What would Job say about this?

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"Job and His Friends" by Ilya Repin (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

It is astounding how quickly so many things that we thought were unshakable and permanent aspects of our daily lives are crashing down around our ears due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and (I would say even more so) because of the reaction to it by everyone from governments to ordinary citizens.  In just a few weeks, wealth equivalent to a value of the yearly GDP of most of the nations of the world aside from the US and China has simply disappeared from the stock indexes of the world’s great trading houses. Much of that wealth never really existed in the real world in the first place, it was all in computers. Because of this, it can theoretically come back the same way it left, but there will still be real-world fallout from this, including the disruptive effect it will have on the pension plans that millions of people around the world were depending on to live out their later years in relative comfort. 

Beyond the immediate effect on the world economy, many of the second, third, fourth etc. order effects of COVID-19 and its associated disruptions will continue to reverberate throughout sectors of the world’s health, economic, trading, social, political and even military arenas for years to come. My academic studies in history, sociology and political science lead me to be quite sure that terrible wars will almost certainly be among the results of what we’re seeing right now, and possibly other disasters as well including famines.

It’s a pretty grim picture.

It reminds me of the grim situation faced by Job, as described in the Biblical story named for him.

Job tells the story of a man who was, by the standards of his time, very wealthy and prosperous. God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith by taking away, in a very short period of time, all the things which gave him physical comfort, security and happiness, including his children and his physical health.

This led Job to a period of miserable introspection in which all he could do was sit on an ash heap and think about it all. It was, at least comparable to the situation some people reading this blog right now might be in, sitting in their homes under quarantine, with nothing to do but think about how anxious and upset they are about the present and how bleak the future looks.

Happily, we’ve got Job’s example and can learn from his experience. At the conclusion of his sojourn on the heap of ashes, during which he was joined by some “friends” who gave him all kinds of fleshly counsel and advice, God showed up and made it very clear that everything Job had lost had been things that God had given him to begin with and He was free to allow Job to lose them whenever it suited His purpose. Job owed EVERYTHING to God, including his very existence, and all of it was God’s to use in this way. Job was not entitled to any of it, it was all a gift, and when the gift was removed, Job wasn’t even entitled to complain about it. His role was simply to stay faithful and obedient, trusting that God had a reason and purpose for everything that was happening in the world which He had created.

Brothers and sisters, that is our role too.

I won’t say it’s easy to not be worried about things like evaporating pensions and the probability of wars, famines, etc. I DEFINITELY won’t say it’s easy to actually rejoice and be glad in such circumstances.

I WILL offer you this practical advice about how to try and not worry about these things. Simply make peace with the fact that God really IS your provider and your comforter and so if your pension isn’t there for you when you retire, it’ll be okay. If you lose all your money, your material possessions and even your home, it’ll be okay. If you lose your physical health and even if your mortal life ends before you thought it would, it’ll be okay. All that stuff is going to be gone at some point anyway, and if you lose it, it’s because God in His infinitely superior wisdom and sense of timing, came to the determination that you didn’t need it anymore because you’d gotten all the good you were going to get out of it already.

So remember the example of Job and simply thank God for His goodness, His faithfulness and His wisdom in devising a plan for our lives which is far better than anything we could have planned for ourselves.  That’s what God told Job to do after he had experienced the swift and catastrophic loss of all his earthly possessions, his children and even his physical health, giving him a miserable present and a desperately bleak future to look forward to. In telling Job to trust Him even when he lost all the other things he thought would give him identity and security, God was telling all of us to do the same.