I would highly encourage you to check out the Halo: Outpost Discovery event if it is landing in an area near you. After attending the event this past weekend I can tell you that it is a definite must-see for any massive Halo fan (such as myself) due to its unique offerings. It is not only a travelling museum of iconic Halo gear such as the Warthog and a selection of the Chief’s arsenal of weapons, but it also has a number of interactive elements and exhibits that range from a Halo-inspired escape room to virtual reality combat and laser tag. It was quite a unique experience, and while the lines were lengthy the presentation was everything you would want from a branded Halo exhibition.
Speaking of those wonderfully long lines… while standing in one of those epic lines for the “Ring Experience” (editor’s note… it was over TWO hours) it struck me that while the Master Chief has a lot of impressive wins under his belt that this museum is cataloging for the posterity of generations to come, his path is actually filled with a lot more loss and pain than may seem evident on the surface. When you are busy saving the galaxy on a regular basis it is easy to forget the pain, loss, and solitude of this heroic character. And if you are not up on your Master Chief history, you are in luck… I have a crash course just for you. And YES, I know he is just a fictional character. But in all fairness, you are the one reading an article about VIDEO GAMES. So please, suspend your disbelief for just a moment, hop in the passenger side of this Warthog, and let’s take a drive together…
Let’s take a high level overview… did you know that the Master Chief we all know and love was once just a normal boy who was kidnapped from his family at six years old to undergo the radical (and illegal) biological experiments that would forcibly evolve him into the massive physical specimen that he is today? Pretty rough start… then, as one of the few survivors of this process he was stripped of his identity and given the simple code name that we now know him as, John-117. As he progressed and watched as most of his surviving comrades fall to impossible odds in various military operations he finally found a friend. An AI named Cortana, who would then become the newest heartache in his life as he watched her lose her mind, sacrifice herself, and ultimately be reborn as an adversary. Tough sledding for this guy.
It’s pretty easy for us to gloss over those details and focus only on his many victories, but the truth is that the Master Chief is defined by his pain, suffering, and losses even more than his many battlefield victories. It seems almost impossible to consider this iconic character as a “loser”, but if we define a “loser” as someone who routinely experiences loss… this guy has that in spades. And here is where we all have a great deal more in common with this fictional character than may be apparent on the surface. We all have the distinction of dealing with loss, pain, and losing on a near daily basis. And while this reveals itself in many different ways throughout our lives the one constant is how this can often drive us away from God, wondering why this is happening to us and why He allows this pain without stopping it when we KNOW He is able to. And if we look to the book of Job, we will find some answers.
Across the first two chapters of Job we see perhaps the most tragic collection of losses a human being has endured without respite. Verse after verse is a sword plunged into the heart of Job as he loses his wealth, his possessions, the lives of his servants, the lives of his children, and finally his health. The fall of Job continues as his friends turn on Him and His wife encourages him to “curse God and die”. I doubt he found that particular piece of advice helpful. As the losses piled up it had to be impossible for Job to see a bright light at the end of any of these tunnels. Whatever your worst day on this planet turns out to be, it is really hard to argue against the fact that Job has the market cornered on how to lose in epic fashion. Truly the man was left with nothing but sorrow and pain.
The backdrop of this is a fascinating yet still difficult to imagine war in the heavens, as Lucifer lives up to his billing as the enemy of the saints and God grants him permission to afflict Job in all of the areas described above. I will admit that with my human mind and emotions that can be difficult to read and troubling to accept. All of this tragedy that befalls Job, all of the death and the fallout from the merciless attack from the devil, and God not only chooses not to stop it but provides a set of parameters to contain it. For anyone that has suffered loss, this is the time when all of those hollow words about “living in victory” as a “child of the King” really come into play, as Job’s friends begin the persecution of their broken and damaged companion by placing the blame for this set of events squarely on him. Often we in the body of Christ are rightfully charged with executing our own wounded, and here is a case in point that this has existed for thousands of years.
But through this non-stop barrage of losing we have an exceptionally quotable response from Job that truly illustrates the character of this man of God. In Job 1:20-22 we find that Job’s reaction to his tremendous losses was to worship God and say,
“The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away”.
Wow. Without a trace of the bitterness and resentment I know I would be feeling in that moment Job illustrates His full understanding of the nature of our mortal existence. We came into this world with nothing, and we don’t get to bring a carry-on into the afterlife. All that we have are temporary gifts from God meant to be used, given, and enjoyed. And when these are removed, we understand that just like checking a book out at the library it all eventually returns to the owner. We never “possessed” any of it in the first place… we were merely caretakers of the gifts, relationships, and talents of what God has given us, and as illustrated in Matthew 25 there will be a reckoning in which we must give it all back.
It would be absurd for someone to be disappointed when it is time to return a rental car at its pre-determined time of return. But so often we treat our possessions, our relationships, and even our own lives as something that we are entitled to have and should possess some autonomy over their deployment. Job’s response reveals the truth… we are creations, not creators. We are renters, not owners, and truth be told we can’t even afford the rent. And herein lies the answer to our questions from what transpired in between God and the devil at the beginning of these events… God is not merciless in His approach to our emotions and thoughts, but His priority is to our growth as His children. As great of a man of God as Job was and as faithful as he had been in his relationship with the Lord, this experience revealed his need to see the sovereignty of God as something that extends beyond the ability of our mortal minds to grasp.
God did not come to Job and say, “Oh, poor Job. I shouldn’t have let this happen to you.” God did not apologize for what happened and if you are waiting for that day I will forewarn you that is a long wait for a train that will never arrive at the station. As the owner of what He allows us to steward, He is entitled to ask for it back through whatever means He chooses at whatever time He desires. But these are not the actions of a cruel or uncaring Father… no, He personally provided us this unique insight into the workings of the throne room so we would understand that there is always a purpose to the pain and many times there is a replacement of more than what you have lost waiting for you if you remain faithful and teachable as Job clearly was.
Let me provide an example that may make this interaction with our Heavenly Father a little easier to understand… oftentimes when I am walking through the mall the calm will be broken by a toddler that is demanding something from their parents. Perhaps it is a chance to romp in the play area, maybe a cookie from a vendor, or the desire for a toy from a nearby store, but clearly this child will DIE if they do not get what they believe they are needing and they have no problem alerting every mall patron of this. As you see the parent drag the child kicking and screaming to a private area to provide some level of discipline and “course correction”, it is easy to be sympathetic to the little child. How easy it would be to stop their crying by simply giving them the cookie, or letting them run off some energy in the play area.
But we lack the context of the parent in that instance. Perhaps the bigger picture is that the child is on their way to a birthday party which will be filled with cake and activities if they would simply keep on going. Or maybe the parent already has a better gift in mind and will not allow the child to settle for the simple trinket they think they cannot live without. The parent may have observed that there are larger children in the play area that would play too rough and cause harm to the smaller toddler if they entered the play area at that time. There’s a myriad of possibilities that are crystal clear to the parent but are misunderstood by those observing as well as invisible to the child.
Similarly, we are watching the Lord “parent” His child Job. He pulled back the curtain on their dialogue so we would understand that He did what was necessary out of love for His servant Job, who he clearly cherished. But He had to provide appropriate discipline and course correction even though to those of us watching it seems a little harsh and to Job it appears unnecessary. In Job 42:1-7 we find Job’s final response to the lesson the Lord was implanting into His child, and it is clear the lesson was well earned and well learned as Job says,
“I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know”.
I will confess that many times I have been the adult child kicking and screaming for what I see in the toy store window or for the candy I dropped on the ground, demanding for heaven to hear me and my cries. I have had times when I have gotten so tired of losing that each loss, no matter how small, feels impossible to bear and my reactions are as out of place as a giant temper tantrum in front of the Build-A-Bear store. Job’s response puts the responsibility right back on me as I see that it is not unfairness from the Lord that I am experiencing. It is His unbiased eye that sees my past, present, and future simultaneously that guides His decisions, and the sooner I understand this the easier it will be to follow Him along the way.
And the beauty of this is Job’s story doesn’t end there with a costly lesson learned and the credits rolling along to a melancholy song… no, in Job 42:10 we find the conclusion of this tale of losing ends with not only a replacement of all Job had lost, but a double-portion as well. Through his patient acceptance of this season of losing he came out the other side with twice what he had entered with, complete with another 140 years of life to enjoy with his new blessings. There is hope for those who have lost if we refuse to accept the bitterness that often is associated with losing.
The story of the Master Chief may be filled with loss and pain, but it is through this that he became the galactic hero of not only humanity, but every alien species as well. His path to becoming a hero was built from his exceptional pain and tragic losses. But because of the painful path he walked he, and he alone, would be able to make the tough decisions and take the critical actions that only someone who was equipped in this way and had endured this path could do. By accepting that there is a grander stage where our story is being played out and a lesson that we are destined to learn even through the darkest pain, we can do more than survive the losing. We can grow and gain from it as long as the ground of our hearts remain soft to the touch of the Master.
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