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Posts Tagged ‘Job’

notre dameHow did this get past me after all these years? Honestly, I was so sure that this phrase, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” made most popular in Handel’s Messiah, was from Isaiah, like so much of that great oratorio. Instead, I’m reading along in Job, and there it is jumping out at me.

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he will stand upon the earth at last.” [Job 19:25, NIV]

Remember now, this is Job, one of the oldest texts and yet the Redeemer appears, the vindicator, the deliverer, the rescuer: only the Messiah, who Job proclaims despite his exhaustive litany of sorrows, losses, betrayals, and sickness. His redeemer lives. And mine.

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smhNot as popular as the ubiquitous LOL, but SMH is appearing more and more in text messages and Facebook comments. And here, in one of the oldest books of the Bible, Job says it too:

I also could speak like you,
    if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
    and shake my head at you. [Job 16:4, NIV]

The Voice translation gives the verse a little more clarity:

If we were to trade places,
        I could rattle on as you do.
    I could compose eloquent speeches as you do
        and shake my head smugly at you and your problems. [Job 16:4, The Voice]

And there it is: shake my head smugly at you. Job is calling out his friends for what they are really doing, which is judging him. And quite honestly, so is every SMH. It’s a subtle put-down but a put-down all the same.

I have never liked the book of Job much with its speech after speech after speech, pretty much saying the same thing over and over again. It reminds me of a one of my colleagues long ago with whom I completely disagreed, and yet despite my authority to say “no” and my opinion (shared by others), she would continue to state her case, first in one way and then in another, as though, the wording alone would finally break through my dense skull. I kept saying, “I understand what you are saying but I disagree with you all the same.” She could not fathom how I could possibly disagree, surely I wasn’t understanding the “truth” she was imparting. And she would begin again.

But perhaps this story sticks in my mind because I am guilty of it myself. Perhaps I am SMH, if not physically, then emotionally or privately. Whether overt or secret, I am still holding court in my mind.

I am not Job in this story, I am one of the friends. And I’m not liking it much, this realization.

Solution? None. At least, not at this point, except for awareness and I suppose that’s worth something. And certainly, the next time I am tempted to SMH, I will think twice and look back into the root of it.

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Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

It’s a mysterious statement and how interesting, that it comes from the mouth of Zophar, the least likely of the three “friends” of Job. After all, his next breath his full of chastisement and nastiness toward Job. And yet, he does have this one right.

Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
    that he would open his lips against you
and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,

    for true wisdom has two sides. . . . [Job 11:5-6a, NIV]

In a wonderful online homily, this topic is explored more fully, but it fits in with my own view of the many paradoxes that exist in scripture and faith. An old friend used to call it the both/and of truth. In God, two seemingly opposed truths can actually co-exist. How is that possible? I don’t begin to understand it. But I believe it because it allows for the conundrums that an “all-knowing God” and the “free-will of Human” can be true as well. It is wisdom to accept the possibility of their concurrence.

Another view of the two sides of wisdom might be the simple explanation that everything is not revealed to us, like the iceberg that only shows a tip of itself while the greater story is beneath the water.

both-andAs I see it, God himself declared that Job was a righteous man whose love for God was pure and above all other living men. Job committed no sin that we could see to warrant his suffering. God allowed it to happen at the hand of the enemy. Somehow, God knew it would take Job to the “next level” of understanding and wisdom and faith. At great cost.

A deeper truth had to be examined, a more difficult investigation into human.

I must remember this basic truth as well: all stories have two sides, all of suffering is an iceberg, all sin has a path leading up to it. So often, I hear people condemn those who adhere to looking at the world as black or white, good or bad, etc. But I think it may be a mistake to assume that the only alternative is to say that the world is grey, as though the contrary forces would meld into something new. Instead, it may just be possible, from a God view, that both black and white can live together and still retain their identities.

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Drawing by Oldřich Kulhánek

Drawing by Oldřich Kulhánek

Job did. At least, that’s what is written about him in Job 7:16 and then again in chapter 10, verse one.

I despise [loathe, hate] my life; I would not live forever.
    Let me alone; my days have no meaning. [Job 7:16, NIV]
and . . .
I loathe [hate] my very life;
    therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
    and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. [Job 10:1, NIV]

The dictionary defines “despise” as loathing and “loathing” as a feeling of disgust or intense aversion for something. If we switch over to the word “hate,” it is defined as an intense or passionate dislike, an extreme hostility toward something.

In the early weeks or months of Job’s suffering (no one knows for sure how long he suffered, but most scholars count his time in months and weeks and not years), he hated his life. His suffering was so intense, his dismay at the losses, his “why me” lament, caused him such intense feelings, that he abhorred his very existence.

And yet, he did not kill himself. He was, despite it all, somehow surrendered to God’s will.

There is so much I do not understand about Job, but I do see this: he was in terrible pain. He was distraught and hated his circumstances. He wanted it all to end. He wanted to forget, to stop feeling, to stop experiencing all that was horrible in his life. He was attacked by his own friends and he was misunderstood. Nothing new there. Job was fully human. He was no angel in his torture and so he cried out with intensity and even venom. But he remained.

Even his wife said he should “curse god and die!” She too suffered, but ultimately placed the blame fully on Job’s own shoulders. As did his friends.

Apparently, someone has to be to blame. We do it in our modern times too, don’t we? It’s the boss or the President or the Congress or the neighbor. It’s the parents or the children or the Pastor or the car in front of us. It’s the farmer or the industrialist or the millionaires on Wall Street. It’s the Muslims or the Gays or the Polygamists. It’s the Jews or the Christians or the liberals or the conservatives. They did something! Things are bad. Someone did or said something to bring this on. Right?

Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s up to us to simply stand in the midst of the storm.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” [Ephesians 6:13, NIV]

When my friend, Mary, died on Mother’s Day, 2013, she endured several months of the ravages of pancreatic cancer. Her disease was inoperable and therefore, nothing could be done but to ride it out. When I visited her early in her death pilgrimmage, I will never forget her words: “I did nothing to cause this. I have been healthy all of my life; I ate well, I exercised, I took care of my body and my spirit. This is simply part of my journey and I will to experience it fully, without blame toward anyone, including Spirit.” And so she touched hundreds of lives in her final months and died with no miraculous healing or recuperation.

She did not despise her life or her God.

Hate and disdain, name-calling and blame-shifting, take up a lot of energy. They suck up valuable human resources.

No more. No more.

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Somehow it’s easier to hang on to the idea that God is love moreso than God is just. Every day I read a newspaper and my mind reels with the breadth of injustice. Narcissism is the norm and earth-bound justice lines up with the powerful.

II Thessalonians 1:6-7
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.

To hold tight to my belief that God is just all the time, no matter what I see, hear, feel, taste, I must be very conscious and very intentional. I must accept what I don’t understand. I must suspend my personal sense of “justice” and trust in the bigger picture.

When I was a younger Christian (both in years as well as experience), I was often stymied by those well-worn attacks on my God. If God is just, why do babies die? If God is just, why is their disease and suffering. If God is just, why are their orphans, widows, and abuse? If God is just, why are their wars and bigotry and extremism?

Gotta stand. That’s all I can do. Stand.

I have no answer except that God is just. God is merciful. God is love.

If God was none of these things, then there would be no justice anywhere, no love, no families, no births, no hope. There would be no joy, no laughter, no beauty and no faith. And yet, these all exist along side the pain.

I cannot know about the macrocosm of justice.

In daily life, there isn’t a parent who hasn’t heard the same attack: “That’s not fair!” My parent view of fairness and righteousness and justice will always be different from the child. We live the microcosm of justice vs. injustice in families. It’s not an easy road and rarely straight. There are too many obstacles in the road, too many unknowns. If I, in my little world, cannot mete out justice in such a way to please those nearest and dearest to my heart, what of those who work in ever-widening circles of responsibility.

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I confess, I don’t like this idea in general, that God’s supernatural creativity might be, in some way, self-serving. Instead, I would like to ponder his generosity, his love, his willingness to create . . . for me!

Colossians 1:16
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

Aren’t my own prayers ultimately self-serving? Help me be a better parent (for my kids is it? or for my success vs. failure as a mother?); give me favor at my work (so that the business will grow or people will love and congratulate me?); help resolve our financial situation (to show God’s power in this area or help me get out of debt so I can buy something else?).

I need to get over any kind of surprise that God, all God, all knowing, powerful and present in all things, can operate in His will and not only will it please himself, it will please me as well . . . if I let it. If I trust God, if I go with the flow of God’s spirit in and through both my invisible and visible life.

There is a story of a human who questioned God’s right to do as God wishes. His name is Job and it takes 42 chapters to get to the essence of it. God is sovereign. God is God. That’s just how it is.

I can either fight God and walk against the wind or row upstream or I can yield to God. Pretty simple really.

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The good work is transformational. God initiates that good work and the Holy Spirit contributes to its continuance in partnership with me. The part that I play is my unique contribution. The light is pure while I am the nicked, scratched, yet functioning crystal prism.

Philippians 1:6
. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The good work is polishing the glass, repairing the damage, making my vessel a more accurate expression of what is within.

Sometimes I lose my confidence that God is still working within me to transform me. But then, in brilliant moments of clarity or flashes of understanding, I see Truth. My role is to embrace my life and all that has been given to me, the challenges as well as the joys, the hardships and the plenty, the health and the disease, all of them are my share of the good work.

As I hold fast to the unwavering inner light, that one and only Holy Spirit, I can give that hope (also called the blessed hope) to others. I have never been moved by the salvation message regarding some heaven or hell of the future, but I am sure of the power of God to fill a life today to stand against all things, from the tragedies of Job, to the ravages of war, or the blindness of greed and ambition.

This is the hope of glory: the Light within working goodness outward.

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