Then Job answered the Lord, 'I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:1-6 NIV)
Job is a story that investigates - but does not settle the question - of the power of hope in the face of suffering. Job, though a just and upright person, loses everything. His friends come, first to comfort him, but then to interrogate him to get down to the root causes of his
suffering. His friends seem convinced that Job must have done something wrong to deserve the bad things that have happened to him.
Throughout the story, Job alternates between defending himself against the charges of his friends and bemoaning his losses. Then, suddenly, out of the whirlwind of chapter 38, God's speaks away his silence with a few harsh questions of his own. I know this quick summary of God's address hardly does justice to the poetry of the story but ultimately all God says is "I'm God. You're not. Deal with it."
Our egos might not like that sort of Divine power move - but like it or not, its the truth. We are not God. We are not in control of our lives. We cannot control others. We cannot eradicate disease forever. We cannot stop the aging process. We can't make hurricanes go away or prevent governments from being overrun by despots. We can't rid the world of addictions or the chemicals that take over people's lives. Like Job, as much as we might hate to admit it, we can't escape suffering.
But, like Frankl said, while we cannot prevent things from happening to us, we can control what happens with what happens to us.
Job cried out. Job questioned, whined, wept, shouted and tore his clothes. But he didn't let go of God. He didn't turn his back on God; he held on through his tears, in the face of his fears. He didn't settle for quick answers, he didn't let go of his selfhood, his integrity, his identity. And when the story draws to a close, Job's final response is to surrender to God's omnipotence. He repents. He despises himself - which doesn't mean that he puts himself down - it means that he recognizes his insignificance before God. He realizes that anything God does to take notice of Job grows out of God's pure grace.
Job's story is a "meat and potatoes" story for the faithful. It doesn't please the immature. It isn't for those who are full of themselves, convinced that they know better than God, or those who hold closely to the ill-informed, mushy, sappy sentimentality that passes for faith for so many.
"I'm God. You're not. Deal with it." Ultimately, we can choose to rest in the truth of this statement or we can deny it. Either way, its still true. Deny it, and life and suffering are meaningless. Embrace it and we are filled with an undying hope, come what may.
Let us pray: For ages and ages your people have asked you "why?" and "why me?" Perhaps we will never cease to ask such questions. All we ask, gracious Lord, is that you continue to work in us to keep us asking. Keep moving us toward you in the face of the suffering of life. Keep hope alive in us, come what may, until that day when the veil is removed and we see you face to face. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Used with permission.