Tuesday, 25 March 2014

After Much Tribulation Come the Blessings

In a time and age we no longer know much about there lived a man whose name was Job, known by all as good, upright and honourable. He was also wealthy, with huge herds of sheep, camels, oxen and asses. What really brought Job joy were his seven sons and three daughters, for whom he built each a house. His sons and daughters were great friends and would gather at each others houses to have fun and enjoy one another’s company.

One day, whilst his sons and daughters were visiting each other, a messenger came to Job telling him the dreadful news that some robbers had attacked and killed his plowman, taken his oxen and all of his asses.  Whilst he was being informed of this, another messenger came and told him that fire, had come down out of the sky and burned all his sheep. All seven thousand of them!

Job must have been astonished at this bizarre and awful news but imagine his shock when yet another messenger came running to tell him that some Chaldeans had come and taken all his camels too!

            None of these terrible events prepared him though, for the news that the final messenger brought. His seven sons and three daughters had all been killed. A strong wind had shaken the house until it had collapsed around them.

            In the space of one day Job had lost everything. He was in a complete state of shock and grief. When he woke the following morning his whole body covered with sores.  His wife told him that God must have abandoned him, that he should curse God and die. Job sat in the ashes and didn’t want to just die, he wished that he had never been born at all. He had lost all sense of purpose in life and sank into deep despair.

            It wasn’t long before news of Jobs incredible tragedies came to be known to his friends, three of which came to visit him and tried to offer him comfort. But rather than comfort, they became yet another trial. They reprimanded him for having secretly sinned and urged him to confess to them. Job began to wonder, maybe he was being punished, but he couldn’t figure out for what. He began to search for answers to the question, why is this happening to me?

            Job examined his heart and found nothing there that could justify such punishment and treatment from God. In fact, he argued, there are men far worse and ignorant of God who die surrounded by their family, wealth and in great comfort. Sin could not be the reason for all these things happening to him.

            As Job defended himself to his friends he found himself asking deep questions of God, of death and of life. Questions most of us probably ask too when we are going through trying times.

Job’s first question must be the most universal, asked of all people, of all religions, ages, races and situations in life. Why does God allow suffering? How can he be a loving, kind God, if he allows so many bad things to happen? Why does God hate me and love everyone else?

For Job, the answer to this question began with finding the deepest, most immovable part of who he was. In the midst of his trial he found his foundation. He declared ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him…’ Job knew that trials were given to test us. He invited God to prove and test him, he was determine to remain true.

Whenever we are confused and doubts threaten our peace of heart and mind, the starting point to regain that peace is always the same. Nephi taught it when he said. ‘ I know that he loveth his children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things.’

It is not for us to know all things. But the one thing that God does try to tell us over and again, is to believe with our hearts, to simply trust his love. I have learnt from my own experience that when I simply remember that he does love me,  my heart becomes open and ready to be taught. When I have any thoughts other than this, my heart cannot be open, I cannot be taught.

In Jobs account there is no evidence to suggest that Job found any lasting comfort in his knowing this and testifying of it.  His grief and questions continued.

Faced with the prospect of death, Job found himself also asking, what will happen if I do die? Yet again he found spiritual knowledge within him, prepared, ready to answer. He testified to his friends of his belief in the resurrection; ‘though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in the flesh shall I see God.’ Job did not fear death.

It is possible that Job, with everything taken from him and only life left, that he started to re-evaluate his priorities. It is one thing that many trials force us to do. To remember the things that are most important and discard those that demand our attention but do not give lasting happiness.

The next thing Job questioned was God’s justice. He pointed out that there were people who never acknowledge God, worship him or pray to him. They see no profit in doing so and live out their days contentedly, doing no real good and no real bad.

Job knew and recounted that every person shall be rewarded for the life they have lived on this earth and none shall escape in the end. Since Job trusted God and believed in the resurrection, he could also find sense in the eventual meeting out of God’s justice, and his mercy at the last day. He was not deceived by the seeming unfairness of life. God would make it fair on judgement day. Job had the eternal perspective

However, Jobs obedience and the strength of his testimony  did not comfort him. He exclaimed that God was hidden from him. He sought him, but could not find him. God had deserted him. 

Have you ever felt like this? That you were doing all you could that was right and yet still there was not peace. Prayed and not got an answer? I know I have. I felt that I had been obedient, hard working and good, and yet the spirit had completely gone and I couldn’t understand why I felt like I was sinking into a pit of deep despair.

The story in the bible says that Job had to repent before God accepted him. Even though Job was a good and upright man and others called him perfect, the scriptures stated that Job was perfect in his own eyes. He was not perfect in God’s eyes. This has been the same for myself. Job and I, although we knew what was right and did what was right, neither of us were really knew God. I discovered that I wanted to do good because I liked being acknowledged as good, and it flattered my ego to think of myself as such. Job and I needed to be humbled and reminded of exactly who God was, of his power and perfection and our unworthiness.

The fact is that even when we are doing our best we are going to be making a lot of mistakes. Being caught up in good works does not excuse us from the need to repent. In fact it is vital to our efforts that we do listen and repent. We could end up causing as much damage as good.

The poetic language of Elihu, the young man who teaches Job with the spirit, refers to Christ, of there being a ransom paid for us that our souls might be brought back from the pit. In truth there is not one of us that is so good that we do not need the atonement. The very goodness of the righteous can become a liability.

It happened to the Pharisees and Sadducees who were so obedient to the law but failed to recognise the Saviour for who he was. The Saviour cannot save us until we see the peril we are in. The problem with the obedient is that their goodness keeps them from many of the consequences of sin and so don’t feel a need to truly seek him, and come to realise their dependence on Him. Trials, and the humility we need to overcome them, help us see and remember our reliance on Him.

Knowing that tests and trials are to strengthen our faith, doesn’t mean that we automatically HAVE that trust in God. How can we get that trust ? By God proving to US that he is always with us, no matter what. We talk about trials being the test of OUR faith and trust in God, but they are also the creation of our faith and trust. When hard and difficult and challenging times come God asks us to put Him to the test and so discover that He will not let us down. That he WILL keep His promises. He is worthy of our trust.

In our trials we can begin to understand the nature of our Heavenly Father, accept and believe him when he says that he is all knowing, all powerful and will lift us up. When we emerge from a test it is our responsibility to take that reassurance through to the next one, so that we doubt less and conquer a little more. If not, we retake the lesson, and God will keep trying to prove himself to us until we get it.

It would seem that Job learnt this too. His end was greater than his beginning, the Bible records. Blessings DO come after tribulation, but I do not think that the most significant blessings were in the number of camels, sheep, oxen, asses or children Job regained after his trial. The scriptures say that Job SAW God. He came to truly know Him because of his trials. Christ taught… this is LIFE ETERNAL that they might Know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. Eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts and blessings of God.

In coming to know my Heavenly Father I have realised that God himself has trials to face. Being exalted doesn’t mean you don’t have times of sorrow. After all we, his children, cause him a lot of trouble. Enoch saw him weep for the world before the floods came. Christ wept for Lazarus, just before he rose him from the dead. He suffered for our sins in Gethsemane and on the cross and God the Father felt deep anguish for His Son as he did so. Our God is a God who suffers, and we want to be like him.

            Why then would we want to be as God?

Because God has power over all things, including grief and sorrow. I see God not denying his feelings, but accepting the sorrow and then allowing it to pass. He feels the anguish, but does NOT feel despair. He feels grief, but NOT discouragement, depression or doubt.

He wants us to be like him. Which means that we do not allow ourselves to be a victim to the evil which besets us. We need to sorrow in our hard times without succumbing to the temptation, to doubt or despair, holding on to our faith which enables us to keep His Spirit with us. Which is a spirit of hope, peace, love and also JOY! Yes, it is possible to feel even joy in the middle of turmoil because we do not discard our faith. This is what God wants us to achieve. To become people that no sorrow can overwhelm, no heartache ensnare.

The lesson that Job had to learn was that if we have trust in God then we do not ask ‘why?’ Trust simply doesn’t need to ask. We submit and we accept, and it is in accepting the trial we begin to gain mastery over it. In the scriptures, this reliance and trust in God is often called, ‘rest’, which is reassuring!

 I testify that blessings do come after much tribulation, I know this for myself. The truest and greatest blessings are peace, coming to know my Father in Heaven and a deeper trust in Him and greater strength for future trials that will undoubtedly come.

No comments:

Post a Comment