In Job 23, job responded to his friend Ellie Fazz, who accused Job with fabricated sins and reprimanded Job to put away his wealth in gold in favor of justice. Job’s response included a desperate desire to stand before God and plead his case, to rationally persuade God that Job was innocent of wrongdoing. But Job couldn’t just waltz up to heaven. He felt that God was completely inaccessible to Him. If I go forward, he is not there or backwards.
I cannot perceive Him on the left, he hides, and I cannot behold Him. I turn to the right, but I cannot see Him. But he enos the way that I take. When he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. This passage can seem relatable when we go through trials of our own.
While some people have miraculous experiences that strengthen them during trials, sometimes it seems like we’re left all alone to wander in a dark, injury wilderness. It can feel like God’s abandoned us. Even Jesus Christ could relate to this feeling on the cross when he declared, my God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? But what’s remarkable about this passage is that despite Job’s loneliness, he acknowledged that God never really left him. He knows the way that I take.
Even when his hand isn’t immediately evident, god is aware and is always watching. Job expressed the hope that after his trials, he shall come out like gold. This is a direct reference back to Ellie Fazz’s chastisement that Job needed to do away with his gold, and Job’s response was that his trials shall turn him into gold if we let them. Trials can have a refining effect on our characters, just as or being refined into precious gold. My own great grandmother is an example to me of someone who endured long and lonely trials, yet came out as gold.
My great grandmother Esther was a loving wife, a good mother, and an accomplished artist. But she was also a second wife in a plural marriage and lost almost every single one of her children to repeated tragedies. When she was 13 years old, she received a patriarchal blessing, which prophesied how her posterity would be bountiful as clusters of grapes. This blessing gave her hope through many painfully lonely years. She had to live away from her husband for long periods of time to avoid prosecution from the US.
Government for practicing polygamy. Yet that promise of many children increasingly seems like vain hope as each of her babies died in their childhood. Esther gave birth to her first daughter in 19 four, but she died at the age of 13 from scarlet fever and failed kidneys. Her next daughter, Julia, died of an intestinal fever at 20 months old. Her first son, Christ, died at age eleven, likely from a rattlesnake bite.
Two other sons died as infants, and during these years, Esther also lost her mother, her brother and several sisters. Like job. Esther lost so many children. She lived in poverty and had to deal with immense grief and tragedy without the frequent support of her husband. In these trying conditions, it could have been easy for Esther to feel abandoned by God.
She had faith and conviction in her religion and in her marriage, but this was just plain hard. Perhaps like Jobs, she had moments where she turned forwards, backwards, to the left and to the right, wondering where God was. Yet despite her challenges, she never forsook her testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like Job, through her trials, she was refined into precious gold. All who knew her spoke well of her character, kindness, compassion and accomplishments.
She developed her talents in painting the landscapes of Arizona, which have become treasured heirlooms for her descendants. She oliver to be 100 years old and blessed countless lives in the service of others. But more importantly, God fulfilled his promises to her. She only had one surviving son, yet her posterity really became as a cluster of grapes. My grandfather Malan had twelve children, who in turn brought about 77 grandchildren, 256 great grandchildren, and a handful of great great grandchildren.
Just because we’re righteous doesn’t mean we’re always exempt from challenges. The book of Job pushes back on this prosperity gospel mindset. Elder Christopherson commented that God’s plan is not some sort of cosmic vending machine where we can input good works and output the desired blessings. But Elder Christopherson also promised God will indeed honor his covenants and promises to each of us. We need not worry about that.
The atoning power of Jesus Christ, who descended below all things and then ascended on high, and who possesses all power in heaven and on earth, ensures that God can and will fulfill his promises. We keep commandments and we endure trials, not because of promised blessing quotas, but because of the effect the commandments and trials have on us. They can forge in us a stronger faith. They can weld us to God in an unshakeable relationship. They can refine us so that we, as Joe before us, can become as refined as gold.