“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
Worship is not just for our good days, but for all our days, including our very worst. Especially our worst days.
The book of Job in the Old Testament gives us a picture of the beauty and rightness of worshiping God in the hardest of times. It’s one of the most important stories in the Bible to prepare us for suffering — and where to turn to in life’s greatest pains.
Empty Hands, Lifted to God
Job was a righteous man, “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). One of the most important lessons is that, in this fallen world, there’s no necessary correlation between suffering and the sin of the sufferer. When tragedy comes our way, we need not assume that it’s punishment for some specific sin.
Job was the father of seven sons and three daughters, and was abundantly wealthy, and in one day, he lost it all. And when he heard the final report — not just that his great possessions had been stolen and destroyed, but now that his sons and daughters were dead — what did Job do? He “tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20).
It is the worst news imaginable, coming at the end of successive announcements of escalating loss, and Job worships. His hands now empty, he lifts them to God, and says,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)
Whatever Satan’s role has been in the destruction of Job’s possessions and the death of his children, Job acknowledges that the ultimate authority is God. Satan cannot wreak any havoc and cause any pain apart from God’s sovereignty and will.
Wail and Worship
In the moment, and for weeks, even years, Job doesn’t know what God’s up to in such horrific tragedy. But he knows this: God is in control, and he has his loving purposes, often deeply hidden from us. And so these great losses become not only an occasion to mourn and wail, but also to worship — to turn in our confusion and pain to a God whose ways are higher than our ways and whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
Life’s greatest pains and sufferings, then, become life’s most important reminders to worship. To acknowledge that we are not God, to confess that this tragedy is beyond our will and wisdom, to humble ourselves before God’s mighty hand as the one who is able to show us mercy and compassion.
He Gives and Takes Away
This doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that healing comes quickly. Far from it. Job spends 40 chapters wrestling with his friends, even challenging God, over what he is doing in the tragedy. But in the end, Job ends up again in a posture of worship, returning to his initial instinct, which was so deeply appropriate. In remaining steadfast in our worship to God, in the best days and worst days, we see “the purpose of the Lord, and how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).
And so we sing, “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord,” not only when there is plenty and abundance, but when we find ourselves in life’s deserts and wildernesses. When he pours out blessing, we worship. And when the darkness closes in, we worship. When the sun’s shining down, and when the road is marked with suffering and pain, we say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).