Summary: God gives meaning to our life by changing the meaning of our death
Has anyone ever suffered like he did? Sure, others have lost all earthly possessions. Many have outlived their children. And countless have been afflicted with sickness that keep one up all night. Job, however, endured all of those things and unsympathetic friends at the same time! And you thought your life was tough. No. I’m not suggesting that you don’t have trials. We all do. God allows these challenges to remind us that we’ve been marked “perishable,” and that we are helpless when it comes to changing the outcome of our life. While we are helpless at staving off death, we’re not hopeless. That’s a fact that Job struggled to remember throughout his ordeal. It’s a fact that we can count on because God gives meaning to our life, no matter how difficult that life may be, by changing the meaning of our death.
When we think of Job don’t we usually think of the man who, upon hearing that all of his possessions had been destroyed and his children killed, said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). We marvel at that amazing declaration of faith and forget that Job was more like us than we imagine. Satan, who was causing all the heartache, wasn’t satisfied to destroy the things that Job owned and enjoyed; he wanted to destroy Job himself. So he afflicted Job with such terrible sores that Job couldn’t stand, sit, or lie down and find relief from his pain. Job said of his condition: “When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss till dawn. 5 My body is clothed with worms and scabs, my skin is broken and festering” (Job 7:4, 5).
I’m not sure if there is anything more frustrating than not being able to fall asleep, especially when you’re sick and desperately need the rest and relief only sleep can bring. It’s bad enough having to spend one night like that, it seems that Job spent months tossing and turning (Job 7:3). Things got so bad that Job said: “I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine… Let me alone; my days have no meaning” (Job 7:15, 16b). Job had had enough. He was at the end of his tether. There was nothing he could do to improve his life. He was helpless and he was beginning to feel hopeless (Job 1:3, 6).
Aren’t you glad that God saw fit to allow Job to go through these trials? It shows us that there is no shame in feeling that we are helpless. In fact that’s a good thing. Only when we despair of ourselves will we look to the one who does help us. In his desperation Job called out: “Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath” (Job 7:7a).
Job turned to the right person but almost accusingly, as if God had forgotten him. Had God forgotten about Job? Hardly. It was God who allowed Satan to do what he was doing to Job. That might seem like a scary thought but it’s actually a comforting one. For it shows us that God sets definite limits for Satan’s activities. God had told Satan that he could not put Job to death. So while Job was very much helpless, unable to do anything to comfort or make himself feel better, he was not hopeless. God was looking after him. Like a father who won’t give his five-year old the heaviest suitcase to carry out to the car, God doesn’t let anything into our life that we can’t handle with his help and by his grace. But that’s the key isn’t it? We can handle anything; we can do all things, but only through him who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). So are you feeling helpless right now? Great! Let God work in and through you. Like the child who doesn’t attempt to drag the heavy suitcase up the stairs by himself but waits for Dad’s help, believers who entrust themselves to the Lord will see God do great things for them. On the other hand children who insist they can carry the heavy suitcase themselves will only become frustrated and may even hurt themselves.
Yes, as sinful human beings we are helpless but we are not hopeless. We’re sure that our life has meaning because God has changed the meaning of our death. Death is no longer a token of defeat; it’s a prelude to a wonderful victory. Job himself knew this and would confess: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25, 26)