Blogger-SMS | Déjà Vu ~ Times

To my good niece

(Thoughts sparked by her questions and struggles)

Who are you? Freaking Job? Probably more than you know! The problem is, most of us don’t have the first idea of who Job really was. We hear “the patience of Job,” or “the faith of Job” and cast him-and-his-faithful-patience into the rising heap of our own failures. Thus, we never meet the real Job.

We remain strangers to this man who said: “I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (7:11); who cried out, “I am full of confusion” (10:15); this man who accused God of breaking him with a tempest and multiplying his wounds without cause (9:17) and of being cruel to him (30:21); this man who charged God with removing his hope like a tree [tearing it up by the roots?] (19:10); this man who, in the integrity of his soul, stood up to God and demanded to be judged in truth and justice (chp. 31). Job suffered immense despair (6:2-4) and terrifying dreams (7:14) and railed against his own birth (3:11). Why? Because the God he thought he knew, the God he had been acculturated to, the God his “friends” were defending with passionate certitude, was nothing like the God who was manifesting in his life.

And yet Job could not quite give up believing in an honorable God. He was horribly conflicted, cycling between railing at God’s seeming injustice and inexplicable silence, and believing that God loved him and was indeed honorable, just, and worthy of every trust (13:15). (Is there even the odd déjà vu here?)

It is troubling when teachers/leaders laud Job for his patience and testimony and ignore all the despair and sufferings in-between, for therein is our best affirmation and comfort—in Job’s ability, courage, and integrity to say what he really thought, felt, and experienced (27:5). Many latter-day testimonies and explanations of God’s purposes and character seem reminiscent of Job’s friends—some even quoting the words of those friends without realizing what God said of those very words and friends (42:7).

Maybe you already know the real Job. But if not, maybe you can find a comfort-brother in him. Most losses/traumas are not as extreme as his (or his wife’s), but the questions and psychic pain are just as real. I do not understand God’s answer to Job (beginning finally in Chp. 38), unless it is to reiterate that our mortal perspective may be less than a pinhole in the dark—with periodic flashes of understanding, comfort, and hope (that seem to fade again, all too quickly). God’s answer seems to say, “You haven’t even grasp the lesser questions like where the rains come from etc. etc. and you’re wanting answer to the great question of why your life and this creation of mine is awash in tears—when I am a just and loving God?!” (I think you have it right, in part—agency is key, but as I read Job, his story goes beyond the tragedies within agency. It goes to the very heart of who God is and what He intends to convey in this story of suffering and confusion.)

Maybe God’s answer is also a little déjà vu your recent visit to the vet with Josser—like “there is no way this pain, fear, and confusion can make sense with his present capacity to understand.” (Or maybe it’s just the chaos/hazards of life? I don’t know.)

Job didn’t seem to get the answers he pled for, but it appears that he, at last, saw something (42:5) that made the difference: “Wherefore I will be quiet [at peace] for I am comforted that I am dust” (See other translations of 42:6, e.g. Stephen Mitchell’s Book of Job, p. 88). So I wonder, at core: Is the change you seek really a question of determining you are worth having good things happen to you? Maybe, in part, (again, I don’t know), but I look at Job, at the sorrows of nearly every striving person in the scriptures—at the Savior, himself—and it all seems more a matter of living in this fallen world and being tested to the max.

So, as I see it: 1) many who seek God will be like Job, cycling in conflicted agony, between relentless questions/struggles and deep belief (or desire to believe) until a sufficient answer/insight/ reconciliation comes; 2) God is not offended with sincere, honest confrontation and questioning (42:7), even though some of His friends and defenders may be. (Though He may do a little confronting and questioning of His own; e.g., Job 38-41); and 3) the adversary is obsessively attracted to every soul (in every degree of imperfection) who strives to overcome the natural man. Thus, some failures are a given; renewed strivings, a choice; repentance, a constant necessity; and the atonement our only hope (if only we could understand it!).

But how to endure? So far, for me, it has been those periodic flashes in the dark (sometimes found in the writings of others); and my attempts to say, “Thank you,” for the smallest of serendipitous mercies, graces, and reminders—even in the presence of pain and confusion and the absence of the greater gifts and blessings that I desperately seek and think I need (maybe even think I deserve!).

It is worth getting to know the real Job.