If I were Job, and I lost my family, home, and animals I would not think that eventually receiving more would replace what was lost. No no child can replace a deceased child. No household pet can replace a lost pet. And–while I am not the sentimental type–there is value in the memories that places, people, and possessions can spark in our lives.
I was pondering this when I realized I was not properly recalling the setting of Job’s story. Job seems to be as close to “cave man” as the Bible exposes. It appears he was living with dinosaurs and fire-breathing dragons (Job 40-41); and so maybe losing family members and other beloved possessions was not so uncommon. When things are common, they might still be terrible, but the expectation is different; our responses are different.
Perhaps Job’s story is not so much about the loss of irreplaceables as it is about 1) every bad thing happening at once (i.e. way more than he can handle without the Spirit), and 2) the common expectation that good things happen to godly people, and that God is working everything out for His good–specifically in bringing retribution and carrying out judgement. (Theologians call this last thing the Retribution Principle: it’s the biblical version of “karma” except that it only really works from an eternal perspective.)
It would certainly have been difficult–even beyond difficult–for Job to endure so much. But I think his deepest grief came from the failure of his expectations in God. He heard God, and dialoged with God–God is ever-present with him. Yet God delays in intervening. And God allowed it all to happen. There had been a “hedge of protection” around Job (an angelic protection? a spiritual ‘bubble’? a season of blessing?) and God took it away (Job 1:10).
Job learns to trust God and let God set the expectations for his life. He cannot hold onto both his own expectation for his life to turn around and his full dependence on God at the same time (even though he was correct in believing that God wanted to bless him and that he did not deserve his circumstances). Sometimes we have to release God to heal our circumstances by accepting them, and worshiping God anyway. I am doing this in a couple areas of my own life. My husband calls it, “realistic optimism”: accepting that if things do not change it will be okay, while continuing to have hope and flexibility in actively anticipating God’s promises coming to pass–whatever the timing, and however it looks.
And that part about Job enduring way more than he could handle? Maybe God wanted Job to recognize that alone he could not handle much, but through the Holy Spirit he could pass through it all, so that nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). He who can endure all things allows us to endure all things through Him–love is the key to this (1 Cor. 13:7: “love endures all things”). When Job is full of God’s love, he prays for his friends, and they too are redeemed. We, too, can choose to embrace God’s love in the anticipation that He knows what He is doing, and He will see us through. It is a joy through the release of our own expectations.