Rebuilding after Loss: the Book of Job
In the end, Job does get his happy ending, or rather a return to prosperity. God rebukes Job’s three friends, who ask Job to intercede with God on their behalf. Job’s family and friends come around him, comfort him, and give him silver and gold, which he uses to rebuild his wealth.
In the end, he has twice as many flocks and herds. He also has seven more sons and three more daughters, the exact number of sons and daughters that he lost. Job lives one hundred and forty more years, living to see his fourth generation descendants.
On a side note, you may be wondering why God gave Job only the exact same number of offspring in the exact same genders instead of double.
I wondered this too. As I was reflecting and asking God for an answer, a thought in the stillness came back. The children Job lost were not lost forever, but only for this life. Job did have double the children, half on earth and half in heaven.
While it’s tempting to gloss over Job’s suffering in the face his later blessing, readers shouldn’t dismiss his suffering as fleeting. While one lesson to be gleaned from Job is that suffering is temporary, we should consider his pain, particularly the loss of his children.
Job’s suffering wasn’t a figment of his imagination or blown out of proportion. He lost practically everything, except his wife who appears to have been subtraction by addition.
Perhaps no human has ever lost more than Job. Even his road to full recovery could have taken decades or even more than a century.
I can’t speak with any claim to divine revelation on the subject, but I suspect that one reason God allowed Job to suffer is so that his life could provide a template for how the godly should suffer. In fact, this entire idea of the righteous suffering to alleviate the suffering of others points to the Bible’s great theme.
Some might say, “That isn’t fair”–that God shouldn’t allow suffering, at least for the righteous. I have to point out that the greatest unfairness recorded in human history is that another righteous Man, this one sinless and named Jesus, died to pay the price for my sin. To repeat Elihu’s words, “‘I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved’” (33:27).
This is the ultimate takeaway from Job: that the suffering of a righteous man brings relief.
Now there is one final aspect to how the righteous should suffer that I didn’t mention earlier when discussing Job’s words. And I’m placing it at the end because it likewise comes at the end of suffering:
After suffering has passed, the righteous person rebuilds.
After all his loss and suffering, Job’s family and friends gather around him and console him. They each give him a piece of silver and a gold ring. From that point, with God’s redoubled blessing, Job starts over. It’s a long journey, but he ends up with double the number of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys.
Job also starts his family all over again. Of all the things Job does, this is probably the most courageous. Job lost his ten children in a moment, yet still he joins with his wife and creates life again. The days and weeks and months must have lingered as God knit each child together. Time was pregnant with both new life and the potential for heartbreak. Yet Job persists until he again has seven sons and three daughters.
Job rebuilds. As Proverbs 24:16 says,
“Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.”
This is the challenge for any follower of Christ who suffers. We cannot give up. We cannot lose hope or give way to futility. For we understand that God may allow suffering for a time. But such times are exceptions to the rule that God is a hedge around the righteous.
As I write, the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many businesses, mine largely disappeared almost overnight. Just a few days ago, I applied for partial unemployment for the first time in my life. I don’t know what life will be like when social distancing ends. I hope clients will come back, but I don’t know if I’ll have a business still at the end of this or exactly how I will feed my family. Many have it far worse.
However, as Christians, we need to be ready to rebuild.
We cannot let fear and frustration hamstring us. If we have to start over—in part or in total—we need to have the courage to do so. If we need to change and innovate to survive, then let us act. As the economic dust settles, we need to be in the forefront; we need to dream again, boldly leading the way to recovery and new frontiers.
And for those who haven’t been devastated by the last few months, here’s my challenge: Be like Job’s friends and family.
Be ready to help. Give gifts. Encourage. Support businesses. Tithe to your churches and give offerings. Donate to trustworthy charities reaching the needy. Yes, Job flourished again because God blessed him, but his recovery was hastened by his family and his friends.