Everyone loves a storybook ending, right? The good guy is celebrated, the bad guys get what’s coming to them, and everything is right in the world. We leave the novel, the television, or the movie theater with a sense of contentment: things are just how they are supposed to be.
“The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first… he had seven sons and three daughters… After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation.” (Job 42:12,13,16 NIV)
Check it out: Job received twice as many sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys as he had lost at the beginning of the story. He was given exactly as many sons and daughters as were lost in the tragedy of chapter 1 (although surely these new children could not replace his first children). Job comes out of his tremendous loss on top of the world once again!
But something isn’t quite right here. Usually in a storybook ending we can identify why the hero is victorious in the end: perhaps he beat the enemy, or he remained true to his principles, or he survived the conflict, or he learned an important lesson. In the case of Job, all four of these things are somewhat true, but they are not the climax of Job’s activity, growth, or development as a character.
Throughout the book, Job has been complaining against God and arguing for his innocence. The pervasive question throughout the book is “Why?” – why have these terrible things happened to an otherwise nice, successful, upright guy?
Finally, of course, God enters the scene and speaks to Job and his friends (chapters 38-41). God is shown to be righteous and all-powerful. And what is Job’s response to God? How does Job change? What does he do to “deserve” the blessings God was about to give him?
Two things: he repented before God, and he prayed for his friends.
In just a few words, Job expresses his newfound humility before God: God is God, and Job is not. And then, silently, without fanfare, Job prays for his friends – the three with whom God was angry for speaking falsely, the three who had tried (unsuccessfully) to convince Job he had sinned and thus had deserved his tragic state.
Job repented before God and prayed for those who had wronged him. And then God blessed him tremendously.
Now, I do not believe Job “forced God’s hand” or somehow manipulated God into blessing him. Job did not earn God’s blessings. But he put himself in a spiritual position to be able to receive what God had in store for him.
Repentance and praying for friends (even enemies). Seeking humility before God and seeking the welfare of others.
What if our lives were marked by such developments in our character? What if we actually have very little to do with bringing about storybook endings to situations in our lives? What if we humbly pursue relationship with God and peace with others? What might our world look like?
Isn’t that just how things are supposed to be?