Father's Day usually evokes images of Dads who are heroes in their child's eyes. Fathers are compared to whomever the current superheroes and sports figures are. One name that never pops up (Get it? Pops?) as a model father is the Old Testament patriarch Job. After all, Job was a miserable father!
Don't get me wrong; I don't mean he was a lousy father or poor example. The truth is that in his misery, he was a great father!
Job was "the greatest man among all the people of the East" (Job 1:3). He had ten children, sizable herds, and numerous servants. He was also remarkably pious, "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil" (1:1). He was as good and secure a man as could be.
Job had his priorities right. When his sons held periods of feasting, "Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, 'Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' This was Job's regular custom" (1:5). His primary concern for his children was their spiritual welfare. He was the priest and shepherd of his family, making sure they maintained a right relationship with God. And yet, he was a miserable father.
Despite all Job's wealth, wisdom, fame, family, health, and holiness, he suffered more loss than any man ever has: he lost everything but his very life. He was miserable.
A true test of a man's character and conviction is the furnace of affliction. "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart" (Proverbs 17:3). Just as the flames of a crucible remove the dross and reveal the true metal beneath, so does the Lord put us through the fire to reveal our true mettle.
There has been a spate of books published in recent years, attempting to either disprove God or at least cast doubts on His character. The prevailing theme is that God must be either impotent or uncaring because of the evil in the world. One of the arguments people use for leaving the faith is that they couldn't serve a God Who allows misery, especially in their life. When crisis strikes, they say, "Why me?" The corollary is obviously, "Why not someone else?", as if someone else deserves sorrow more than I do. So they see God as unfair and unfit.
Job's response was extraordinary. When he felt the full force of deprivation, he "he fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised'" (1:21). Lest we think this was a foolish response on Job's part, here is God's evaluation: "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing" (1:22). To have accused God of making a mistake or worse would have been sin.
In his statement, Job also admitted that nothing he had was actually his. God gives us everything to keep for Him. Fathers are responsible to care for what He has given for His purposes, especially children. Whether He gives us what we want or not, and whether He takes them back or not, everything is His. The proof is in that old saying, "You can't take it with you."
Even Job's wifehis helpmeet, his best friend, his life's partnertold him to "curse God and die" (2:9). The hardest challenge to face is an attack from your spouse. Yet Job's faith and leadership stood firm. Even when his best friends accused him of sin and regaled him with bad theology, he charged them with being "miserable comforters" (16:2).
Finally, when confronted by God Himself, Job did not attack Him nor defend himself; he agreed to pray for his friends, which many of us would have found difficult, considering their past performance. Job held no grudges.
After this most tragic episode in his life, the Lord entrusted Job with ten more children and twice as much wealth. The miserable father had proven himself a man like "no one on the earth" (1:8), not because he was prosperous, productive, princely or privileged, but because he feared the Lord.
What sort of father are you? Miserable at being a father, or fathering well through misery?