Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; and there came a messenger to Job, and said, “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The Chaldeans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said “Your sons and daughters were drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; and behold a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped. And he said “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.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Job 1:13-22

During Great Lent, on weekdays, the daily Scripture readings have come from the Old Testament books of Genesis and Proverbs. During Holy Week, at the Pre-Sanctified Liturgies prescribed for Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday mornings, in addition to Holy Thursday morning’s Vesperal Divine Liturgy and the Vespers of the Apokathelosis on Good Friday afternoon, the prescribed Old Testament readings come from the books of Exodus and Job. (Unlike the weekday services of Great Lent, there is a prescribed Gospel reading at every divine service of Holy Week, in some cases more than one, and at the Divine Liturgy of Holy Thursday morning and the Vespers of Friday afternoon, there is also an Epistle Reading.)

The book of Job begins by describing Job’s immense wealth—7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 she-asses. He had seven sons and three daughters, and many servants. Job was also “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1). Overall, he “was the greatest of all the people of the east.” (1:3)  One day Satan came before God and challenged God: “Hast Thou not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse Thee to Thy face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand.” (1:9-12)

In short order, Job lost his possessions, his servants, his children and his health. Essentially he lost just about everything that mattered to him. Here is where we wade into the dangerous concept of the permissive will of God. We know that God many times acts with intention. He calls people to certain things, provides blessings, even works miracles (changes the course of nature so that something extraordinary happens). James 1:17 says that “every good and perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of Lights.” This means that only good and perfect gifts are from God and if it isn’t good or perfect it is not from Him. However, along with the intentional will of God, there is the permissive will of God. While He does not cause our misfortune, He permits misfortune because He won’t take away the collective free-will of society. This concept of the permissive will of God is dangerous because very quickly we arrive at the question of why does God permit certain misfortunes while in others He intervenes to spare people? For this question, I can’t find a good answer.

In the first four days of Holy Week, we read of the many misfortunes of Job and are introduced to his three friends who are really of no help at all to him. The final reading from the last chapter of Job shows God’s reward for Job’s faithfulness. Job is blessed with more children and more wealth, much more than he had before. What we don’t hear in the Holy Week readings is most of the book of Job, which is Job’s lament. While Job does not curse God, he certainly doesn’t celebrate his struggles. And he does struggle. But he does endure.

Some of us will have lives like Job. We will struggle. We will struggle a lot. We will have challenges that can’t be overcome, only endured. We will have losses that can’t be replaced. We will wonder about not only the goodness of God but His very existence. Faith will be tested, for some of us to our last breath.

Several years ago, I gave a sermon where I laid a rope down the center aisle of the church. Everyone in the church could see the rope. Then in my hand I held a paper clip. Only people in the first couple of pews could see what I was holding. My message was that the rope represented eternity. The paper clip represented our lives on earth, a comparative nothing in the span of eternity. If we have the best life but we have no faith in God, then after enjoying life, we are going to be in for an eternity of misery as we will live in eternal condemnation. On the other hand, if we have the worst life, if can just endure it, we will look forward to an eternity of happiness as we will inherit the Kingdom of God.

To put it another way, if someone told you that you had to endure one-tenth of a second of the greatest pain you could feel and that would be followed by the best day you’ve ever had, could you endure the one-tenth of a second of pain? The answer is yes, because one tenth of a second in time is less than what it takes to snap a finger. Over in an instant. One-tenth of a second compared to a twenty-four hour day is our life in the span of eternity.

If we really believe in God, then we take God at His promises. God did not promise that life will be easy. It is easier for some than for others, that’s for sure. In Matthew 24 (and in other places), Jesus talks about the various tribulations that will come upon the world. And in Matthew 24:13, He said, “But he who endures to the end will be saved.” When faced with some challenges, we must focus on overcoming them. And with others, we must focus on enduring them. Some of us will be in the unenviable position that Job was in. Hopefully, most of us won’t. But whatever challenges come your way today or in life, the steadfastness of Job serves as a model of not cursing God and not giving up when faced with severe tests.

Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy on me.
O righteous Judge and Savior, have mercy on me and deliver me from the fire that threatens me and from the punishment that I deserve to suffer at the Judgment. Before the end comes, grant me remission through virtue and repentance.
(Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode Eight, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Remain steadfast to God in whatever challenges you encounter today. Overcome the ones that you can. Endure the ones you cannot overcome.


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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