Friday, September 28, 2012
Lessons From the Book of Job
In the "Wisdom Literature" course I'm teaching this fall, we have just finished reading and discussing the Book of Job. Job is a righteous person who loses nearly everything: his wealth, children, and health.
At first, Job patiently accepts these losses with equanimity, saying, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." However, when his three friends tell him that he must have done something wrong to cause his suffering, Job offers a strident defense of his innocence.
Job also wants answers from God as to why this is happening to him, a good and moral person. First, he asks for a meeting with God and then wants a trial in which he and God can plead their cases to be judged by someone neutral. Finally, Job rails at the injustice of God and questions God's goodness.
When God finally does speak, God doesn't answer Job's questions. Instead, God asks Job a series of rhetorical questions that cowers Job into silence.
The story of Job doesn't answer the question of why the innocent suffer. Rather, Job portrays a relationship with God in the midst of innocent suffering. Job rails at the injustice of his suffering. He gets angry with God and tries to provoke a confrontation with God. Yet, he never gives up on God and God never abandons Job.
Like Job, there is unjust suffering in our world and we are sometimes victims. Job teaches us that it is ok to question, challenge and even become angry at God. God is big enough to take our anger.
In any relationship, there are times of difficulty and stress. This is also true of our relationship with God. The key is to remain in relationship until the issues can be resolved.