For a children’s message I wanted to illustrate Job from the Bible losing his family and his possessions. I said, “At any time, your calm and reasonable life can be disrupted. We stumble and fall!” So, to make my point, I deliberately stumbled down the steps fully intending to catch myself. Somehow, I lost my balance in the act of falling and hit the floor, hard. In my enthusiasm to make a point, I nearly ruined the service and one of my knees in the process.
To make matters worse, the ushers in the back peeked in when they heard the noise. They saw me laying on the floor, calmly closed the doors and said: “It’s just Larry, acting up again.”
Despite my idiotic flair for the dramatic, stumbling is an unfortunate element of life. At any time:
- The doctor asks to see you in her office to discuss a recent biopsy.
- Your employer schedules an appointment. There are rumors of layoffs.
- Your spouse confesses he/she is unfaithful and wants out of the marriage.
- A sleepy driver runs a stop sign directly in front of you.
- Recovering from the pandemic has been full of stumbles.
Caught in the middle of all this, it is tempting to panic: What do I do? How could this happen? What went wrong? Your world becomes a blur as you spin out of control. The pavement underneath your feet that seemed so firm and sure moments ago has unexpectedly shifted and you find yourself falling hard.
The best Biblical example of stumbling and the damage wrought is the story of Job, a prosperous farmer living in the land of Uz. Job is described as “the finest man in all the earth – a man of complete integrity.” (Job 1:8) But before you can say “stumble,” Job through no fault of his own loses his possessions, his family and even his health until he is left sitting on an ash heap scraping his itching, boil-covered skin with a broken piece of pottery.
Job cries out to God proclaiming his innocence while his so-called friends begin to offer possible explanations:
- Maybe, you did something wrong?
- Could it be your children’s fault?
- Somebody must have done something wrong!
- You are simply being disciplined.
- Don’t be angry with God!
- Shut up; you have no right to complain.
Whoa! With friends like this, who needs… friends.
But don’t be smug. Job’s friends represent our own well-meaning response when people around us suddenly find themselves stumbling. Instead of compassion, you offer cheap explanations. Instead of help, I offer pastoral criticism. Instead of empathy we offer slanderous gossip. Meanwhile Job, confused and even angry at times continues crying out to almighty God…
Job cries out: “If only someone would listen to me! I will sign my name to my defense. Let the Almighty answer me. Let my accuser write out the charges against me. I would face the accusation proudly. I would wear it like a crown.” – Job 31:35-36
Just when you think all is lost: “The Lord answers Job from the whirlwind.”
“Brace yourself because I have some questions for you. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who defined the boundaries of the sea? Have you ever commanded the morning to appear? Where does the light come from? Can you hold back the movements of the stars?” (Parts of Job 38)
This sounds impressive, but as I read this, I have more questions than answers. Job was asking, where were you when I was suffering? God says, “where were you when I created the earth?” What? “What kind of answer is that?”
It may be the best answer of all because Job comprehends who God really is. “I know you can do anything, and I was talking about things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me. I take back everything I said.” (42:2-3)
Wait a minute. What did Job suddenly understand?
Now may be the time to look back on a mysterious conversation at the beginning of Job between God and Satan. God holds up Job as a shining example but Satan replies: “Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason! You have always protected him from harm but take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” (1:9-11)
All the forces of good and evil are carefully watching Job! How would he respond to catastrophe? We see him cry for mercy, beg for answers and screams from the pain but when God finally appears? What will Job do then? We would expect him to continue to curse and complain.
But instead, Job chooses to trust and because of his courage and his faith all of heaven celebrates as evil is defeated.
- When the doctor calls? Can you trust God to see you through?
- When your spouse abandons you? Can you believe God is ever faithful?
- When a car pulls in front of yours? Can you believe God is still in control?
- When everything breaks? Can you cling to the one string God provides?
As we endure suffering and pain, we have the power to choose our attitude. We can go back to the way we were, or we can trust God to provide and lead us on the right path.
Studying Job fortifies your faith and strengthens your resolve. This attitude is part trust and part perseverance, which can withstand the worst tragedies life can throw at you. Sudden storms will appear out of nowhere. You will stumble from time to time. The question is: “How will you respond? What attitude will you choose?”
All of heaven and hell is watching!