When I say the name Job… what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Bright rainbows? Flittering butterflies? Sparkly unicorns?
I can almost guarantee that none of these things came to mind. And if they did, I think you have your Bible characters mixed up.
It’s more likely that things like darkness, loss, grief, suffering, and pain came to mind for those of you familiar with Job’s story.
It is tempting for us to find a way to bypass the book of Job in scripture because it’s uncomfy. Job is not a feel good story, wrapped neatly and tied with a bow. It is easier for us to read the stories where God makes miracles happen – where brokenness is made whole, where freedom is found, and where life is restored. But Job is set in the trenches of despair, heartbreak, doubt, and God’s silence is deafening. Maybe the book of Job is uncomfy for us because it is all too close to the human experience.
If you’re into binging legal drama tv shows on Netflix, Job is the book for you. Job is pursuing legal action against God, because in short, Job feels like God has abandoned him. And when we read all that Job has endured, we too might call the case closed and side with Job.
But before we rush to close the case, let us hear some of the arguments from Job.
In today’s reading, we find ourselves in the courtroom where Job is responding to one of his friends, Bildad, who made the argument that he is suffering because of some sort of secret sin.
Job lodges a complaint against God: God is not fair!
Job cries out in prayer but God does not answer. God has made it impossible for Job to travel along life's way, walling him up, and setting him in darkness. Like a tree uprooted by a storm, the roots for Job's hope have been pulled out. Like a commander surrounding a city with troops, God has surrounded Job.
Another complaint is made by Job - it is all God's fault that Job’s life is miserable!
Job finds no support from family or friends. Even little children do not like him and his wife finds him repulsive. Job is certain that God is behind all of this.
But then Job makes a declaration of faith: I know that I have one who will rescue me from this mess!
I know that my redeemer lives. There is a glimmer of hope, even when everything is crashing down. There is an ounce of aspiration, where desperation feels overwhelming. Job expresses his belief that there is One living who will eventually rescue him from the suffering and mess his life has become. As that One once rescued Israel, or the exiles, so too the Redeemer will one day put Job's life back together.
There is paradox in Job’s argument – a place for objection or rebuttal in a legal argument.
He clings to the God whom he also at the same time accuses. This is Job’s faith. This is a human kind of faith.
As one scholar puts it, it is in the posture of lament that Job expresses his grief -- holding on to God with one hand and shaking his fist at God with the other; not letting God off the hook for one minute, but staying in relationship with that God.
Job exemplifies that posture of lament, and it is precisely that refusal to give up on God that leads to moments of hope in the midst of his overwhelming despair. The back and forth between grief and joy, pain and relief, chaos and peace.
2020 feels an awful lot like a glimpse into the Joban experience. Where grief consumes, anger builds, and hopelessness begins to settle in. The grief we feel is not just of things in our past, but also an anticipatory grief of all that is unknown in the weeks and months ahead.
Have we wanted to shake our fists at God more than once this year? Umm, yes. Have we questioned God for the suffering of humanity amidst a pandemic? Umm, yes. Have we prayed to God for justice and reconciliation, but received silence in return? Seemingly, yes. Have we lamented the state of our divided nation? We sure have.
And yet, like Job – we hold on. As difficult as it may be some days, we put our trust in a God who promises not to abandon us. God sees our shaking fists, hears our questions, knows our prayers, holds our laments – and promises not leave us there. Job’s story reminds us that God can handle the pointing finger of blame, the cursing phrase of accusation, the doubts of our human hearts. And still – God is with us.
And so may we be faithful – in our grief, in our frustration, and in our lament – trusting like Job, that our redeemer lives. Amen.