I've been reading the biblical book of Job recently, not for the first time, but I've been taking it a lot slower and really trying to understand what's being said.
The general story of the book is that a really godly man who has been blessed with every kind of wealth and happiness, gets stripped of that wealth (loses all his possessions, his kids die, he gets really sick and no one respects him anymore) and then It's just him and his wife left.
During the book a few of Job's friends take turns to try and explain to him why he is in this situation. Understandably, Job is not amused. He says he knows in his heart that he has not sinned and that there's no fathomable reason for God to have allowed those terrible things to happen to him. His friends disagree. They say he must have done something wrong and that's why he is going through such a shitty time.
Job was living in a time where people actually had to pay for their sins - usually through sacrifice - so it probably wasn't that unusual for people to think Job deserved his downfall. Why else would he be given such a hard time?
So often when we look at the state of the world today we wonder why all this awful stuff is happening where we're so hating of and killing each other. Is it something we did? Did we deserve this? Is this an Adam and Eve fallout from when they stupidly disobeyed God?
I've been called upon at times, as a Christian, to explain why, if God is so good, he allows all these things to happen. Does he not care? Does he not see? And then, surely if he is the good and kind and just God we preach about, why does he allow it? And if this supposedly kind and caring God isn't intervening, then maybe he doesn't even exist!
Not being a theologian I'm hard pressed to answer some of these questions. Just like Job's friends were. I don't know why God allows it, I don't know why he doesn't intervene, I don't know if we deserve it, I honestly don't know. Job says in one of his speeches in Job chapter six verses 4-5:
"For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows. Their poison infects my spirit. God's terrors are lined up against me. Don't I have a right to complain"
I've felt like this before. Literally like everything has conspired against me while everyone around me is just winning at life. Job also expressed similar frustration in Job chapter 21 verses 7-9:
"Why do the wicked prosper, growing old and powerful?They live to see their children grow up and settle down, and they enjoy their grandchildren.Their homes are safe from every fear, and God does not punish them."
It's hard not to feel that life is unfair when it seems that those who are sinning just keep on winning while those striving to live the "good (God) life" are often left behind.
I struggle to understand why it seems God is silent at times when I feel he should voice his justice or judgment. In the book of Job I hear my own cries of frustration and the back and forth arguments with his friends are not far off conversations I've had in the past with my own.
"Why do bad things happen to good people?" Is a post I wrote when I was going through a very depressed time in my life during which I was fighting a divorce right after my little girl died. It was a time when nothing was making sense and I was trying to understand why. I was so angry at God. Why wasn't he saying anything?! Why wasn't he coming to my rescue or turning the situation around?! It was a very dark place.
In the story of Job, when God finally gets involved - and I always wonder how he did that! Did they all hear his voice somehow? Was it a dream they all had? Or did he appear like he did to Moses? So many questions! - and responds, he responds to Job and not to the others (that we are aware of). And at first it's surprising how unsympathetic he is to Job's plight!
Job chapter 38 verses 1-3:
"Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: 'Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man because I have some questions for you and you must answer them.'"
Uh Oh. God definitely sounds like a father here. In the following passages God talks about what he sees, what he has done, what he gives birth to, what he knows of his creations. He asks Job if he can see the same things or create the same things or understand the same things. Job, wisely shuts up and lets God finish his speech - which, although I probably shouldn't say this, sounds quite rant-y tbh - before daring to speak again.
At the end he says to God, "I had only heard of you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes."
Now if you read from chapter 38 until the end (chapter 42), you'll notice God didn't actually answer any of Job's questions, he didn't get bogged down with any of the arguments, he just showed up and showed Job who he was.
When I was going through that dreadfully painful period of time in my life I felt bereft of God. I felt, like Job, that he had left me, that he had forsaken me and left me to suffer. Unlike Job, I didn't feel God's voice penetrate that silence, but I have felt and known his presence since. I don't know why he allowed that to happen but I do know that he still is. He didn't go anywhere. He is still on his throne as we Christians like to say. But more than that, he is with us. He sees, he hears and he is with us.
When we were crying out to him and searching for answers, God showed Job and I, that he was and is. I've resigned myself to not having all the answers and understanding. I am not God. But maybe all we need to know is that he's got this. He's in control. He is.
PS By the way Job went full circle to live a pretty dope life again after this encounter so if you're going through some shitty times please hold on. Send your prayer requests my way and I'll pray with you too if you like :) #StillHere