Thanks for Giving and Taking

Job was a very rich man. He owned 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 donkeys. Besides that, he had a large family – seven sons and three daughters. In one awful day, Satan spearheaded the destruction of all of it. How would you respond to this? Job fell to the ground in worship to God and said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

It is easy to give thanks for what we have received. We see those blessings and enjoy them. We give thanks for our families, our homes, our possessions. We give thanks when we receive recognition or raises or good news. But we should be just as thankful for what God takes from us. Above all else, we need God to take away our sins. We were sinful even from the moment we were conceived (Psalm 51:5), and a sinful heart beats in our chests until we die (Matthew 15:19). If God does not remove this sin, it will only grow worse. Its roots will sink deeper and deeper inside us, until the extraction of this sin becomes extremely painful.

We cannot take care of this problem ourselves. Good efforts and good intentions do not do the job. Neither does ignoring our guilt or trying to move past it. The taking away of sin requires much more drastic measures than these. Sin can only be removed by an act of God. But God could not simply wave His hand and pronounce the world forgiven. Every last member of the human race broke His Law, and God’s punishment for sin is eternal death in hell (Romans 6:23). This is why it was necessary for the Son of God to become man. He kept God’s Law perfectly for all humanity and then suffered and died for each and every sin. Jesus’ substitution in our place was the only way for sin to be taken away from us.

But since we are always tempted to think we are doing pretty well on our own, God must at times knock us off our pedestal of pride. If that sounds drastic and painful, it is. But God wants you in heaven. He is not content to have you remain in your sin. When is it that you most recognize how weak you are? It is when things happen to you that you cannot control. You might become ill or lose the ability to work. You might experience the loss of your possessions like Job did. You might lose your friends or family members. Whether or not God directly sends these troubles, He does use times like these to chip away at our self-reliance. This is painful for sure, but if He does not first take away our pride, we will not see how much we need Him to take away our sins.

By His help, we may eventually even thank Him for the suffering we had to endure, suffering that produced endurance, endurance that produced character, and character that produced hope in Christ (Romans 5:3-5). Like Job, we may learn to thank God for what He takes from us—even if it does take us a little longer than Job to get there.

– Rev. Peter Faugstad