Thanksgiving at Job’s House, by Joe Reed
Thanksgiving, that most excellent of perhaps all uniquely American traditions, stands in the doorway where we bid farewell to warmer weather and all its labors and rewards, and turn to meet the cold embrace of winter. It’s a moment to reflect on God’s generosity to us, His faithful provision for us, and to remember that our lives very much hang upon His grace to give us the strength to rise up and labor, the sun and rain to make our labors fruitful, and the friends and families around us to make them enjoyable. God owes us none of these, nor can we force His hand to provide them for us. So, we give thanks.
Sometimes a person gives thanks this way: “I didn’t have the best year. My life involved much hardship. I suffered pain, and I suffered loss. But then I realized that there are other people who have it much worse than I do, so I shouldn’t complain. Instead, I’m thankful. It could be worse!”
I understand the sentiment. But I wonder sometimes, what does that other person have to be thankful for? Life is rarely as good as it could be, but sometimes it’s about as bad as it could be.
I often think about Job at Thanksgiving. Job lived as the richest man in his corner of the earth, proud father of 10 close-knit children, an upright man who worshiped God with all his heart, a man blessed almost immeasurably in every aspect of life.
And then, in a moment, without warning, he found himself the most miserable man in the world. His livestock was all carried off, his servants destroyed, his children killed in an instant, his health was completely broken. The only thing remaining to Job were the messengers who bore him the ill tidings, an inconsolable and angry wife, a pile of ashes to sit in, a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape his oozing boils, and three friends determined to convince him what a terrible person he was.
Job also had his life – you recall that God demanded his life be spared. And yet Job wasn’t thankful for that either: “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?” (3:11) For Job, life really was as bad as it could get.
Imagine visiting Job’s ash heap on Thanksgiving. “Job, what are you thankful for? You’ve got nothing left, except your life, which you don’t want.” For what can Job be thankful?
The answer Job would give is this:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25-26)
For Job, probably writing some 1500 years before the first Christmas, Thanksgiving was summed up in these few words: Jesus is coming. And when He comes, all this mess is going to go away.
Heaven is described as a place where God Himself wipes away every tear. Jesus gets us there, meets us there, and keeps us there. We may have many wonderful blessings for which to give thanks this year, or we may, like Job, have essentially nothing that gives us any sense of joy. But we have this: “Our Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” Nothing changes that truth. Nothing threatens Jesus’ arrival, or His ability to set all things right. And for that, we may indeed be truly thankful.