Lessons from Job

Job Rebuked by His Friends, by William Blake. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

This week I read the Book of Job as part of my scripture reading.  A few things really impressed me about the book that I wanted to share.

The first is that this man, who was known to be a just and good man before his trials came, was mocked and ridiculed by those who were supposed to have been his friends.  I hadn’t realized this before about the book, but most of the book is spent with these “friends” telling Job that he must have done something wrong.  That he must be secretly evil and doing bad things and obviously this is why he was having all these trials come upon him.  I’ve often heard this book referenced as the quintessential example of bad things happening to good people.  However, I’ve never really considered that it is also a guideline for how we ought to treat people who are facing trials.  In Job 16:4-5 Job is addressing his friends who are telling him that he needs to repent and telling him that he must be a bad person and Job says-

4 I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.

5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief.

I really liked that simple passage.  He says, “Yeah, if our roles were reversed I could do like you’re doing and add to your grief.  But instead I would try to strengthen you and build you up rather than tear you down.”  I think this is sometimes a hard balance for us to reach.  On the one hand, we ought to call out those things that are wrong and evil in life, and encourage others to remove such things from their lives.   However, we need to also be careful to use our words in ways that help to build people up rather than tear them down – even if they have done something wrong.  Rather than assuming the worst in people we should be ever striving to help them become their best.

The other thing that really stuck out to me is the idea that even when we are righteous it doesn’t always mean that we will be given the blessings we think we want or deserve.  It can be really easy to look at the things we have and say “I have great kids/a great job/a wonderful spouse etc. because the Lord loves me and has blessed me because I am righteous.”  While it is true that the Lord loves us, and often we receive such blessings as a direct result of our righteous actions, the receipt of blessings isn’t the reason to be righteous.  Furthermore, the lack of those blessings isn’t a mark of unrighteousness.  I think we need to be sensitive about how we express our gratitude for blessings publicly and be careful not to imply that other people don’t have the same blessings because they have done something wrong.  Someone who had struggled with infertility once mentioned that they felt hurt whenever someone would bear their testimony and mention the blessing they had received of having children.  To the person struggling with infertility they felt like this was a rebuke against them, that clearly they weren’t righteous enough to have the same blessing.  While I don’t think it is wrong to express gratitude for our blessings (in fact, we’re taught that failing to be grateful is one of the worst things we could do), we just need to be aware of how we express that gratitude and be sure it is not in a way that implies that we deserved such a blessing because of our righteousness.  We deserve none of our blessings – that’s what makes them blessings.  As King Benjamin taught

20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

Another aspect of that is that I think we need to be as grateful for the things we don’t have as the things that we do have. I want to be better at adopting the attitude Job expresses in Job 1:21

21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

While I’m sure Job would have been very grateful for his children to still be alive, his possessions to have remained in tact, and to have not had sores I think it is impressive that Job blesses the name of the Lord even in the taking away of his blessings.  The Lord doesn’t spare us from all the things that are hard in this life because it is through those hard experiences that we learn and grow and become like Him.  In a talk that he gave in April Conference of 1991 Elder Neal A. Maxwell made this astute observation –

Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, “Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!”

I think we need to be careful that we don’t limit the Lord to only blessing us with good things, but also recognize when He blesses us with trials, because it is only through those trials that we grow and become stronger.

While it would be dishonest of me to say that I hope to have the same kinds of experiences as Job, I certainly hope that I can be more like Job in the way that I face the experiences I am given, and remember to treat others who are facing trials with the compassion he was not shown.