Were you as excited as so many others about saying “GOODBYE 2020?” While the year 2020 was definitely a year full of challenges, frustrations, heartbreak and loss, it was also a year of blessings. Still, as humans it is easy for us to fixate on the negative. When I think of individuals in Scripture who faced enormous loss, Job comes to mind. Job is a fascinating story. While we will take the liberty to paraphrase and summarize much of Job, please take the time to read through this story this year. It carries with it some truth I think will help us as we continue on this adventure we call, life.
Basically, Job begins with a meeting. It was not a ZOOM Meeting either. It was a meeting in the heavens. The angels were coming before God and giving an account. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see a video of that meeting?! The book of Job tells us that Satan came too. God pretty much says to Satan, “Look at my servant Job.” Satan, the great accuser, claims the only reason Job is such an outstanding person is because of God’s favor on his life. God allows the enemy of our souls to test Job by taking almost everything from him. Job’s children and their families are all killed. Job’s wealth in livestock is plundered. After that Satan is even allowed to strike Job’s body with sickness involving a case of boils afflicting poor Job from head to toe. While Job’s wife is spared, she is not much encouragement as she prompts Job to just, “curse God and die.” Instead, we see Job making the famous declaration, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).” I wonder what he would have said about 2020?
At any rate, most of us are in awe at Job’s ability to continue to praise God when life is at its lowest. However, the book of Job does not stop there. It continues as friends of Job come “to counsol” him. That’s hardly what they do as they sit in silence for quite some time, then each begin explaining to Job that he must have some horribly hideous and hidden sin to have God take everything from him. Job tries to persuade his BFFs that he is innocent. The conversation gets quite heated at times until God shows up. It reminds me of what our dear Brother. Carrol Redwine has said, “Everything changes when Jesus steps in the room.”
Things did most certainly change when God began to speak from a whirlwind as recorded in Job 38. God asks Job many questions in order to reveal His infinite wisdom and power. Everyone is silent. When Job does respond he says, “Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth… (Job 40:4)” It is amazing when we experience God’s presence in our lives how we realize our own limitations and nothingness without Him. God continues His speech, and Job’s response to the Almighty is more awe and repentance.
Then, as we continue to read chapter 42, we see God turn His focus towards Job’s friends. He pretty much lets them know they did not have Him figured out and were wrong in many of the things they said. In fact, God tells them to prepare a sacrifice of 7 bulls and 7 rams, bring them to Job and Job will pray for them. They do so and this is where I think we should spend the rest of our focus. Job 42:10 says, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” I don’t know why I’ve personally not noticed this verse before. Yes, we’ve talked before about Job ending up with double portions of what he lost in this narrative. However, the connection to Job receiving this blessing is not without another positive response Job has in spite of his worst time ever. Job received the “restoration of his fortunes” and was given “twice as much as he had before,” AFTER HE PRAYED FOR HIS FRIENDS.
Pastor Ronny has often said forgiveness (like so many other things,) “Says easy, does hard.” Recently, I was visiting with a friend about this difficult task of forgiving our abusers. We agree forgiveness starts by making a conscious choice to forgive. Feelings are fickle, strange, often very inaccurate, and yet very real and very strong. However, I believe when we honestly pray and tell God, “Look, I’m hurting. I’m hurting because of them. Still, I choose to forgive them. Please help me with the emotions and everything else,” HE HEARS AND ANSWERS. Does that mean the anguish just disappears? Not normally. Does that mean we will suddenly trust and become BFFs with those who have hurt us? No – and it’s possible we shouldn’t trust them even though we are commanded to forgive them. In and of ourselves we cannot forgive or even love others as we should without God. Such things are the work of the Holy Spirit. His work begins when we turn to God. We may have to repeat this prayer, “God I forgive, please help me!” hourly, daily, weekly. Over time God helps us to forgive and the feelings become easier to deal with.
Another thing that we’ve been taught is to pray for those we are trying to forgive. Here in Job 42, we see a fantastic example of that very thing. Job prayed for his friends. Yes, the ones intent on telling him he was an evil man who was hiding some dark, awful sin. Yes, the ones God even said were wrong. God tells them to take their sacrifices to Job and Job will pray for them. Job might not have felt like praying for these “friends.” Still, Job was obedient and prayed for these men who take the cake as far as the old saying, “WITH FRIENDS LIKE THEM WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?” As we enter this new year, we probably all agree we need to be praying more than ever. While true, I want to encourage us to not only pray for friends and family who bring love and joy into our lives. But I also want to encourage us to pray for those who have wronged, abused, hurt, possibly even destroyed us in some way. Here’s a thought, let’s pray for our enemies. Let’s even pray for the politicians and others who we feel are so dishonest and corrupt. We, like so many, may have lost a lot in 2020. However, God is still on His throne. He changes not! He is able to do abundantly above all we ask or think. We may need restoration that only He can give. Job received miraculous restoration. It came only after he prayed for his misinformed, misguided, hurtful friends.