October 28, 2012
Then the Lord blessed Job’s latter days more than his former ones. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters.
Under a Cajun moon I lay me open There is a spirit here that won't be broken Some words are sad to sing Some leave me tongue-tied (But the hardest thing to tell you ) But the hardest words I know Are I love you goodbye I love you goodbye
-Thomas Dolby, "I Love You Goodbye," 1992
I can still remember it like it was yesterday; presiding at a funeral of a man just a year younger than me who committed suicide. His grieving partner was devastated as was the young man's parents who lost their only child.
I've read this ending of the book of Job before and never really thought much about it. God restores Job with cattle and sheep and even more children. A happy ending to a man that had to deal with so much pain.
But while Job did get children and livestock, I have to think there was some sense of grief as well for what was lost. Job might have celebrated having children again, but there had to be pain in his heart for the ones he lost.
Job is a happy ending in the same way that we celebrate the Ressurection. Jesus was able to defeat death, but he was different, not simply restored.
Job's ending is a reminder of God's presence in our lives. The ending isn't a guide to life, as it is a reminder of God's love for us even when we don't have a happy ending.
Sometimes life is simply about saying goodbye, about letting go, about loss. Sometimes there is no nice ending to wrap up the story. Sometimes the story ends horribly.
But good times or bad, God is there, present. That's probably not the ending we all want, but on this side of heaven it is enough.
Here is what other scholars and pastors have to say on Job 42:
Presbyterian pastor Carol Howard Merritt wonders if this passage and others in the Bible only work for those who are privileged in society and not those on the margins.
Episcopal Priest Rick Morley sees a hidden Easter message of hope in the last chapter of Job.
Finally, via Tony Jones comes a woman who wonders why she believes God is good despite all of the tragedies and heartaches this world offers.
Photo: Dürer, Albrecht, 1471-1528. Job on the dunghill, and his wife pours water on his sores, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46323
Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church in Minneapolis.