It’s funny how things hit you when you are reading the Bible, especially when you are going straight through. The other day I finished reading the book of Esther, and I was struck by the story of Haman’s bad day. Then today I started reading Job, and the first chapter tells about Job’s bad day. This led me to think about these two men and the contrast between them.

First of all, let me recap the stories. Haman woke up one morning in a great mood because he had just built a 75 foot gallows and was going to ask the king to hang Mordecai. When he gets there the king asks how a man should be honored. Haman, assuming that he must be the man, tells what he would like to have done for him, only to find that the king wants to honor Mordecai. So after Haman leads the parade for Mordecai, he is rushed off to eat dinner with the king and queen. He must have been thinking that surely the day couldn’t get any worse. Then Esther reveals that she is a Jew and Haman is plotting to kill her and her people. Then when Haman stays behind to beg for his life, the king walks back in the room to see Haman fall onto Esther’s bed and accuses him of molesting her. In a twist of poetic justice only God could think up, Haman is killed on his own gallows.

Job, of course, wakes up one day with everything a man could want – material possessions, a big happy family, and his health. Then a messenger comes to tell him that his livestock has been stolen and his slaves killed. Another messenger tells him that more of his animals have been killed by fire from the sky. A third messenger is right behind to tell him that his camels have been stolen. Then, the final blow, a messenger comes to say that all of his children have been killed.

Both men had really bad days, but the stories are very different. Haman has trouble because of his pride. He suffers the result of his previous bad behaviors, and ends up being killed. Job, however, suffers as a test of his loyalty and commitment to God. He responds with humility and faith, and in the end is rewarded.

So when I am in a difficult time the question I have to ask myself is this: How do I deal with hardship? Am I suffering because of things that I have done wrong? If so, how will I respond to that? Will I repent of my sinfulness, or will I stubbornly maintain my course. If not, is my faith being tested? If so, am I going to remain faithful and continue to trust in God to sustain me? Will I remain humble and resist the temptation to become prideful?

Lao-Tzu said that “Favor and disgrace would seem equally to be feared.” He explains that “disgrace is being in a low position after the enjoyment of favor. The getting that favor leads to the apprehension of losing it, and the losing it leads to the fear of still greater calamity.” I have observed that throughout the Old Testament people are judged by their response to great success and great loss. It is during these times that we see what a person is truly about – what they are really made of. How much more will I be judged by my response to success or difficulty, with the advantage of all this knowledge?