During some of the darkest moments of my life, I have found comfort in reading through the book of Job. I love his honesty with God in the midst of deep struggles and heartache. Reading about the terrible things Job went through is always a helpful perspective adjustment when I’m feeling like things couldn’t possibly get any worse. And in many of my most trying circumstances I have been reminded of Job’s words: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
So what about when after the Lord gives and the Lord takes, the Lord gives back again?
I remember in high school hearing about a community group called “Job’s Daughters”. To this day I’m not sure where the name came from (somebody feel free to enlighten me), but it always struck me as a little odd. In the story of Job we know he had two sets of children. There was a group of children that were killed as part of Job’s testing. While I have experienced heartache, nothing quite like this jumps to mind:
Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
I have a hard time imagining these are the “Job’s Daughters” a volunteer organization would want to be named after. The end of Job’s story sees a restoration in his life and a second set of daughters join the family:
And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch. And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers.
So I’m guessing these are the Job’s Daughters being referenced. Sometimes I wonder what it was like to be them. To be the children of restoration and blessing. To be the daughters who came into the life of their blameless father after so much heartache had fallen on their family. To be the daughters of privilege after a time of darkness and loss. To be daughters who live a life of goodness in the shadow of pain.
And sometimes I think I know exactly how they felt.
It is an odd thing to come out of a season of trials into a season of what appears to be blessing. I have seen that play out in my own life over the last couple years. My husband and I experienced 6 years of infertility, then life threatening ectopic pregnancies, and adoptions that were supposed to happen but didn’t work out. We cried and grieved and begged the Lord for answers. We reminded each other that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. And then the Lord gave back.
Over the last 6 years we have added 6 children to our family through adoption, foster care, a surprise biological child and now a pregnancy. What we thought was impossible— what we were TOLD was impossible— God has chosen to do in our lives. And beyond that, we have moved from a stressful job that was temporary and far from family into a career that has stability and is able to provide for our large family while returning me to my hometown and the benefits of grandparents close by. We have a supportive community of friends, a beautiful home, good health.
But our past experiences have kept us from getting too comfortable. I even struggle to see these circumstances as “blessings” because I know how quickly it all can change. I feel like I’m living in a season of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sure things are good today, but that’s no guarantee that it will be good tomorrow. My history of heartache is always nipping at my heels.
I think there’s a healthy balance to the struggle of living a life of restoration and redemption. It’s true that God isn’t proved good because my circumstances are pleasant and my life is easy. (And truth be told, having six kids in six years isn’t actually “easy”, although we wouldn’t trade it for the world.) We learned through the hard times that God was still good and still in control. We became dependent on him and our faith was deepened as we found that when God was all we had left, he was truly enough. I now no longer believe that good things happen to those who follow the rules because I have seen how at my most undeserving moments God has chosen to bless me and at the times where I have been doing my best to please him, I have still gone through disappointment and struggle. Priorities have been clarified. Important lessons have been learned. Difficult circumstances taught me not to place my hope in circumstances at all.
But I know there’s a lingering cloud that hangs over me in all this. A fear that all the good in my life will be gone. We all know a tragic car accident or cancer or a lost job or any number of terrible things could happen to any of us at any moment. When you’ve been in that doctor’s office and heard bad news or sat in a boss’s office as they told you you were no longer needed, these possibilities seem ever-present in the back of your mind. But do I let fear rob me of the joy of today? That’s the choice I see before me. I’m guessing it was the choice for Job and his daughters, too.
If you’re living a life of beauty after a life of ashes, be thankful. Be grateful for the gifts of today, even if we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Let go of either that need to control or that fatalistic tendency to assume the worst. We can’t add to our life through worrying, but we sure can subtract the joy from the gifts we’re being given. Join me in the fight to find the balance of acknowledging God’s goodness regardless of circumstances while still valuing and enjoying the season you’re in. Should the hard times return, we will find God is still present and still able to comfort us in our weaknesses. The Lord does give. The Lord does take away. The Lord does restore and redeem through ways we may never have anticipated. Blessed be the name of the Lord.