Lessons from the Book of Job

By Michael Austin (from his book Re-reading Job:  Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem)

At its core, the OT Book of Job teaches us how to live.  As we peel back its layers, we find solid advice about things that matter in our day-to-day lives.  Though the main purpose of the poem is not reduce practical wisdom to neat aphorisms, I suspect that a collection of “Job-inspired proverbs” would be as useful as anything in the Bible for living more comfortably in the world–even a world 2,500 years removed from the world of the poet.  Such aphorism might include:

From Job’s Perspective

  • Just because you do not understand the reason for something does not mean that there is no reason for it; it just means that your understanding is limiting.
  • Do not become easily offended when people give well-meaning advice, even it it is completely inappropriate.  Remember that they are doing their best to love you, even if they are not always very good at it.
  • Just because you are unhappy does not mean that the universe is flawed.  It is not the universe’s job to make you happy.
  • You have biases and fragilities that determine how you see the world.  Understand the limitations of your perspective and show humility in the presence of other points of view.
  • You cannot control what happens to you, but you can always control how you respond.
  • Do no look to other people for comfort; ultimately, you have to learn how to do it yourself.
  • It is okay with God if you complain about stuff; omniscient beings can handle petitions.

From Job’s Comforter’s Perspective

  • If you do not understand what somebody is going through, do not try to explain it.  Just listen to them and love them.
  • You do not have to worry about protecting God.  God can protect Himself.  Your responsibility is to protect the people who cannot protect themselves.
  • Every effect has a cause, but not every effect has a cause that you are capable of understanding.
  • Sometimes being a good friend means doing thing that will make you religiously or ideologically uncomfortable.  Be a good friend.
  • Sometimes people bring their own suffering on themselves, and sometimes they do not.  You do not have to decide; you just have to love them.
  • You do not have the foggiest idea what God is thinking–so stop pretending.
  • Nobody likes a suck-up, not even God.
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