How The Book of Job Can Help Us Cope with the Loss of a Loved One (Come, Follow Me: Book of Job) – powered by Happy Scribe
There are many compelling translations of the Scriptures, but the King James Version has always been the favored translation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. Robert Altar notes that of all English translations of the Old Testament, except perhaps his own, the KJV most accurately captures the mingling of style, vocabulary and poetic cadence intended in the original Hebrew Bible. One particular and peculiar point of translation confirmed my personal conviction that no other translation conveys God’s words to us quite like the King James Version. Today I’m going to share an encounter I had with the 39th chapter of Job. This experience changed forever one of the most difficult events of my life. It will, until my dying day and probably beyond be among my most powerful encounters with God’s words. I pray that sharing the complex and powerful impact this chapter of Scripture had in my life may help one of you to receive guidance, insight and direction from Scripture that will help you to process life’s trials and tragedies in a way that brings you closer to heaven. In mid April of 2019, our entire family was gathered in the intensive care unit of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Charity Sunshine, our fourth child, a gifted opera singer and human being, was struggling for her life again. 15 years earlier, Charity had been diagnosed with a rare incurable condition. Soon after her frightening diagnosis, she received a blessing encouraging her to live life to the full and not be deterred by the impact of the crippling illness. She continued to study, perform, write and compose extensively, marry in the temple and contribute of her time and talents generously to church and family. Now nearly 36, she was in the ICU. Due to complications related to cancer treatments she’d been receiving, charity was still fantastic funny and fighting for her life. I, for one, believed she would once again defy all the odds and emerge from yet another close encounter with death. Vivacious and vibrant searching for scriptural guidance and encouragement, I had an intense prompting to look to the Book of Job. Of course, it made sense. Like Job, Charity had led an exceptionally faithful and generous and blessed life. She had never faltered in the face of enormous challenges in her devotion to God, nor in her determination to serve others and magnify for good the talents with which she had been blessed.
Earlier that week, she had even played an April Fool’s prank on her ICU nurse, managing to brighten everybody’s day. In the midst of that darkest of times, charity Sunshine was still shining, and I hoped the Lord was going to facilitate her recovery yet again. After my prompting, I prayed to open to the part of Job’s story where, after his many trials, he has all the worldly blessings restored to him and multiplied. That was the ending I wanted to Charity story, and I deliberately aimed for the very end of the 42nd chapter Book of Job. Instead I opened to chapter 38 and then 39. These scriptures energized both me and Charity as she was struggling for life while gloriously explaining to Job that humans do not truly understand the ways of the Lord, nor why creation works the way it does. The Lord exhorts Job to gird up his loins to find the strength to meet the crushing challenges before him. And as I read these pages to Charity with assistance, she got out of her bed in the ICU and vigorously began pulling weights to continue her physical therapy. We thought the Lord was reminding us that his ways were not the world’s ways and that Charity would astonish the medical community again by transcending all prognosis and fight her way back to life.
This was the interpretation I wanted, and I believed she wanted. We were swept along by the dynamic descriptions and questions posed by the Lord to Job in these chapters. With the Lord’s help, Charity once again would defy death and human expectations to return to the world with the beauty, grace, and power she had been blessed to manifest so many times before. But the next morning, I was reading these pages to my mother and suddenly burst into tears as I read from chapter 39 nine. Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valley? A completely new and not welcome interpretation of these passages overwhelmed me. Charity was indeed a unicorn, a creature not Mormon on Earth, but amazingly, a creature included in the canonical history. Charity would not be bound to Earth by my fervent desires. No, she would fly upwards, just like a unicorn from a fairy tale. She would break the bands binding her here in this earthly furrow. She was not meant to plow these fields any longer.
This passage in Job 39 was in that moment a manifestation of my daughter, a splendid latterday unicorn. It illuminated for me the toil required.
For her to remain here on Earth with us.
It provided a vision of the magnificent worlds beyond to which she was ascending, devastating and glorious.
In two verses of Scripture. I was prepared to face a separation I had dreaded with every fiber of my being. Charity Sunshine had fulfilled her divine purpose here and would not be bound to Earth any longer. This would not have happened if I’d read another translation of this verse. There is no way I would have recognized Charity in the wild ox, the wild bull or rhinoceros used in other translations of the scripture. I needed this exact word at this exact moment. Please read these astonishing chapters of the book of Job 39 and 38. These scriptures, this poetry, provided me a multifaceted, deeply personal encounter with eternity. It is my conviction that the commentaries on our lives, on all that is excruciating and exhilarating in our lives, can be found as we study these stories and prophecies with the spirit. It is my hope that this experience I had with these these scriptures will encourage you to seek the enlightenment and encouragement that awaits us all in these tomes of truth.