Rebuilding After Tragedy

Bible Book: Job 
Subject: Recovery; New Start; Renewal; Second Chance

The book of Job tells of conversations between God and Satan, and of how God allowed Satan to afflict Job--ultimately for God’s glory and Job’s good, but Job didn’t know why he was being afflicted. The beleaguered old patriarch’s life was devastated by the loss of his wealth, the loss of all ten of his children, the loss of his health, the loss of support from his wife, and by harsh judgment from his friends. At first Job managed to keep a positive attitude, but eventually he gave in to despair and began to question God’s fairness. He expressed the wish that he had never been born, and that God would let him die.

At long last, though, by the grace of God Job’s life was rebuilt. There were three steps in that rebuilding process, and as we look at them let’s bear in mind that, as Acts 10:34 reminds us, “God is no respecter of persons”--which means that when tragedy has struck your life or mine and we have been crushed and beaten down, we, too, can rebuild if we’ll follow those same three steps. Those steps reflect timeless principles that are necessary in the rebuilding of any life that has been shattered.


In the last part of the book of Job God spoke to Job with mighty power, and revealed his majesty. Upon confronting the awesome greatness of God as he never had before, Job was ashamed of having accused God of being unfair; he was ashamed of having insisted that he was owed an explanation of his suffering; he was ashamed of having been self-righteous, and he got a fresh, new vision of God. In Job 42:5-6 Job said to the Lord, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job apparently was saying, in effect, “Now, Lord, with the eyes of faith, I see you in a new light; I have a new, firmer grasp of your greatness, wisdom, and power.”

Now let’s read verse 7: “And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.”

What did Job say that was right? Although he had made some pathetically wrong statements, he had realized his folly, had asked God’s forgiveness, and had reaffirmed his unconditional faith in God. He had said, in effect, “Lord, I realize that your dealings with me are always right, whether I understand it all or not--and I repent of having foolishly insisted that I deserved answers to my questions.”

In verse 8 God continued to speak to Eliphaz: “Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.”

Now, verse 9: “So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also accepted Job.”

What does that mean--God “accepted” Job? Apparently Job was already a child of God--that seems clear from chapter one, and from other parts of the narrative. Even though there’s no likelihood that Job knew the name “Jesus,” he did know that God’s Redeemer would one day come to the earth, and Job believed in him. He said, in Job 19:25-27:

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”

Without knowing all the details, Job knew and believed that timeless truth which was later expressed with wonderful clarity and specificity in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

When a person becomes a child of God through faith in God’s Redeemer, Jesus Christ, two things are established: a relationship, and a fellowship. The relationship never changes; Jesus said, in John 10:28, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

However, the fellowship can be strained or even broken; and that’s what happened in Job’s case. He had gotten woefully out of touch with God, through his self-righteous attempts to justify himself, and his questioning of God’s fairness. But now that Job has repented of and renounced his folly, God accepts him back into a close fellowship.

That’s the first thing that all of us need when our lives have caved in. That’s the first step that anyone should take in rebuilding his life after tragedy: he must make a fresh surrender to God, who ultimately revealed himself in Jesus Christ, and then God will accept him--that is, God will receive him back into a close fellowship. And that, after all, is what any of us need most when we’re hurting--we don’t need answers so much as we need a fresh experience with the Lord.


Notice, then, the second essential for rebuilding one’s life after tragedy: Verse 10 says, “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends....”

The last part of verse 10 says, “...also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” The restoration of Job’s material possessions in double measure was not intended as a universal law. God doesn’t see fit to bless everyone with health and wealth as he did in Job’s case--and even in Job’s case the restoring of wealth was not what ultimately constituted the reconstruction of his life. The material benefits were “extras.” Notice that the Bible says, “also the Lord gave Job twice as much....” The restoration of his material benefits was simply a “plus”--it was “icing on the cake.” The main point here is that God “turned the captivity of Job.” That is, God further released Job from the imprisonment, the tyranny of despair and doubt. As already pointed out, the great, major step was making a fresh surrender to God--but now here is step two: praying for his friends.

For a long time, Job deeply resented his friends and their erroneous, smug, self-righteous attitude. They not only failed to alleviate Job’s distress, they added to it. No doubt they meant well; but when a man is hurting he needs love and sympathy, not shallow religious platitudes, nor grim theological lectures, and certainly not condemnation.

But apparently Job now sees those friends in a new light; he sees them as people with a deep need themselves, who should receive his compassion, not his scorn. And somehow, as he becomes involved in the ministry of intercession for them, he is increasingly set free from preoccupation with his own loss and hurt.

One of the greatest dangers that any of us faces in hard times is that of becoming so absorbed with our own disappointments, our own heartaches, our own deep sorrows, that we are consumed by them.

There is an old story about two men who were trudging along in the midst of a terrible, raging blizzard. They were afoot, and were barely able to move along. They were almost frozen; the snow and sleet were beating them in the face, and both of them were doubtful that they would ever reach their destination. Then, as they slowly and painfully were making their way along, they saw a form lying in their path. Closer examination revealed that is was the limp body of another traveler who had collapsed due to the severe weather. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to last long in that terrible cold if he continued to lie there in the snow. One of the two men suggested that they try to help the fallen stranger, but the other man refused, stating that they would jeopardize their own lives if they stopped. So, this man trudged on ahead, but the first man refused to leave the helpless stranger.

He set to work trying to restore the stranger’s circulation. With what strength he could muster, he rubbed the fallen stranger’s hands and face and finally got him to his feet. After a while the stranger responded to the massaging, and in the process the rescuer’s own circulation was quickened and he felt new strength himself. Helping the stranger along, this noble rescuer plodded on ahead--and then he stumbled upon a form lying in the snow. It was the body of his companion who had insisted on going on ahead; he was frozen to death.

Jesus said, in Luke 9:24, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall find it.” Jesus didn’t mean, of course, that the self-centered person would always meet a tragic death--but he clearly did mean that such a person would miss out on life’s highest and best. In her book, “The Lady of the Decoration,” published in 1906, Frances Little wrote: “The most miserable, pitiful, smashed-up life could blossom again if it would only blossom for others.”


Finally, a third element in the rebuilding of Job’s life was ministry to him by caring loved ones and friends.

We read in Job 42:11-12:

“Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and everyone an earring of gold. So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning....”

In the remainder of verse 12 and in verse 13 we’re given the details of how he was blessed. But, as already emphasized, the greater blessing that came to Job in the latter part of his life was not primarily in his double portion of material benefits, though that is impressive; but the greater blessing was in his being set free from despair and doubt, and having again an uplifting, refreshing sense of God’s presence.

And how touching it is to see that God used family and friends as his instruments to continue the healing process, the rebuilding process, in Job’s life.

Years ago I heard the story of an elderly lady who was a shut-in and was suffering intensely. She was a Christian, but she had begun to doubt, and she was desperately seeking a sign from God that he was still with her in her distress. In that community lived a devout Christian named Anna, whose life was devoted to ministering to others in the name of the Lord. Anna went to visit the elderly shut-in, and after reading to her from the Scriptures Anna suggested that they pray together. The elderly shut-in began to pour out her heart in supplication. With her head bowed and her eyes closed, she poignantly cried out, “Oh, God, if you’re with me in this room, please give me a sign; please let me feel the touch of your hands on my head.”

Then, she closed her prayer with a heartfelt “Amen,” and look up with a new assurance radiating from her countenance. “Oh, Anna,” she exclaimed, “he did it. Even as I prayed, he placed his hands gently on my head.” Then she added, “And Anna, it was so remarkable: his hands felt just like your hands.”

If you and I will allow him to, God will use other folks to minister to us when we’re hurting, just as he wants to use us to minister to hurting people that we encounter. Annie Johnson Flint wrote:

“Christ has no hands but our hands To do His work today;

He has no feet but our feet To lead men in His way;

He has no tongue but our tongue To tell men how He died;

He has no help but our help To bring them to His side.”

Even life’s most devastating, heart breaking tragedies can’t keep a person down if he goes about the rebuilding process in the proper manner. First, be sure you are saved and then make a fresh surrender of your life to Jesus Christ, so that God can “accept” you back into a close fellowship. Next, give yourself in intercessory prayer for others. Third, allow yourself to receive help from others; let them share with you gracious, encouraging words, and let them help you in practical, hands-on, material ways.

However crushing and painful may be the tragedy you’ve experienced, you can rebuild if you’ll go about it in the way God has shown us in Job’s experience.