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Summary: Do we learn anything by passing through difficult times? A study of Job will encourage the people of God to realize that God always instructs us through the trials we are called to pass through.

“Job answered the LORD and said:

‘I know that you can do all things,

and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

“Hear, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you make it known to me.”

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

but now my eye sees you;

therefore I despise myself,

and repent in dust and ashes.’” [1]

Tornados—awe-inspiring, powerful windstorms that plague the American heartland—were a common feature of life in Kansas where I spent my childhood and the early years of married life. The state of Kansas is in the middle of what is known as “tornado alley.” The late spring to mid-summer months witnesses tornados, almost on a daily schedule. Cumulonimbus clouds rise and tower over the northwestern sky before they moved rapidly toward the area where labourers double-timed to get bales into the barns. I’ve frequently witnessed these powerful whirlwinds both at a distance, and from terrifying close proximity. I’ve witnessed the awesome devastation and grief left in the path of a tornado after it has passed. I’ve experienced abject terror as tornados passed overhead, and I’ve heard the testimony of survivors of tornados express their gratitude at having survived the terrible storm despite having lost their house, or having lost vehicles, or having lost everything except their lives.

Even after so many years, I still experience a knot in my stomach when watching even a video of a tornado as it is shown on a television program. Earlier this year, Lynda and I watched a documentary of the terrible tornado that devasted Joplin, Missouri in the late afternoon of Sunday, May 22, 2011. That tornado killed 158 people and injured some 1,150 people, causing damages of over 2.8 billion dollars. A woman I knew, a nurse who had gone to school with me, was killed in that tornado. I confess that tears sprung to my eyes unexpectedly as I watched the documentary. I felt a familiar terror as I watched the footage of that tornado and the aftermath.

A year after the storm, gleaming new buildings often spring up where previously there was total devastation. New houses and new businesses will be under construction. Businesses are renewed, and often because they were able to make a fresh start those businesses are leaner, more adept at responding to the demands of customers. After the destructive force of the powerful winds, survivors may be better off than before the storm. There was pain, to be certain, but the demands created by the forced renovation reveal some positive aspects that are not often acknowledged. While no one wants to suddenly rid themselves of all they hold, being forced to do so can result in some definite positives for those who pass through the storms.

Something akin to that situation occurs in the lives of people who pass through personal storms. Their lives are devastated through financial loss, through family disruption, through overwhelming health reversals, through any of a number of situations that can have an impact on our lives and on our families. Those who do not know the Lord, who have scant faith in the Living God, may be destroyed. But those who know their God may thrive through the trouble.

I encourage each listener to join me in reviewing the life of Job, taking particular note of his latter days. Undoubtedly, we have each heard of the troubles of Job, even if we can’t fully comprehend how horribly this godly man was tormented by Satan. When we do allow ourselves to think of what Job experienced, we recoil in horror at the thought that any of us would ever be compelled to experience the massive triphammer blows rained down on this godly man. The loss of wealth and the ability to provide for one’s family is terrible, but the loss of family, compounded by health problems so severe as to render one almost unrecognisable to friends, are not events that any of us could eagerly seek. Were all this to occur in rapid succession, it would be enough to drive us to despair and cause us to surrender to death that would appear inevitable. Death would be a blessing if we should experience what Job experienced. No wonder his wife counselled him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” [JOB 2:9].

I am well aware that I am speaking to people that have experienced hardships in recent days. Some of you are under siege by your body even as I speak. I’m speaking to people that know something about family breakup. You worked hard at holding your marriage together, but a spouse was not prepared to work to maintain the vows he or she had made when you were married. I’m speaking to people who have been forced to accept the intrusion of the death angel who took a loved one. Perhaps you buried a child—parents are not supposed to bury their children. Perhaps you watched your spouse of years slip out of this life and into the life to come. Whether you were prepared to let go or not, you had no power over the inevitable, and you were compelled to accept the inevitable, accepting the unacceptable. How do we cope with life’s pressures? When tragedy strikes, where shall we turn? What can we do after the whirlwind?

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