Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)
Maybe you already know the story about Job. The Bible goes out of its way to make sure we know he was a blameless, God fearing person who did no wrong. Yet in one day, in one completely unfair trial of life, he is slammed with all kinds of bad news: he has been stripped of all his property and wealth, has lost his family, and finally his own health suffers.
Imagine in one day receiving the news that you have lost your job, that your family has been killed, and that you have now been diagnosed with a serious illness. How would you feel? How would you respond? I pray that you never have an experience like Job (although maybe you are dealing with one or more of these things right now). Although theologians will debate forever the meaning behind Job’s story, and why God would test him this way, today I am more interested in Job’s immediate response. When he has lost almost everything, he goes one step further. Tearing his clothes, shaving his head, he gets rid of what little he has left. He goes all the way to rock bottom. I think there is an important truth about life and God that this reveals:
We are totally, utterly, helplessly dependent on God.
Job realizes that we cannot truly depend on our stuff, our success, or even our God-fearing, good-Christian selves in this life, as tempting as it is. Job’s story illustrates the truth that the system is not always fair, that nothing is guaranteed, and that we are only ever one blink away from everything falling apart or losing it all.
That’s not to say that we should despair about this truth, because from his vantage point at rock bottom, Job can see something else very important: we will never lose God, nor will God ever abandon us, even when we are at rock bottom. God never abandons or gives us on Job.
I think it’s easier for Job to see all of this when he has nothing. It drives him to come to terms with a truth we all must face: we come into this world with nothing, and so shall we all leave it. God is the only constant, unfailing presence in the stages in between those two points of our lives.
As Christians, we experience this God who meets us at rock bottom in Jesus Christ, who, in dying on the cross, went as low as one can go. How can this image of a God who never fails us, even at rock bottom guide our reflection during this season of Lent? How can we come to terms with the reality that we are completely dependent on God, coming and going from this world with nothing? Perhaps we can give up some of our luxuries during this time, as Job gave up what little he had left? Perhaps we can reflect more on the cross, and what it looks like for God to meet us at the very bottom? Perhaps through acts of charity we can share with others who may be having an experience like Job?
In this first week of Lent 1, Job shows us that the best place to start is at the bottom, realizing that we are nothing without God, on whom we are totally, utterly, helplessly dependent. Thanks be to God, that the LORD never leaves us. Blessed be the name of the LORD.
Blessed is your name, O Lord. When grief overwhelms us and when loss is everywhere we turn, help us name how you are with us always. Fill us with praise of you even as sin brings pain to our lives. Amen.