Musing on the Parable of Job
Perhaps it is an aspect of age (I wouldn't call it wisdom in my case!) that I can look back also at so many instances when tragedy, loss or calamity felled me, but turned out to have unexpected gifts discovered later. If my husband had not developed a fatal illness when I was still a bride, for instance, I might never have learned that I could handle household, business, the medical establishment, AND the construction of our home more or less on my own. Tests like this particularly emphasized for me the importance of faith, because some days, that was all I had to hang onto in a sea of troubles!
So, I think I'm beginning to understand the trials of Job in the Old Testament Bible better than I did as a child. Then, I just couldn't swallow a God who tormented His creation deliberately in the name of testing their faith. Now, I think that perspective was likely the fault of the story tellers, plus an eight-year-old's limited understanding.
What happened to Job was simply what life was like in his time: people suffered all sorts of tragedies. It was common to (repeatedly) lose family, possessions, health and freedom. No, what was uncommon about Job was his steadfastness in his faith through all those trials. People of his time understood his losses because everybody had them; what puzzled and amazed them was that Job never publicly blamed God. He never lost his conviction that his God loved him and that things would get better, and he didn't look for another deity who would treat him better.
I am definitely of an age to have experienced a number of life's storms and disappointments, and I've watched stuff happen to those around me. Without the Bahá'í Teaching that the nature and purpose of life is to be a crucible of faith, I'm sure I'd have given up long ago. Finding the Bahá'í Faith in college (to whatever limited degree I understood it then, or now) has been the single most important factor which shapes my perspective.
Of course, if I possessed perfect Faith (more like Job) I'd have understood more and sooner--but hey, my hindsight improves every day! So many of my investments of time and energy and money have faded away, often without a trace remaining! But, as darling husband is fond of telling me, no good deed is ever wasted; the results just don't always appear in the forms we might have been expecting. You have to live a long time (if you are as stubborn as me, LOL) to see that unfold in your own life.
Which means I'm still learning to pray first, instead of at the end of a long list of personally funded interventions. I know--because I've seen it happen repeatedly--that whatever happens, there is a Plan, and the results will be good eventually. I'm less certain of the details of how I will get there, especially as patience is not my best developed virtue, and God's Plan seems often to diverge from mine!
So when I am feeling down about the results of some project or other, or regretting my failings and having trouble seeing anything at all that I have done right, I repeat this little mantra which comes from my understanding of the Bahá'í Teachings:
"No act done in the spirit of service is ever wasted, even if it looks like the recipients threw it all away. Hearts (including my own) will have been touched--if I have faith, work on my own character, and make efforts to serve others as an expression of my love of God."
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