Have Facebook’s “Year in Review” posts been making you think like they’ve been making me? Call me overly analytical, but when Facebook prompted me to post my own “Year in Review,” I immediately began to do a little self editing: That picture looks awful. Do I really want to remember that moment when I was covered in whipped cream? No, let’s cut that out, put that in…and so on and so forth. Alas, it’s the trap of social media: picking out our highlights, taking 300 selfies just to post one, trimming and editing and moving until we can show the world: “Yes, this is who I am! Accept me.”
I don’t know if I’m the only one guilty of this self-editing trap, but when I looked at my year in review, I realized just how much was left out, how much I had deliberately pushed behind a smiling photograph or inspirational quote.
Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of days when I can’t stop smiling or really am digging an inspirational quote. But, I think it’s time to talk about 2014 really honestly. I’m calling it my Job Year.
I have been so blessed in so many ways. My family and I have been safe. Food has been on the table. So many blessings that I take for granted were once again given to me this year. So when I compare myself to Job from the Bible, I know it’s not near the end-of-the-world circumstances that Job or millions of people around the world face.
But one thing I’ve learned about pain is that it’s relative. Until we’ve experienced something, our current trials and tribulations seem to be as much as we can take. So with that in mind, this year was pretty much the pits. It seemed as if nothing was untouchable this year—family, friends, relationships, school and career opportunities, health, and mental/emotional stability. Everything that I seemed to find comfort in or have an emotional attachment to was taken away or hurt in some way. At many points during this year, I felt like God had let me fall flat on my back; and every attempt to get up led me to somehow get knocked down again. It got to the point that I honestly no longer believed in the goodness of God—my attitude had turned to one of fearfulness for what might happen next. My faith was completely broken.
If you’re not familiar with the story of Job, let me give you a quick recap. Job was basically one of the most upstanding people found in the Bible. He is described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1) Despite being more “good” than you and I could ever claim, a lot of bad things happened to Job: all of his children were killed, he lost all of his wealth and possessions, was deserted by his friends and remaining family, and even was afflicted by an incredibly painful disease, all within a very short time period. Out of everyone in the world, he might seem like the perfect candidate to ask God “What next? What’s the next affliction You have for me? How could You possibly make this worse, God? Clearly you aren’t looking out for me.”
So often these are the words coming out of our own mouths when something catastrophic happens. It can be indirect—watching the news and being appalled by the violence—or it can be deeply personal: divorce, death, the loss of a job. Our attitude of faith becomes one of fear, and in our anger we turn to the One that we hold responsible for all of our misery. I’ve found that this pain reminds us of three fundamental truths.
1. Reminds us of our powerlessness. Job wasn’t a very prideful man, but he was well aware of his stature and strength in the community. In the middle of his mourning of the loss of this authority and wealth, God speaks. Suddenly Job realizes how small everything he held in his hands are in the light of the Almighty. He has the appropriate response:
“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth.” (Job 40:4)
We spend so much of our time and energy seeking stability in wealth, reputation, and even other people. While these things have value and are important, they are of no comparison to the Lord or his plan for us. Sometimes it’s important for us to realize that we are not the gods of our own lives. We can’t hold everything together. Try as we may, what we have in this life will eventually turn to dust in our hands. Humbling? Absolutely.
2. Reminds us of God’s authority. Since we don’t obviously hold it all together, obviously someone has to. Job comes to an astute realization in the sense that all authority belongs to the Lord:
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 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.” (Job 42:2, 5-6)
It was only when Job was brought to the lowest of places that he could look up and fully see God. In the midst of his suffering, he came face-to-face with the human condition—the suffering and the grief that, as much as we’d like to ignore it, we all deserve. Again, Job responds with repentance. Notice that he hasn’t made himself clean or presentable to repent and cry out to God. He does it in the dust and ashes. We don’t have to wait until we are feeling okay or out of a situation to cry out to God. He hears us just as well when we are in the middle of the storm.
3. Reminds us that we are loved by God even when we don’t understand it. It’s funny to me that Job never understands why he was suffering. God never tells him that Satan himself went to God to test him. God tells Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8) Can you imagine being talked about like that by God? We might never understand the reason behind our suffering. At times it may be a test, other times, like it says in James, it is a development of our perseverance.
But Love always wins out in the end. In the epilogue of Job’s story, it says that the Lord “blessed the latter days of Job more than the beginning.” (Job 42:12) Of course, Job was never able to replace his lost family, and I’m certain that he still had days were he struggled with the grief of those low times. It also never says how long this restoration takes—it might have been months or even years. But I believe that Job was blessed because his perspective was changed. Being brought to his knees caused him to acknowledge who he really was—a man born with nothing. In crying out to the Father he was reminded that he deserved so little, yet was given so much. And just because he did not understand God’s plans did not mean that he couldn’t trust Him.
Being brought to such a low point at many times this year was important for me. Although I would never outright ask for those things to happen to me again, I realize now that they were instrumental to shaping who I am. It took months of very dark days and feelings of despair, but I feel like I have been brought to a place where my perspective has been shifted to one of dependence on God. I’ve learned to be humble, to become desperate for God, and to be more understanding of when others are in pain or suffering. I also have full faith that 2015 will be a year of restoration, of turning beauty into ashes, of new, unexpected, and wonderful blessings.
I’m praying for everyone who reads this post today. I’m praying that we have a year filled with so many blessings. But, most of all, I pray when the inevitable trials or difficulties come, we will be reminded of Job. I pray that in humility we will seek God’s face, and that He will help us to trust Him even when it’s difficult. Let’s have an incredible year.