As a child, vacations typically meant long road trips. We would head to Florida to visit an aunt and uncle or journey to the military base where another uncle was stationed. I have always enjoyed road trips, because it gives you an opportunity to experience new places.
When I lived in West Virginia, these road trips often meant a drive south on I-77, which included going through the East River Mountain Tunnel. This tunnel was built on the mountainous boarder between West Virginia and Virginia. Driving through this tunnel was fun for several reasons. One, we knew on the other side was a new state and the joy of lookout for road traps for my grandfather. You could blow your car horn to hear its echo and see if others would follow along. Of course, there was always the challenge of trying to figure out when the radio signal would fade away.
You may not be as enthralled with tunnels as I am. Regardless, we can all agree that we get excited when we first see the dim light from the tunnel’s exit. It’s at this moment that we know our travel through a mountain or underwater is nearly finished. If we’ve been listening to the radio, we get excited that the music will soon return. That light is significant.
It is also synonymous for us today. When we face struggles, the “light at the end of the tunnel” is our reassurance that everything will be OK. We can breathe again. We are going to make it. The journey through darkness is nearly complete.
This month, the lectionary has provided us a great blessing in examining the Book of Job. In doing so, we have fully joined with Job in h his time of darkness. Today, Job has reached the light at the end of his tunnel. In doing so, it allows us the opportunity to think back to what we have experienced along with Job. At the beginning when Job sat among the ashes, we were reminded of our own sufferings. When Job expressed his frustrations and lamented that God seemed absent, we recalled how sometimes God feels distant to us. Last week, as God spoke to Job we were reminded of how God continually speaks to us.
At the end of our journey we find ourselves met by Job’s final discourse with God. It is Job’s all-important response to God’s questions. However, it is not Job’s first response. That came at Job 40:3-5. In his response, Job is passive. He wants to remain silent in the presence of the Lord. This wasn’t silence as an act of worship, but silence as an act of self-loathing.
Job responds as someone who has little or no self-esteem. He says, “I am nothing.” He denies his own worth to God. This comes after God has invited him to seeing the vastness of creation and Job’s place in it. Job wants the dialogue to end. He can’t take it anymore. Job chose to cower behind a sense of self-pity. It is a response that is defeating to true growth in Christ. Job has not fully listened to what God has said to him, because he has retreated to a position of self-loathing believing this is what God wants of him.
Does this sound familiar? We can be like Job when we are confronted by God. Instead of hearing what God says, we use God’s words as an opportunity to beat ourselves up. We’ll say things like, “How could I be so foolish,” or “I must not be a good Christian if I act like this.” We deny the very grace that God has freely given, because we believe we are so unworthy as to never be able to accept it. That’s not a healthy response to grace. In taking on this response, we separate ourselves from Christ instead of embracing the depths of God’s love for us. Like Job, we have not heard what God says to us. The Lord does not desire self-pity in us, but wants us to see the depths of the Lord’s love for us.
This is why God continues the discussion not just with Job, but also with us. He wants all of us, including Job, to see our worth and to understand how deep the Father’s love is for His creation – not just the animals and vegetation, but also each and everyone of us. We are valued in the eyes of the Lord and because of this the Lord continues to reach after us, so we might experience this love. God wants nothing more than to reorient each of us, and Job, out of own false understandings of how the world is into an understanding of how vast, deep, and wide is the Father’s love.
It is a love that demands a proper response. For Job, his response comes in his second response found in chapter 41. We sea different Job. The Job we see here is a Job who has been transformed by something greater than his own understanding. It is a Job who is not despondent or depressed, but a Job who fully accepts the Father’s grace. This is not a Job who wants nothing to do with the world, but a Job who sees himself as part of God’s creation. This is a Job who has met the Living Presence of God and has been transformed by a reality that is beyond his understanding and is beyond any wonder he could express.
This breathtaking moment of grace is expressed in 42:2 when Job says, “I know you can do anything and no one can stop you.” With these words, Job aligns himself with the Lord’s desires. He has heard the Lord’s words not just on an intellectual level, but in a way that has affected him deep in his soul. Job wants to experience the beauty of God’s creation and love in his own life. He wants to be directed by the Lord in a new way, which will bring him to a deeper level of trust. Where his life was defined by suffering, Job is now experiencing joy and peace in a renewed relationship with the Lord.
Job says something else that is powerful. He says, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” Job expresses his desire to live as a part of God’s creation and recognizes his place in it. In this, Job has experienced a spiritual resurrection that has brought him from a place of suffering and spiritual death to a place of deep hope and joy.
This experience of spiritual resurrection came about when Job allowed the presence of the Lord to speak directly to him. Once Job let down his guard and barriers, he experienced a new reality that reoriented him from a posture of dismay to a place of hope. It was an experience of spiritual transformation that allowed him to experience joy and peace in ways he never knew was possible. When Job experienced the presence of the Living Lord, he had a choice to make. He could chose to live in this new reality or remain in his same position. Job chose to turn toward the Lord and take on what God desired for him.
We face that same choice in our struggles and battles. Each of us are met by the presence of Christ in our lives. In those moments where the Living Lord speaks to us, we have the choice to accept God’s grace or continue the life we would desire for ourselves. We can chose to remain in our suffering and hurt, or we can take on the greatest love that the world has ever known, a love that is so amazing, a grace that is so powerful that it took on our suffering so that we might live as people of a new hope. The hope of the Living Lord is that our sufferings are never our own. They are taken on by the Lord. My friends, we can experience grace in the same ways Job did by choosing to live as followers of Christ who believe God has a place for us in this world.
But, that’s not the only choice that Job and we have to make. Job not only had to accept that God’s desires were greater than his own and that there was a place for him in this world. He also had to chose to accept the freedom that comes in living in a world full of good times and bad.
Job experienced all this world has to offer, both the good and the bad. Even though he has recognized God has a place for him, he still has to choose to live that new reality out. This is what we see in the second half of the passage. Job expresses his new commitment to the Lord, by restarting his life. No, the blessings of new children and material goods could ever replace what Job lost. The point is that Job, knowing that these things could be taken away from him, chose to reengage the world. He lives in the freedom of knowing that no matter what happens Christ is with him.
That’s the key for us to resurrected living. As we are transformed and experience a deeper relationship in Christ, we live this out by continuing to live in the world. We do not abandon the world, as if to protect ourselves from the sufferings that we have experienced. Instead, we go out into the world as an act of faith and an acknowledgement that no matter what happens God is with us.
As we come out of the darkness of the sufferings we all experience, we can embrace the light that is resurrected living through Christ Jesus. It is a new life that comes in choosing to accept God’s desires and purposes for our lives. As well, it comes as we chose to live in this world as faithful and devoted followers of Jesus Christ. By this, we are not defined by our sufferings but by our faith in the Holy Lord.
I believe this is an element of missional living in our communities. By missional living, I mean sharing the story of our faith through our words, actions, and deeds to those whom we interact with. As we become defined by an active choice to live by God’s grace in this world, we inspire others to do the same. Even more, by our faithful witness we inspire others to experience the Living Reality of Christ Jesus in their own life. It is a beautiful thing when our lives of grace can help others to see the grace that is already at work in their own life.
So, where are you? As we conclude this study of Job, where is your heart? How is it with your soul? Are you wanting to be defined by the bad things that happen or are you wanting to be defined by the grace of Christ that has bought you and has called you to faithful and holy living? Do you want to continue in the ways of the ups and downs of life, or by a recognition that no matter what happens Christ is with us?
My hope is that you will desire a deep walk and renewed faith in Christ. Maybe this is something you already have. Maybe it is something that you have had on the peripheral, much in the way of Job of having a superficial faith but nothing that is deep and below the surface.
As we close and as we sing our closing hymn, I want you to take a look at where you are today. Who are you in the story of Job? Are you the Job that wants to run away and hide or are you the Job that desires a deep faith in Christ and a life defined by the freedom of grace?