I attended a musical performance at my stake center last weekend, a musical performace (the program called it a "concertized musical") about the life of Job. The choir who performed was an all-volunteer choir called the Michigan Concert Choir (they are mostly, but not all, members of the church), and they performed quite well. The piece was written by a member of our stake (who said this had been in the works for twenty years!). It was certainly ambitious.
And it caused me to reflect on Job, which was the whole point.
Job, as you know, was successful – he had a large family, lands and wealth. The devil complains that of course Job praises God when things go well, but let's see how he does when things don't go so well. And he loses his children, his wealth, and his health. And still he praises God. He does not, as Satan would have him do, curse God and die.
I remember years ago reading a commentary on Job that wondered if the story really happened or if it was parable of sorts. The author suggested she could not believe in a God that would allow Job to be tested in the way he was just to prove a point. At the time I was almost swayed by her argument. Now I think it's ironic.
The whole point of Job's story (at least a point of Job's story) is for us to learn to take God on God's terms, to praise God come what may (or as Elder Wirthlin's mother taught him: "Come what may, and love it!"). For someone then to suggest that he or she "cannot accept a God who…" misses the plot completely.
I've known adversity in my life, but not Job's adversity. In fact, when I measure my life against the lives of many I know, I've been awfully fortunate. Just as Job's friends could not rightly claim his unrighteousness brought on his trials, I cannot claim that my good fortune is somehow a blessing for something I've done, except to be born into a family that valued education and gave me that opportunity so I could become well employed. I certainly acknowledge the Lord's blessings in my life, but I don't claim that I have done anything outstanding to be worthy of them.
Nor do I feel that the sadness that I've known comes directly from my own unrighteousness, either. I'm not perfect, so I suppose I am unrighteous. But I don't believe adversity works that way. (And Job didn't either).
In the end, of course, Job passes his test. He continues to praise God through his adversity, and all that was his is restored to him again. (Some worry about the replacement of his dead children, but if we look from a gospel perspective, we can assume those children who died are his in the eternities, as well.) As a metaphor for our earthly existence, we know that if we stay close to God and do as He has taught us that we can be with him again, and what we enjoyed in the premortal existence (that is, His presence) will also be restored to us.
One of my favorite verses from Job (spoken in the midst of his affliction, not after his deliverance) has found its way into many musical settings (though was spoken in the piece we saw the other night): "For I know that my redeemer liveth….In my flesh shall I see God" (Job 25:19-20). May we remember Job's testimony and take comfort in it.