The Thing We Greatly Fear

Consider the story of Job. He was known by all as a righteous and generous man of faith who served God and his fellow human beings. Job was patriarch, intercessor, and wise counsel to many. He had great wealth of possessions and a greater wealth of spiritual strength. The lives of many people were better for Job’s presence in them. Have a personal problem? Go to Job. Need sound advice? Ask Job. Want someone to pray for you? Job is your man.

There came a time when powerful evil was allowed to challenge the faith of Job. His world fell apart. He lost his possessions, his family, and all else he held dear. His body was ravaged with boils so that even his own skin was alien to him. Adding insult to injury, Job’s friends came to sit with him, ostensibly to bear witness and support him in his grief. But instead of giving him peace and comfort, they accused him of hidden and heinous behavior for which God was so obviously punishing him. Job’s wife, whose losses were just as great, counseled Job to curse God and die. The once honored and respected Job was despised as an evildoer of epic proportions. None of what made him the man he was remained. In human terms, all Job had to hang onto was the pain in his body, the pity of his loved ones, and a piece of broken pottery in his hand.

Perhaps you know a person who is respected and outwardly blessed as Job was. They have wealth and health and happiness to spare. Yet, there is no selfishness in them. They have a seemingly endless supply of compassion for their fellow beings and live to help others in any way they can. This person will always be first to volunteer their time and give of their resources. They can be counted on as the even-tempered voice of reason in any discussion. When they say they’ll pray for you, you know it’s as good as done. How do you think this person would react if, living a life of abundance and able to share without feeling the loss, they were suddenly stripped down to nothing as Job was? How would you react to such tragedy?

As he sat in the ashes dumbfounded by his losses, Job pondered it all in silence. Like the pottery shard with which he scraped his boils, he had become broken and all but useless. No words could contain his grief, but even more so, his shock as it seemed God’s hedge of protection had been taken away. When he finally speaks, it is to curse the day of his birth in utter despair saying “The thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I have dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25).

So, what was the thing Job feared most? In spite of his righteous behavior and devoted service, Job lived in terror of not being good enough, valuable enough in God’s eyes. Just as he offered daily sacrifices for his children on the off chance they had “cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5), Job worried that there was some sinful place in his own heart that was not purified by his sacrifices and good works. He feared having to stand before God on his own merits and coming up short.

We’ve all been where Job was. Many of us grew up on the notion that being a Christian is synonymous with being good. If you want God to love and save you, you need to be worth His time and trouble. Salvation is only for the worthy. Show God that you mean business and He will answer your prayers. God’s love is contingent on your behavior, right?

Wrong! Nonsense! A larger and more fetid pile of garbage has never been accumulated in human history!

God so loved the world that He sent His only Son (John 3:16). God showed His love for us by offering us this precious gift “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8), messed up from the ground up. He didn’t wait until we were good enough to deserve saving or until we first loved Him in return. God reached out to save us not because we’d earned it, but because that’s what God does. He reaches out in love to the inherently unlovable. God offers us His heart. With it comes the power to be remade in His image, remade in His love. God’s love is contingent on nothing except our willingness to accept it.

We have no reason to fear not being good enough for God. God is well aware of our inability to “measure up.” It doesn’t catch Him off guard. In fact, our very attempts to try to be good enough for God in our own strength may be an outward sign that we’re not there yet. For making us good enough for God is a work that only God can accomplish. The Heavenly Vinedresser will prune and care for each of us according to our individual needs until we’re healthy, robust branches on the Vine (see John 15). It’s a work God is willing to do in and for each of us if we give Him permission to do so. But be warned. If anyone was ever pruned by God, it was Job! And as we are being pruned, we may end up in a situation similar to Job, losing what we thought we could count on in order to learn to count on God alone.

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