Is a memory of good times always pleasant? No, for a person adjusting to life after loss thoughts of former days of blessing can be bitter. We want to go back, but there is simply no way to return to the life that we once knew. Job was in his prime before disaster struck. Not long ago he had a vital sense of communion with God, but now where is the Lord? God was once a present reality, a great light of wisdom shining over him, directing Job in the way of thinking and living.
What was life like then? The Lord was in Job’s home as a powerful Friend. Job’s children were all around him. Was anything wrong back then? If so, Job cannot seem to remember it. All was shining with the light of heaven, and everything was plentiful in goodness and beauty, not only within his home, but as he moved out from that place of strength to be useful in the city square.
Job was not only a man of private peace, but also of public engagement. He used to take his place at the city gate in order to make wise judgments that would help those who were in need. Everyone knew this about Job. They used to see him coming and would make way. A hush would come over the crowd as other respected men stopped talking because Job was now there.
Then he would speak and everyone would remember again why they made their words few in his presence. Job had messages to give that fell well upon the ear, words that were heard and recognized as right and timely. Can we imagine what it would be like for a man like this to face scoffing rudeness now? And all of the disrespect that he faces has come to him not as a result of his transgressions, but because of his tragedies, and because of his unwillingness to own up to some secret unrighteousness that others presume to be hidden within him.
Now he faces disapproval in public; before he was approved. Job was once a benefactor and helper of people who needed to be rescued. People used to cry for help, and Job was there to hear and to provide assistance. Because of this, the poor and the lonely used to bless Job’s name, and even sing for joy about the man’s goodness.
Live for a moment with Job in the bitterness of good memories that are no more. Come mourn with him awhile, and with all the righteous who feel that even the blessings of the past have become a deep pain in the present. Feel the goodness of old days and know that the way back into the garden is blocked by an angel with a flaming sword, not because of Job’s sin, but because of God’s mysterious providence.
One day the memories will once again be sweeter treasures, but not today. Won’t you sit by Job and enter into a blessed past that has become a present pain? Let him talk; he only has three little chapters left before he will listen and even learn. Hear his words and become a deeper person as you discover past victories that have turned into defeats.
Do you see the past? There Job is at the city gate a few months ago, clothed in an invisible righteousness that everyone acknowledges. He helps the man who cannot see, and the woman who cannot walk leans on his arm. Here is a young boy running up to him, an orphan who calls him “father.” Job is on his way to the house of someone he has never met before. He arrives at just the right moment, confronts some oppressor, snatching the weak out of the jaws of the wicked. Later that night, when evening comes, Job drifts off to sleep in peace, thinking about how everything will continue for him and for his family, and how he will die in grace. People will listen to his last words, and his children gathered around his bed will weep with many who have known him as their friend and protector, people who are better men and women now because they have known a man named Job.
But now move forward to another day, the day of the cross of Jesus, and mourn not only the blessings of the past but also a future that seems lost forever. Mourn for the Man who fed thousands with bread from heaven in the wilderness. He healed the blind with a word and restored a child to a grieving parent. When He taught, it was not like any other teacher; He spoke with divine authority. He stilled the seas and He walked on the water. And He never sinned. They wanted to make Him king. But now everyone is ashamed of Him, and even His disciples run away. Someone spits in His face, and another slaps Him. They pierce His hands and feet, and He dies on a cross. He does not die peacefully on His bed with those who love Him gathered all around. He is lifted up as an object of sin and shame. But listen to these words that He finally utters as He breathes His last: “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”
Jesus was a great man who experienced a deep tragedy. Yet today, millions boast in His cross, believing that their hope has been secured by His death and resurrection. If we are companions to those who suffer deeply, let us listen to them speak about the past and mourn with them about the good times that once were and about dreams that cannot be. If we face loss ourselves, let us do the only thing that we can do: commit our lives into the hands of the One who gave His beloved Son that we might have a future and a hope, knowing that our present suffering is not worthy to be compared with the glory that will one day be revealed.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, we do not know how to return to an earlier day of joy and honor. Now we have been brought to a time of such loss and disgrace, and we do not understand why. What can we do with our new life? The old life is forever gone, for we are different now because of the suffering that we have faced. Help us to receive trials as gifts from Your hand, and to move ahead to the day that You have prepared for us. Surely You are doing some good thing.