Job 38: 1-11; 16-18
In today’s passage, Job’s misfortune came about through no fault of his own. Job was quietly minding his business down on earth one day—praying for each of his children by name and making box lunches for the beggars who showed up at his door—when God and Satan got into a conversation about him in heaven.
As we see this Satan figure, who talks and argues with God, he seems like a member of God’s cabinet, acting like a divine prosecutor. His name was ha-Satan, which means the Accuser and his job was to bring people to trial when God said so, but only if God said so. In short order, Job lost everything. Well, God was right. There was no one like Job on earth. In response, Job tore his robe, shaved his head, and lay face down in the dirt. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Job even says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Satan was not impressed. “That is because God did not lay a hand on him,” the Accuser said to God. “Hurt him—hurt him physically, and he will curse you to your face.” Finally, Job erupted. In Stephen Mitchell’s stormy translation version, we might better understand how mad and disappointed Job was—“God damn the day I was born, and the night that forced me from the womb.” With nothing left to lose anymore, Job sits on his dung heap covered with boils, yelling at God with both fists in the air—“I have done everything you ever asked me to. Why is this happening to me? Answer me.”
Finally, the Lord responds to Job, speaking to him out of the whirlwind. What God says to Job is not the answer that Job and we want to listen to. Instead, God gives Job somewhat challenging questions, turning his direction and projection into who God really is and what God does.
Although Job’s question was about his justice, God’s answer is about omnipotence; as far as we know, that is the only answer human beings have ever gotten about why things happen the way they do. God only knows. And none of us is God.
Like Job and today’s story, we sometimes cannot go to sleep and pray to God, “I have done everything you ever asked me to. Why is this happening to me? Answer me, Lord, where are you?”
If there may be an answer to the problems of unjustified suffering in Job, then it is only this—that, for most of us, the worst thing that can happen is not to suffer without reason but to suffer without God.
In today’s passage, what Job wants us to know is that God does not finally abandon us—even the moment when there is nothing left; when all the flocks have been stolen, and all the children have been buried; when all of the loved ones have gone; but when we only have broken pottery to scratch our sores. Like Job, we often may be puzzled about what and why; we trust that God is the God of all creation, the Lord of all life, who never runs out of life, and whom we may always ask for more.
Thanks be to God.