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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Job 3:1–26

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job said: “Let the day perish in which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man-child is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, or light shine on it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds settle upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. That night—let thick darkness seize it! let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. Yes, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry be heard in it. Let those curse it who curse the Sea, those who are skilled to rouse up Leviathan. Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none; may it not see the eyelids of the morning—because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, and hide trouble from my eyes.

“Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Why were there knees to receive me, or breasts for me to suck? Now I would be lying down and quiet; I would be asleep; then I would be at rest with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuild ruins for themselves, or with princes who have gold, who fill their houses with silver. Or why was I not buried like a stillborn child, like an infant that never sees the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; they do not hear the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slaves are free from their masters.

“Why is light given to one in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it does not come, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures; who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they find the grave? Why is light given to one who cannot see the way, whom God has fenced in? For my sighing comes like my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. Truly the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest; but trouble comes.” (NRSV)

This passage takes us into the “dark night of the soul” of Job’s journey towards wholeness and liberation. He is in the depths of a disorder that is challenging his sense of reality and self. Richard Rohr tells us that all are on a journey that hopefully begins with order—as in Job’s life of structure, preparedness, plenty, and certainty—and then we move (or feel pushed) into a time of disorder, where our assumptions and certainty are challenged and even shattered by life events.

That is a time of chaos, which all of us can relate to at points in our lives. This chaos is most often caused by loss and results in confusion and hopelessness. But as Walter Brueggemann writes, “The world does not rest in Job’s virtue.” In other words, just because Job is living rightly, it does not mean that he will be spared disorder and the opportunity to be born again. Disorder is followed by reorder. The new life that results can allow a person to relax and surrender into trust, praise, freedom, and love.

As the timeless theologian John Denver describes this type of journey in the lyrics of his song “Sweet Surrender,” Job does not know where he is going or where he’s been and he is in the midst of despair. But he is also clinging to the belief that God’s Spirit guides him, a light shines for him, his life is worth living, and he doesn’t need to see the end. In the end, the reorder means living life by surrendering to the sweet Living Water and the cleansing wind of the Spirit that is forever holding us in love.

Dear God, may I sense your loving presence when I am in the chaos and uncertainty of a dark valley. May I keep faith that whatever disorder I’m experiencing will result in new and deeper understandings and relationships. May my surrender to the moment bring me wisdom and a new consciousness that I am always held in the palm of your hand. With loving gratitude. Amen.

Written by Sue Schemper, Spiritual Counselor, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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