THE LIFE YOU CANNOT CONTROL
A sermon based on Job 1:1; 2:1-10
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
October 3, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
[Job said], “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this, Job did
not sin with his lips. Job 2:10
Several years ago at a previous church, I received a call from a church member who wished to
have coffee together one afternoon. She said that she had something that she needed to tell me. So
after finding a time that was convenient for both of us, I met her at a local coffee shop in town.1
Carolyn was a woman in her mid-forties. An attractive, stylish woman, she and her husband
Steve were both members of the church where I served on staff. Miriam and I had a close relationship
with Carolyn and Steve. They both served as deacons in the church and were involved in other capacities
as well. In addition to seeing and visiting with them at church on Sundays and Wednesday nights, we
spent a good bit of time with them socially outside of church. We would have dinner together, share
meals at our homes, and went to concerts and theatrical performances together. We went with them to
watch their son play high school football. Miriam and I felt a special kinship with Carolyn and Steve…
Carolyn grew up in church and had been active in church for as long as she could remember.
During her high school days, she had been very involved in her church youth group, had always made
good grades in school, and was captain of the cheerleading team. Upon graduation, she went off to
college. And it was at college that she met Steve. Not long after they graduated, Carolyn and Steve got
married and he went on to graduate school. A year or two later, they had a son.
Steve was a guy that was fun to be around. He had a dry wit that was always good for a few
laughs. After college, he went on to medical school. As a medical professional, he made a good living for
his family. But he did more than that. Steve was also a generous guy. He used his medical skills to help
those less fortunate. He regularly donated a portion of his time and services each month to the local
free clinic. And at his own medical practice, he sometimes would treat patients that he knew would not
be able to pay him. He would see patients at any hour of the night in his office if they had a medical
emergency. He was just that kind of guy…He felt that such actions were part of his ministry as a
As Carolyn sat across the table from me at the coffee shop, I wondered what was on her mind.
After some of the usual small talk, she finally told me. Carolyn had recently discovered that Steve had
This is a true story, though I have changed the names and some of the details in order to maintain confidentiality.
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been having an affair during the last four years. Such news was totally unexpected. Naturally she was
devastated. I’ll never forget her words to me that afternoon. She told me, “My entire life, I have done
what I was supposed to do. I always did the right and responsible thing. I did what everyone expected of
me. This is not how it is supposed to be. How did this happen?…”2
It seems to me that Carolyn’s words that afternoon would have resonated with Job. He too had
done the right and responsible thing for his entire life. In the opening verse of Job, Job is described as
one who was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Yet, in spite of
Job’s exemplary life, calamity fell upon him. And when it did, it fell hard…
Chapter 1 tells us that, within a short amount of time, Job lost nearly everything. His wealth was
the first to go. Job’s herds and flocks were carried off by thieves, leaving him nothing. And then his sons
and daughters were feasting together at the oldest brother’s house when the house collapsed and killed
all of them. And if that were not trouble enough, Job became afflicted with a skin disease that left him
with painful sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.
At the end of today’s passage, Job is a pitiable sight. We find him sitting on a pile of ashes, trying
to find some relief from his physical agony by scraping his sores on his skin with a broken piece of
pottery. Job has lost nearly everything that has meant anything to him—his money, his family, and now
even his own health. The only thing that he still has left is his wife. And to tell the truth, she is of little
help. In fact, she counsels him to just get it over with by cursing God and dying. Yet even in the depth of
his misery, Job refuses to follow her advice. He maintains his integrity. He continues to have faith in God
even in the face of his tragic suffering…
I want to call your attention to verse nine of Job 2, for there is something there that is not
apparent from a cursory reading of the text. Most all English versions translate the words as something
to the effect that Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and die.” That is really not how the Hebrew literally
reads. The word translated as “curse” is actually just the opposite. The word is the Hebrew word bawrak’. In most other places in the Old Testament, baw-rak’ is translated as the word “bless” or some form
of that word. It is a puzzle, for Job’s wife surely did not mean to say to Job to bless God—and die—for
his troubles. The context of the statement and Job’s response to her make that pretty clear.
The best guess of scholars is that the author of the book of Job just could not bring himself to
write the words “curse” and “God” in the same sentence. For such a thing should never be in the mind
of the ancient Hebrew. Because for the writer of the book of Job, God is the source of blessing…and God
is not to be cursed. So in order to salve his conscience, he substituted the word “bless” for “curse.”
Postscript to the story: After the affair came to light, Carolyn and Steve went to a marriage counselor for several
sessions in an effort to save their marriage. Unfortunately she was never able to get past the sense of betrayal that
she experienced and they eventually wound up getting divorced.
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It seems to me that, if the author of Job had grown up in the Deep South, then it would have
been much easier. Don’t we Southerners have the expression “to bless someone out” to describe what
happens when someone is very angry and that they have had enough—they are at the boiling point—
and they want to make their feelings known to the other person by “letting them have it”? Of course
we do! So perhaps a more literal rendering of the phrase in English—and yet one that is faithful to the
actual wording—would be to translate the words of Job’s wife as “Bless God out—and die.”
Job doesn’t follow her advice. In spite of the physical and spiritual torment that he is
experiencing, he doesn’t turn away from God. But Job’s story is not as straightforward as that. What
follows today’s text is 39 chapters of poetry in which Job does not curse God, but instead, Job curses the
day he was born. He attempts to put God on trial, so God can answer for his actions. And he listens to
the insufferable speeches of his three so-called friends who are convinced that his troubles are due to
the fact that he has sinned. Job will have none of it. He maintains his innocence throughout the
speeches and continues to say that he does not deserve the treatment that he has received.
Finally God weighs in. God does not give Job answers to the questions that he is asking. Instead
God turns the tables and asks Job questions—dozens of them. These are questions for which Job has no
answer. And at the end of the book in chapter 42, Job is still where we find him in chapter 2—sitting on
an ash heap. The original story of Job has no Disney-like, “happy-ever-after” ending. Job is still asking
the question “Why?” but he has gained a new understanding of God. Apparently this unsettled ending
bothered the ancient Hebrews and, so at a later time, an unknown hand added what they considered to
be a proper ending—one in which Job is restored to his previous position in life with even more wealth
and a brand new family.3
Except that he apparently had the same wife…
Perhaps the biggest question for people of faith is this: How can a God that we believe to be
good and just allow what we see and experience as evil? Or put in the words of a title of a popular book
from a few years ago: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
It is a hard question with no easy answers. But we know something about it. Because we have
all seen it with our own eyes. We have lived it. It is the kind of thing that keeps us up at night. It is the
kind of thing that makes us really wonder whether or not there is a God or whether God really cares
about what happens to us.
I certainly do not have the answers to the questions that Job was asking. No one does. If there
were honest answers to those questions, then more than three thousand years of wrestling with the
question in the Judeo-Christian tradition would have provided one by now. The truth is that life is messy.
And that our faith cannot answer all the questions that we have—at least on this side of glory. To
believe otherwise is to be dishonest with ourselves—and to be dishonest with others…
I am indebted to Karla Suomala for some of these insights.
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But perhaps here is the good news that we can take away from Job this morning. In a very real
sense, we are all Job. We all have questions about the nature of God and of faith. We all wonder why
things are often the way they are in our world and in our lives. For anyone with eyes to see and ears to
hear, life is complicated and confusing. We do not understand why things are the way they are. Or why
things happen the way that they do.
And yet, Job’s steadfast faith is a model for us all. Even in the midst of the horrific tragedies that
he suffered, he was steadfast in his faith. Sure—Job argued with God and took him to task for what he
believed was his unfair treatment at the hands of the Almighty. But ultimately Job’s arguments with God
are not a rejection of God at all. Instead, Job is confident that the good that he had experienced from
the hand of God in times past was evidence of the true nature of God. And even though he was
experiencing things that shook him to his core, he was convinced that God would eventually vindicate
Job’s trust is bold—even extreme. While his faith accused God of treating him unfairly, he
remained faithful—almost with a vengeance. His faith was going to be unwavering even in the face of
his lack of understanding. His faith would not budge. He was not going to give an inch. Job was
convinced that there were better times to come—that God had his best interests at heart, even when it
was not immediately evident. At a minimum, he realized that ultimately his life was solely in God’s
hands…and he trusted in the goodness of life…and in the goodness of God.
We will close this part of the service this morning by singing a hymn which speaks to the topic of
the sermon text this morning. The hymn is “It Is Well with My Soul,” which you will find at #493 in your
hymn book. I invite you to turn to the hymn…
A great tragedy is associated with the writing of this hymn. It is a story that you may have heard
before. It is a favorite of a lot of preachers. But it is a powerful testimony…
In 1873, Horatio Spafford was a prominent lawyer in Chicago. His wife had taken sick and, on
orders from the family physician, Spafford decided to take the family on an extended European vacation
to improve her health. They were all set to leave together, when some urgent business unexpectedly
came up. Spafford decided to send his family on ahead. He would catch up with them as soon as he was
The ship upon which Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters were sailing collided with an English
sailing vessel off the coast of Wales. It was a horrific accident. Their ship sank in a matter of minutes.
Mrs. Spafford was rescued, but all four of their young daughters were lost in the tragedy. As soon as Mr.
Spafford received the awful news, he got on the first ship that he could to reunite with his wife.
During the voyage as he was pondering all that had happened, Spafford wrote the hymn that
When peace like a river attendedeth my way
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When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.
The second stanza speaks especially to the situation of Job and of our discussion this morning:
Though Satan should buffet, tho’ trails should come,
Let this blessed assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
And the triumph of the final stanza is a clear and unambiguous statement of the hope that is the
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so”—it is well with my soul. 4
Let us stand together as we sing #493 “It Is Well with My Soul…” And to God alone be the glory!