Over the past few years, I have skimmed through Job. He is my model for facing the tragedies of life. Ever since I lost what I feared losing the most, Job's story has resonated with me. But my focus has been on how he dealt with what he lost and not on what happens in the final chapter. After all, I knew the end of the story and being cynical or superstitious didn't want to expect my own life to be blessed like Job's. However, as I read and not skimmed the final chapter, I was surprised by two verses.
"I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance." (Job 42:5)
Job's words throughout the entire book seemed to mirror my own as I struggled to understand why things have happened in my own life. Why didn't God step in and protect my children from the pain they have endured? Why didn't God protect those who served Him? Even though much of the pain endured was the result of sin, couldn't Almighty God have brought about change and redemption at any point? Couldn't He have restored relationships and changed lives?
In the end, Job has his moment before God and God puts him in his place. The questions of why are not the right questions. Rather, it is the question of "whom." It is not about why God allowed things to happen but about who God is. For me, I have come full circle with God, too. After a couple of years of railing at Him with questions and asking for explanations, I have come to a point where those things are no longer needed. For in the presence of the all powerful and all merciful God the only thing that matters is knowing He is in control. And like Job I can say, "I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance." (Job 42:6). In acknowledging God's control, I let go of the burden of understanding and rejoice in the assurance God will never abandon me.
In the past, I thought it was these words out of Job's mouth that sparked the beginning of God restoring his fortunes. But as I read closer I discovered something very different. God rebukes the friends who had argued with Job and required them to make a special sacrifice. And then God instructs Job to pray for his friends who have spoken incorrectly. It is at this point where God begins to bless Job.
"When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!" (Job 42:10)
Job's blessing is tied to prayer and not just prayers for himself but prayers for others. For 41 chapters, Job is most concerned about himself and why the tragedy happened. He laments that he didn't deserve such anguish and pain. He wonders why and how he will continue to live in such misery. In chapter 42, we see how Job is re-oriented and the focus moves from himself, to God and then to others. In my own life, I see how God's healing touch has shown me the same thing. When I don't worry about the reasons and accept my place in God's care, the focus moves from myself and onto others.
For Job, it is a two-fold action. First, he prays for those he feels anger toward. These so-called friends called him a liar and told him he deserved to receive the pain he endured. These friends didn't provide comfort for him but added to his pain. So like Jesus will later suggest, Job is asked to pray for those who might be seen as enemies. This is a difficult task for anyone. For myself, it is through God's power alone and in submission to his leading that I can pray for those who have caused pain to me or my family. It has only been recently I have been able to say even the simplest prayer for the ones who have hurt me. And it is only when I am trusting God is in control that I can even think about it.
Second, Job is asked to move outside of his own need and pray for the needs of others. He is called to mediate between God and his friends and bring them right in their relationship with God. Before my divorce, I loved praying for others. It was an honor and a joy to intercede for others, lifting up the needs of others to God. After, I could barely say the simplest of prayers and couldn't pray for anyone. It has been a great joy to me that this love of intercession is returning to my life. I find great joy in praying for others again. I lift up my kids, my friends, and others to God. I pray as I fall asleep and as I awake in the mornings. I honestly thought I would never pray for others again. Now, it feels like a miracle that the desire has returned. God is good.
I would never presume that I will now know the same abundant blessing that God showed Job. Rather, I see Job as a fellow sojourner on a road to healing and wholeness. Healing from bitterness and anger is an enormous blessing alone, how could I ask for more? I have seen God with my own eyes, what more could I ask for? God is good and God is faithful. He is in control.