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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Job 42:1–6, 10–17

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.”

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days. (NRSV)

“God helps those who help themselves.” That was what a doctor said to my mother toward the end of her battle with a very aggressive form of cancer. I was right there in the room with her and my father, and the outrage still boils up inside me thirty-five years later. You’ve heard those statements. “God won’t give us more than we can bear.” “Only the good die young.”

Those statements are meant to help us understand the sufferings of life, to answer an unanswerable question about why so much suffering exists in the world, why some people bear more than their share of suffering. They aren’t biblical, and they don’t help.

Job’s journey of tremendous success suddenly devastated by unspeakable loss is followed by his intense questioning of God and everyone around him. He is like a dog with a bone. He doesn’t let go. His friends offer platitudes that are judgmental and self-righteous. Job keeps asking. The whole while I imagine him shaking his fist at God. 

Job shows me the courage it takes to keep bringing my questions and, yes, my complaints to God. What this passage at the end of the book of Job shows me is a depth of relationship between God and Job, built by all the years of Job’s intense asking and searching and accusing. Something has changed, and Job says to God, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. . . . I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”

The question of suffering and why it exists isn’t answered in the story of Job. What is conveyed is the immense patience and deep love of God. Job is human like the rest of us, “dust and ashes.” Even so, his questions and his depth of feeling, his honesty and his outrage are honored by a God whose love is more immense than any question asked and answer given.

Thank you, God, for your immense patience. Thank you for waiting for me as I keep asking, asking, asking. Thank you for honoring my questions. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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