Thank you to anyone who read the title of this post and clicked on the link because you thought it meant I found a job. No such luck for me, but I hope I’m doing more in this post than just making bad puns. I did not mean ‘a job’ in the sense of gainful employment, but Job (proper name) as in the Old Testament righteous dude that suffered lots and had lousy friends (no offense).
It might be presumptuous to compare my suffering to Job. I have food in my belly and roof over my head. I have had to defer student loans and haven’t been able to replace broken computers, ipods, or buy new clothes and copious amounts of books (never fear, I’ve got my hands on a few), but this sort of suffering amounts to ‘first world pains.’ What Job had to suffer was the loss of wealth, health, the death of family members, and festering sores. All in all, I think I’ve gotten the better deal.
But the comparison was given to me about a week ago when I attended my wife’s graduation from Regent College (the same seminary I graduated from). While there I saw many old friends happy to see me and eager to hear what I’m up to. Invariably I would flash them a sheepish grin and say, “Actually I’m still looking for work.” Which of course makes people feel bad so they’d tilt their head to the right and say “Don’t worry, I’m sure something will come up.” After a few moments I would saunter off to go and be awkward with someone else. It was really fun.
While at the graduation, my wife and I sought out one of our professors, Phil Long, for a photo and to express our appreciation for his teaching. Predictably, when he saw me, he asked what I was doing now. I tried to hide my shame when I said I was still looking for work. He gave me a thoughtful look, and said that he doesn’t know why some people he’s known have struggled to find work when there seems to be no reason for it and encouraged me to continue to trust God through this season.
I nodded my appreciation and confessed the ways I have failed to trust God, and rehearsed several flaws which I think have made me unemployable. Phil said these words to me, “I wouldn’t look for a reason in yourself. Take a page out of Job and trust that this too will reveal God’s glory.”
And so I have spent the past week thinking through and reading Job and trying to explore what wisdom and understanding he has to offer me. I have also delved into one of my favorite short commentaries, Gustavo Gutierrez’s On Job. Several little insights have revealed themselves to me and I’ve been chewing on them. In no particular order, here are some things I’m thinking about(this isn’t a formal study, just my little notes):
- The Satan thinks that Job only serves God because of what God gives him; Job’s friends think God is punishing Job for something he did. They are both wrong.
- When you go through hard times, you are tempted to either doubt God or doubt yourself (which is an indirect way of doubting God’s goodness/grace). Job is relentless in his trust of God and is never self defeatist. He feels abandoned and alone, and is miserably comforted but he still presses into God and longs to make his case to him.
- God doesn’t answer any of Job’s questions but confounds Job with the big picture of who he is.
- Job’s suffering increases his identification with the poor and he’s sees with greater clarity the ways that the wicked prosper and fail to ‘get what’s coming with him.’ Job was good and righteous from the beginning but his suffering also increased his capacity for compassion.
- Job learns to trust God and his ways, though he cannot fathom him. His comfort comes not in restoration but in meeting God in the whirlwind.
- Job got a whirlwind because he needed it! Elijah doesn’t meet God in the whirlwind but in quietness. I might not know how God will show up, but he knows the best way to make an impression.
So these are my random thoughts on Job. Admittedly even though the reason for Job’s suffering is never given (Satan’s wager is the occasion but doesn’t give the reason), I tend to read of Job’s righteousness and still think I suffer because I’m not that good. And I didn’t suffer as much as he did. Crazy self-defeatist attitude!
I speak without understanding
marvels that are beyond my grasp!
I once knew you by hearsay
now my eyes have seen you;
therefore I repudiate and repent
of dust and ashes. [42:3,5-6]