I used to hate the book of Job.
There, I said it. I know some of you might be in shock that I--a seminarian, a pastor, a future ordained elder--would actually hate a book of the Bible. But it's true, for the longest time I just could not stand the story of a man whose life get's worse and worse and worse, simply because God wanted to prove something to Satan... or something like that.*
Which is funny because my wife absolutely loves the book of Job. It's her favorite in the entire Old Testament, and I could not understand why for the longest time. It's just so dadgum depressing. A man's life starts out so wonderful, so full of blessing and grace, and slowly falls apart until nothing is left but his faith. And I know, I know, at the end he gets back double what he had before, but that's a few verses at the end of chapters and chapters of misery.
Not like Daniel. The story of Daniel is a book that starts out with destruction and judgement and nothing but a boy's faith, and slowly builds up until an ending full of blessing and grace where you least expect it. Now that's a good story, right?
I always loved Daniel because it is such a simple story. A boy, just one single boy, has such a deep well of faith that he is able to change the entire world around him. It's his incredible faith, his incredible hope that makes him (in my mind) the measuring stick for believers everywhere. He has the mustard seed that Jesus speaks of centuries later. He may not have moved physical mountains, but he changed the hearts of kings, which I would argue is a much more difficult task. Daniel is just fantastic, with his powerful, simple, but very deep faith that carries him through.
Not unlike Job, actually. It took me a long time to realize this, but Job and Daniel have more in common than I ever realized. They both are incredibly faithful. They both remain faithful in the face of destruction. They both honor and praise God at every turn in their lives. But Job's story doesn't go like Daniel's. He doesn't get the happy surprises. He doesn't watch the world around him change for the better. He survives his suffering sustained only by a faith so powerful, simple, and deep that his response again and again is praise. And so, when I put Daniel and Job next together for the first time recently, I had to admit something.
They're almost the same.
The only difference is, Daniel's faith leads to blessing after blessing after blessing, while Job's leads to suffering after suffering after suffering. And when I put them together I realize that combined, they teach me so much more than as individuals. Daniel and Job define life as a believer.
Our faith leads us into blessings.
Our faith leads us into sufferings.
And you might be like me, in love with Daniel's story, focused on the blessings, ever the optimist about what this world could be. Well, I've learned to love Job, too.
Because Job is a reality. Sometimes our God calls us to trying times, sometimes our world proves to be a painful place, and sometimes we find ourselves creating our own destruction. Regardless the reason, suffering exists. And the answer Job offers us is surprisingly... faith. And the good news is, even if it is just a few verses at the end, Job's story of faith does end with blessings.
It can be hard to admit that suffering is a reality, that bad times do happen, that there is still pain in the life of a believer, but the truth is we need to learn to love Daniel and Job. They're both great men, both with faith's that carried them through, and both ring true in our world today.
Don't make the mistake I did. Because Daniel is only half of the story.
*I know this is a common hang-up with Job, wrestle through it, because the story is much deeper than spiritual chess match between God and devil.