(If you need a crash course on the book of Job, read chapters 1-3, 38, and 42. All of 38-42 if you have time.)
I always liked to look at Job’s story as a comfort in my hard times. Even though I never expected that in the end I would be restored seven-fold, I knelt in wonder before the power of Almighty God and declared with peace, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; Blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21)
Thinking that there was a higher purpose in my suffering was a comforting thought, through depression, through sorrow, through betrayals, and twists of fate that dashed my dreams over and over again.
But I always looked at Job. If I had to suffer this earthly life, I wanted to be Job. Through him, I could see the beauty in being brought low, in being emptied before God and sustained through his grace. I felt empowered by the truths of the Holy Spirit rescuing me from my despair.
Then came the great wind of Lyme that struck the four corners of my existence, and Old Man Job’s story didn’t stick with me anymore. I could die. Young. The best years of my life were going to be the ones before that had squeezed some joy out of the depression but never really felt whole. A fire of fear tore through the wilderness of my mind and all I could dwell on was the possibility that, could I hold out for a year or two, it would be a sick, miserable, draining life that was nothing but sorrow for myself and the poor undeserving man who had to take care of me. The reality of what it must feel like to be diagnosed with a terminal illness struck me hard.
What if I never even get to suffer like Job? What if my calling instead is to be one of Job’s daughters, from the first chapter, not the last?
She has no name.
She doesn’t even get the dignity of dying as a hostess to her siblings. She is just a guest. Just a taker, needing to be served. And she dies like the Wicked Witch of the East, buried under a house, but with no sister left alive to avenge her (1:19).
Upon the news of her death, her father, in his righteousness, praises the Lord. And after he gets to experience the wonder of coming face-to-face with the Almighty, he is rewarded with new daughters. To add insult to injury, the second-round chapter 42 generation are given names and the distinction of being the most beautiful in all the land, with an inheritance usually reserved for the men (42:14-15).
A first daughter is replaced. She doesn't even need to be there. The story plays out all the same if she never existed. The entire Bible plays out if she never existed. I’ve never heard a sermon on Job’s children. There’s at least one organization I’ve come across that takes the title – but in reference to the new daughters, the beautiful ones, certainly not the Chapter 1 prequel daughters. Nobody wants to identify with that.
Can I find peace in living unnoticed and dying, by all human standards, in vain? For those who heal, their suffering inspires. For those who succumb… what comfort is there? What a waste! What a tragedy!
What if I never get the privilege of being a shining example of faith in the hard times?
What if my sole purpose in my short, insignificant life is to be the tragedy that brings someone else, my own personal Job, to faith in his hard times? Then praise God!
But what if I don’t even do that? What if my Job’s only response is to “curse God and die!” (2:9)?
Many suffering people speak out and praise God with their testimony, write books, give speeches, sing songs, and they inspire. They use their tragedy for good; they impact people; they encourage us and make us believe that we can do that too. And that is all wonderful. I have been encouraged by them myself. But we cannot all do that too. Not every sufferer is given a voice. How many die having given no inspiration to anyone? What if I die before I ever say anything profound out loud?
What if my life has no significance whatsoever in the grand scheme of things, neither on my deathbed, nor the aftermath, nor in any future generation? It happens! How many millions of people have died on this earth that no one has ever heard of nor cared for? How many unmarked graves? How many little souls were taken from the womb before a mother even knew they existed? So many simply vanish from the record. And life goes on. Did those lives mean nothing?
Does MY life mean nothing?
Isaiah says not.
“Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:6-7)
We are precious. God knows us. He made all of us for His glory, and He is glorified even by the tragically shortest of existences whether any mere human knew it or not.
We live to the Glory of God alone. If our main purpose in life is to evangelize and win souls for Christ, then the miscarried have failed. The fully disabled have failed. Job’s daughter has failed.
I have failed.
So I need to take my view of life completely out of the realm of the living. I need my soul to be completely removed from the definitions of this world. We find it very noble to say, “I want to make a difference! I want to help others!” but the sick and dying young more often than not will fail. If I tie my legacy and my purpose to what can be accomplished here on Earth, and yes, even to saving souls for eternity, I will fail if I die tonight. On my death bed I will have deep regret for the unfinished work.
“I tell you, if these were silent
the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
The glory of God fulfills my basic duty as a human being. Even if I'm dead as a rock.
This is what it means to give my life to God. This is what it means to offer a living sacrifice. This is what it means to live for the Glory of God alone. Not bringing others to Christ so that He may be glorified, but knowing that He is glorified by me worshiping the God who created me. For the sole purpose of His majesty. For His love for me. For giving me his grace no matter what I have or have not accomplished.
I was created for God’s glory. I need to realize the self-fulfilled purpose of merely existing and worshiping. I was fearfully and wonderfully made. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation. Humankind. Made to fellowship with the God of the Universe, and bought with the sacrifice of His very self.
When a baby is born, what has it accomplished? NOTHING! For the first two years of life even, it is, quite frankly, useless. Until it grows up and makes something of itself, it’s actually quite a burden. It’s done nothing of any significance for anyone. It has not made the world a better place. And yet, a mother is overcome with love for this being simply because it exists. Because she made it. Because it is hers. If the little life is taken immediately, does she not grieve as if it had been intertwined with hers for decades? It was her creation. It was a part of her. No one else has to know or love this baby for it to have made a deep impact on its mother.
If I, like an infant, accomplish nothing on this Earth, still I have fulfilled my purpose if I recognize my worth in Christ. If I die “too young”, if I die “too soon”, if no one ever reads my words, sees my face, remembers me, mourns for me, is saved through me, yet I am treasured in heaven by my loving Creator. I am a part of Him. I bear His image. I will sing His praises forever, and even if there’s only One who ever hears it, it is enough.
It has been a humbling privilege to be brought low enough to see these things. To be incapacitated to the point of being worthless to the world, even worthless to myself, so that I might truly understand my worth in Christ. I pray that I might be released from the guilt of not “doing something” with my life aside from pointing to Jesus. Because I don’t know if I even have a life ahead of me.
It turns out, my real drive for healing was to feel useful, nobly to help others, but ultimately a selfish desire for fulfillment.
We are brought up in this idea that we have to make something of ourselves. That WE need to make OURSELVES useful. That WE need to help others. We – I – can do nothing. I can make absolutely nothing of myself. I give it all, my very life’s meaning, to God to do as He pleases.
It’s okay to be Job’s first daughter. It’s okay to die young. If God takes me home before I’ve left any impact on anyone, blessed be the name of the Lord.
I was created. I lived. He was glorified. It is finished.
(Comforting as it is, I do realize a flaw in this thinking, which will be addressed shortly.) Until then, let everything that has breath, praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6).
(This is part 1 of 2 articles. Continue to Part 2 here.)