Growing up, I was taught that the whole Bible is literal.
I graduated from a reputable Christian University that taught the same. I attended churches that re-enforced that idea. As a youth pastor, I typically facilitated that teaching as well. But the story of Job always inflicted me.
If the book of Job is about a literal man, then I want no part of that God.
If Job was a real man, and the things in the book really happened to him, it unearths a pretty problematic, scary, and disheartening view of a God who wants us to call Him Father. It calls into question the greatest characteristics of God that we cherish: namely, that He is for us.
But I think God is a better writer than that.
I don’t think that the book of Job actually happened. I think that it’s a story – a sort of mythical account of a legendary hero like the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Trojan Horse, and the Spartan army. Stories teach us lots of things that lessons and laws generally miss – things like how to be alive, how to hope, and how to be resiliant.
As such, Job is an essential story. It’s a story of man confronting insurmountable odds. A story of darkness drowning out the light, and terrible nightmarish things coming to pass. Job is a story of humanity at its most primal and vulnerable moment: the moment when hope is gone, and all is lost.
If Job is literal, we miss that. We think that God is discipling Job on a whim – or worse, on a dare – and allows Satan to drag him through hell. We come to the conclusion that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And so, we learn to fear God. Or, more accurately, we learn to be afraid of God.
But God doesn’t want to be feared. He wants to be loved. He wants to be known.
When we read Job as a story – as a great piece of ancient literature penned creatively for a distinctive purpose – we uncover the following truths:
- God is a believer. He sees immeasurable potential within humanity – the potential for us to overcome spectacular odds, and to hold on to such good things as faith and hope. When the story begins, God believes the best about Job. I think that He still believes the best about you.
- God is interactive. He doesn’t leave Job alone, He counsels. Sure, we may think the interaction is a bit harsh in light of the events Job has suffered through. But, the point is God is a communicator. He gets Jobs attention, and helps Job to overcome. Whatever your struggle, God will help you overcome. The odds may be stacked against you, but hope is on its way.
- Religion sucks. Seriously. I think that’s actually one of the main undertones throughout the story of Job. Job’s friends consistently give him “religious” reasons for why he is suffering such fate. Religion teaches us to hate ourselves – it convinces us that we are flawed, hopeless, and unable to overcome. It teaches us to believe the worst things about ourselves. Where religion fails to answer humanities most important questions, God inserts Himself into the equation.
The greatest lesson from the story of Job is this: It doesn’t matter what happens, how bleak the outlook, or how close you are to giving up – God still believes in you. Your failures, resistance, or current situation won’t change His plans for you. And his plans are good.
Be of courage, hold onto hope, and find reasons to keep believing in what’s possible.
Comment Question: What are you struggling to believe in right now?