Tumbling in the Sand
Text: Job 30:16-31
I find Job a very important book in scripture.
It’s actually probably the oldest of the books in scripture, and it is a script for a drama—yes, it’s a play.
The point of Job is to ask the question “Why suffering?”
It contradicts everything we tend to want to believe about health and faithfulness.
And in the end, it doesn’t answer any questions that it churns up.
Kind of typical, I suppose, of most of our experiences with God.
I mean, we’d love to have easy answers, right?
Like if we are good and care for the poor than we will be blessed.
And if we are evil and abuse the poor than we will be cursed.
Nice and clear.
Job actually functions under that assumption through most of the story.
He starts out prosperous and healthy. He has a huge family and many, many, good things.
He is joyous and faithful. He loves God.
And then he is struck with some sort of horrible streak of awful luck.
It’s not just bad: it’s horrible.
He loses his house and all his land, his livestock are stolen or burned up in fire that fell from heaven, his servants are killed in the raid or the fire, all of his children die when a building collapses on top of them, he gets a nasty case of boils and fever and his wife tells him to curse God and die and then she follows her own advice (or at least we’re led to believe that).
Job is left with nothing and no one.
And in response, Job says: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’
It turns out that Job wasn’t completely alone, though.
He had a some friends.
And his “friends” are nothing if not annoying.
They function under the idea that good people get good things and bad people get bad things.
And they try to convince Job that he must have done something wrong while he is sitting there in ashes.
And Job spends much of the book defending his character and his faith in God that seems unwavering—
he even proclaims: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.”
But he gets more and more upset.
He says at one point to his “friends” “As for you, you whitewash with lies; all of you are worthless physicians. If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom!” Basically: Shut up. You look stupider the more you say.
and then he asks for a hearing from God, believing that he has been unjustly punished for something he did not in fact do or not do.
And God appears.
But God hardly lets Job question God. Instead, God does the questioning. First of Job’s friends—which God is less than amused with. And then with Job.
Basically God asks them:
“Who are you to make sense of me? Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth or hung the stars in the sky? Were you there when I made the sea monsters for the sport of it or told the oceans that you shall go this far and no farther? Who are you to decide what I should or should not do?”
Which seems, in honesty, a pretty crappy answer.
Come on. We want to know why bad things happen to good people. We want to know why we are sick or suffering or hurting and why things don’t ever seem to go our way. We want to know why.
And just because God is more than we could fathom, that seems somehow like a cop-out.
We think that giving meaning to our suffering will make it more bearable.
That meaning will make it better some how.
But here’s the thing:
I think that God doesn’t want to give suffering meaning.
Instead, God gives creation and new life meaning.
You see, I think that God doesn’t want us to become comfortable with suffering.
God wants us uncomfortable with suffering so that we will fight against it—our own and other’s
God wants us uncomfortable with suffering so that we will not assume that suffering is good or redemptive.
God wants us uncomfortable with suffering so that we can strive to say with Job:
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.”
God wants us uncomfortable with suffering so that we may come to believe and hope and strive that suffering will be no more.
and that pain and sorrow and loss will be no more.
and God’s very hand will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
Photo taken from http://dailybahai.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/suffering-for-perfection/ (a totally different take on the purpose of suffering.)