The days run ahead of me, and I find myself what to write about again. It is so easy to become absorbed with my own struggles. I find it terribly frustrating when an MRI scan of my leg comes back with dozens of line items called out as problematic, and the rheumatologist says, “it’s not arthritis… good bye.”
You ask what to do and they say “Go back to your family doctor,” who has not known anything from the beginning. So let’s get this straight: Leg swells up for no known reason, lack of feeling in parts of leg for no known reason, I limp for no known reason. I suppose it all makes sense. After all, for those who believe in evolution, we came into being for NO KNOWN REASON.
Maybe it’s no accident that my Chinese students, following a passing comment about complaining, have asked to learn from the book of Job.
I was in a panic at first, but then realized, what the heck. From what I can see, there are so many books written about the Job, maybe we should just read it for what it is and try to understand it based in the language (or in this case, the English translation), rather than try to figure out what everyone else thinks about it.
We can’t get away from the fact that the confrontation between God and Satan in chapters 1 and 2 is completely unknown information to Job, his wife, and his friends. But it is not unknown knowledge to God, to Satan, or to us who are reading the book. As I’ve read and reread these two chapters, I’ve been impressed by the language used to describe what is happening, particularly in 2:3. God challenges Satan.
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”
Somehow, those words, “you incited me” caught my attention in a new way. The word incite means “to cause (someone) to act in an angry, harmful, or violent way.” Now how on earth can Satan “CAUSE” God to behave in a certain way? What I find interesting is that none of the commentaries I have at hand (and I have a lot) make any direct comments about this language other than to note how strong it is.
But there it is… in the Hebrew as well. And somehow, I don’t think this is just about God’s integrity. The more I’ve read this, the more I begin to wonder, could it be that God knows Job better than Job knows himself. At issue is that God will not be proven wrong, and He is going to show Satan that Job is exactly what God has said he is; is it possible that God believes in Job more than Satan did, than Job’s friends, his wife, and even Job himself?
As I considered this I was reminded of a devotional I’d read that morning. A meditation on Hosea 14:4 “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” The author pointed out that God’s love is unconditional, HIS choosing, and not based on anything I can or will do.
As I think about Job, I realize that this was the same love at work in Job’s life. All that loss, all that pain, to help Job discover just what a precious relationship he had in His God. It does not feel like an adequate answer to us as onlookers. It was not an adequate answer when Job’s friends preached at him.
But when God spoke from the whirlwind, although He did not say, “Job, I love you,” the speaking of God to Job was the love and assurance that Job needed and brought healing to his heart. Job never did get any answers to his pain or suffering. He may have received more sons and a daughter afterwards, and new possessions, but none of this could ever compensate fully for the loss of his 10 adult children whom he’d jealously protected from birth. None of this could remove the memory of his awful boils (and I did some research on them—they are hideous, ugly, deforming and painful, capable of even affecting his lungs and inner mucosa. Every movement hurt, he had trouble breathing, and may not have even been able to eat! His wife did indeed think he was dying).
Is it too simple? I don’t think so. You see, what we all need, is not someone else telling us about God and how God loves us. Sooner or later we need a personal encounter with the Creator of the Universe. It is only when the almighty, omnipotent, holy, perfect, and pure God speaks to us deeply and personally—be it in the whirlwind of Job or the whisper of Elijah—that we find real comfort.
When I think about this, I am reminded yet again of the love of Jesus for me. His blood covering my sin (and it is not small), enabling God to see me as clean, righteous. Unconditional love BEFORE the cross enables me to rest and abide in this same unconditional love forever. That astounds me and comforts me.
Suddenly, the way I feel doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming. God’s unconditional love for me can never be lost. With Job I place my hand on my mouth.