fearing man. He’d been blessed with 10 children, thousands of cattle and a beautiful home.

And then one day, he lost it all.   His story of destruction seems to begin with a conversation between God and satan, where satan almost dares God to kick Job and kick him hard.

“You think he loves you?? (says my rough paraphrase of the devil’s words) Go on, take everything off him, all his lovely possessions…I bet you, he’ll soon be cursing you…”

And so it began.

In one brutal day, Job lost everything. As he sat at home, a steady stream of traumatised visitors arrived with shocking, desperate news….all his servants had been captured by bandits, a fire had fallen from the sky and wiped out his cattle. And just when things could not get any worse, Job was told that a freak storm had demolished one of his homes and all 10 of his children had been killed. To lose one child must be torture enough, but all ten?

Job is grief-stricken, broken, utterly devastated. His whole life and everyone he loved has been wiped out. His friends turn up to support him, but Job is so traumatised, he has lost the power of speech. His friends sit with him in silence for 7 days…and no one said a word.

As the days pass, his friends (unhelpfully) try to make sense of the senseless. They want a reason.

One by one, they conclude that Job must have done something wrong, he must have angered God in some way. God wouldn’t have dolled out such overwhelming pain, if He wasn’t trying to teach Job something.

But Job cannot think of a single thing he could have done to anger the Lord so greatly. All he knows is that his life is over. He scratches at the boils which have now covered his body and says that he is desperate to die. He isn’t going to kill himself but he wants God to finish him off and put him out of this desperate misery.

But death doesn’t come and Job, wracked with horror by day and violent nightmares by night, begins to think that maybe God hates him?

He tells his friends that for reasons he doesn’t understand, God is chasing him like a hungry lion, obviously taking pleasure in his tragedy.

‘My face is puffy and blotched from my constant tears…and still, still God torments me, shatters and stabs me. WHY God, why did you even let me be born, if you were just going to do this to me??? Why, why, WHY?’

Job’s story has 42 chapters and anyone who’s ever suffered, will read it and totally understand in parts, how Job felt. When everything is taken away from us, we try to find reasons, we wonder if we’ve done something wrong, we try to bargain with God and sometimes we even conclude that He hates us.

As the story unfolds, even though Job never loses faith, he still asks some heartbreaking questions, he holds nothing back…he’s completely broken before God, so he has nothing to lose.

This goes on for 37 chapters and the story is nearly over, when suddenly in chapter 38, God speaks.

Job and the Lord have an incredibly candid and honest conversation, but there’s no neat or easy answers to Job’s questions.

God doesn’t answer Job’s ‘whys’ nor does He give him a reasonable explanation for all this tragedy.

In a way, I find that comforting. I never really liked ‘easy’ answers anyway. Maybe God is just letting Job know that sometimes, tragedies and horror happen. There doesn’t have to be a reason or an explanation.

But, despite 37 chapters of silence, God was still there. Job couldn’t feel Him, couldn’t understand Him, couldn’t get his head round the horror story his life had become, but after a lengthy, desperate period of silence and darkness, he once again began to hear God’s voice.

And when he heard that voice, he stopped needing answers. He was still desperately in pain and reeling, but he didn’t need answers…he’d heard God speak and that was enough to carry him through.

I’m not even sure what my point is here, just that God is near, even when we believe He’s far away.

In the end, though his life would always be imprinted by the horror of losing everything, Job was able to say;

I *know* that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes.

And in chapter 42, it concludes; ‘And the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life, more than the former’.

Why he had to go through such loss and heartache is not explained, but there is a promise tucked away in there, which points us toward hope. 

This too, shall pass.

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