"You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful."
I read this verse recently, and it got me thinking. Of all the stories in the Bible and all the people who believed in God, why would James choose Job as the example of "the purpose of the Lord" and how God is "compassionate and merciful?"
For anyone not familiar with the story of Job, it is a story of suffering and pain. Job was a man who loved God, and because of that, Satan challenged that if Job had nothing, he would curse God. Job lost his family, his wealth, his health, EVERYTHING, yet he did not curse God. Instead he defended God to his friends and wife who told him to turn his back on God.
Good for Job not cursing God, but somehow losing everything just doesn't seem like compassion and mercy...
Yet THIS is the story James chose.
Lately God has been teaching me joy and contentment. I've always been taught that joy is not dependent on our circumstances, but never really been in a position to truly experience it. It's one thing to have been taught and gained head knowledge about something and another completely to have personal experience and truly BELIEVE it.
This season of life has been one of the toughest I have experienced. I've been discouraged, frustrated, scared, anxious, and helpless. I've prayed without answers and felt completely alone. Yet the past few weeks have also shown me what true joy can be like.
Joy is seeing the positive in each day no matter how difficult. Joy is finding time to smile in the midst of pain knowing that it, just like the good, is only temporary. Joy is being grateful for the time Nick and I have together even if it's spent on the cough or on the road to the ER. Joy is making time to laugh and be thankful for each day that we are granted. Joy is seeing the Son break through the clouds of life and even if the rain doesn't stop gives us a glimpse of hope.
Contentment is similar. It comes in knowing that regardless of what is going on in our lives, God is in control. It is in remembering that we were not created for this world, but for eternal life. We can find contentment no matter our circumstances when we are reminded that regardless of the trials of this life, God has promised us healing and life.
That's what Job understood. In the midst of his suffering, Job probably wasn't thinking that God is merciful and compassionate, but He did trust in the fact that God is in control regardless of what seems to be going on around us. God's compassion and mercy was shown to Job when he did not allow Satan to kill Job, but instead proved Job faithful then blessed him even more abundantly than before. In some ways, God is compassionate and merciful to us when He allows us to experience incredible heartache and pain. Because without troubles, we can become reliant on our own abilities and strengths. By giving us challenges we cannot endure without His help, God reminds us that we are desperately in need of Him.
Finding joy and contentment doesn't mean that I am happy all the time or never have moments when I am upset or scared or in pain or feeling the effects of living in a fallen world. It just means that I know that my life is not just about me and that God is in control. It means that I am learning to place my hope in things that will never fade and not rely on what I am capable of on my own. Plus, finding a reason to smile and laugh every day is just a good way to live anyway!