by Todd Shaffer

Since losing my son to suicide, the book of Job has become one of the most precious books of the Bible to me. The book I once skimmed through is now a book I linger in to drink deeply from.

Losing one son is a horror. Losing ten children, losing all your wealth, your employees, and your health, is beyond comprehension. Yet Job did it without sin, without cursing God.

Two things Job did stand out among the others, and it gives us insight into what gave him the strength of character he had. First, when Job learned of the tragedies, he worshiped God. Second, after enduring the long diatribes of his friends accusing him of being a sinner who God found out and brought retribution to, God shows up and Job is declared to have been the only one who spoke rightly about God.

Job knew God. Job was able to endure his nightmare of unimaginable suffering because he knew God, and he knew that God was ultimately behind the suffering that he faced. Even though Satan was the agency who destroyed Job’s life, Job attributed all of it to God, not Satan. He understood well God’s sovereignty over all of life.

How is this comforting? Let me give you an example. If I heard the door of my house open, and I went up from my office to see the youth pastor of my church driving off with my 8yo son in his car, not knowing anything about it, what would my response be? I would return to my office and not think anything of it. But if it was a stranger who came into my house and took my 8yo son and drove off, I would call 911 in full panic.

What’s the difference? I know the youth pastor. I know his family. I’ve worked alongside of him in ministry. I know that whatever his reason for driving off with my son is for his good. The stranger is a different story. What is his motive? What are they going to do? Is he an evil person taking my son to harm him or do evil to me? I don’t know him.

When Job learned his ten children were killed he worshiped God because he knew whose hand took his children. When Job learned his livelihood was stripped from him he worshiped because he knew who took his wealth from him. Job knew who he belonged to. He knew he was completely dependent upon God for everything. And he knew God was good, loving, merciful and compassionate.

This is a hard lesson that Job teaches us. The morning I found my son hanging from a rope, a nightmare of nightmares that I never, in my wildest nightmares, could imagine possible, I innately knew that God came for my son and took him. That very night, in fact, the very hour my son was taking his life, my wife woke up from sleep at 3AM and wrestled in prayer, and asked God to take our son’s pain from him and give it to her. And He did.
We have not weathered the storm as well as Job, but we lean on him and the lesson he teaches us. We know who took our son and holds our son, and we know that He is good.

One of the most important things we gain from studying the Bible and developing our theology is not to gain academic knowledge and be able to compete in Bible trivia. It’s not to simply learn how to live the Christian life and sharpen our moral character. The most important thing is that we know God, and knowing God we trust him and we love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength — even when we don’t know what he’s doing or why, and even when that thing is a horror. I know who took my son, and I know in whose hands he is being held.

And I trust Him more than my youth pastor.