“One day … a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" Job 1: 13-19
I’ve been studying Job with Oswald Chambers through his book “Baffled to Fight Better,” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers. The timing of this study is interesting in view of two phone calls I received Monday night.
We had gone to bed. I had taken my sleeping medication 40 minutes before and was about to turn off the light when my mom called. About a month ago one of my sisters discovered she has malignant melanoma when a mole was removed from her ankle. A week ago this past Monday she went for surgery again to remove the cancer that remained at her ankle and to remove the sentinel lymph node to see if the cancer had spread that far. My mom was calling to say that the results were back and there is cancer in the lymph nodes. Next week we will find out if the cancer has moved further.
Understandably, my mom was rather upset. She’s buried two husbands, a daughter, a step-son, a step-daughter and a man who wanted to be her third husband. Enough already! So we talked a bit. And by the time we were finished, she was feeling better. But the queasiness that had been in my stomach when I went to bed had now turned into a migraine. I lay in bed, churning the news of my sister’s health in my head and knew that between my mind and my migraine I wasn’t going to sleep. So I took a Tylenol-3 I happened to have on hand.
I was really groggy, though not quite asleep, when Tom, who had left the room, came in, turned on the light and shook me gently with an urgent voice. A long time friend had called to let us know that one of our sons had been in an accident. Tom was already half dressed, getting ready to run to the rescue but it took some time to figure out the whole story—partly because this son likes to embellish his adventures and partly because there were details he couldn’t remember or wasn’t sure of.
It seems he was riding his bike down a major thoroughfare, two lanes each direction, passing a parked car that chose the very moment he was beside the car, to start moving, pushing him into the other lane where a bus happened to driving. The bus hit him and drove over his bike. Amazingly, except for a pulled muscle in his neck and some bruises, he’s fine. But what a night!
It puts the whole story of Job in perspective, though the messengers on the phone did not bring nearly as bad news as Job received. What do we do when disaster strikes? When our world falls apart? When messengers start coming one after another to bring bad news? What do we do? What did Job do?
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and 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 1:20, 21
I must admit that my first response was not to fall to the ground in worship. Can I praise God when bad things happen? What if the outcome had been different for my son and we were going to the morgue instead of the hospital? Could I worship and praise God then? Is worship and praise reserved only for when good things happen and we are happy? The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. He is always worthy of worship and praise. Can I remember this if my sister receives the worst possible news regarding the cancer? Can you when you receive bad news?
Lord, I want to be able speak, do and believe as Job did when worse than the worst struck him in half an hour. Forgive my slowness to do this and bring me so close to you that my confidence is never shattered by what happens to or around me and those I love.