The Bible has an entire book dedicated to human suffering. For the more glass-half-empty-leaning Christians (which includes me), this is practically a dream come true.
If you haven’t read Job yet, then you should definitely read it. It is beautifully written and full of wisdom, real wisdom, not worldly wisdom. But, you still find yourself wondering what you should and shouldn’t take with the proverbial grain of salt. After all, Job and his “friends,” the ones doing the talking for the greater part of the book, are people. Job may have been righteous, but he is still a man.
Let’s think about that for a minute. In fact, in Job 1:1 NRSV, Job is to called “blameless.” It is hard for me to imagine how a human can be blameless. So I interpret “blameless” as blameless relative to other men (Only Jesus was truly blameless). Eliphaz himself asks essentially the same question in 15:14. So the Bible clearly depicts Job as someone who is very “good,” for lack of a better word. But he can’t be perfect.. right? Not perfect, but just undeserving of the severe, severe punishments he got. Or was he?
That was confusing. But anything worth learning is confusing.
So Job, obviously, is pretty upset that he is being tortured by the Devil, and, indirectly, by God, who has allowed Satan to kill his children, destroy his property, and inflict him with various ailments. Throughout the book, he kind of complains. Understandably, I mean, he has basically nothing. His friends all tell him that he is being punished for his sin. To play Devil’s advocate, or rather, Job’s-friends-advocate, their conclusion is somewhat logical. The Old Testament relies on that theme of obedience-blessing, disobedience-cursing. So, though they should have been more comforting, perhaps a bit less condemning, I do understand their point of view.
The weirdest part of the book, to me, is how Job continually defends himself. He seems to get more and more vehement, more and more bitter, and sure of his own righteousness. Basically, he’s saying, “What’d I ever do to deserve this?” And I’m sure if I were in his shoes, I’d do the same thing. If not something far worse.
But naturally, you wonder how it is that Job can be so perfect that he can’t even think of one little sin to justify his epic punishment. Was he really perfect, blameless? Did he just atone for all his sin through offerings/sacrifices at various points in his life? I guess we can’t know the details of his life, but we can conclude some very important things. Here is something Job says that we can definitely take to heart, at face value:
Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with any wrongdoing.
Job 1:20-22 NRSV
I’ve always thought those were such powerful, beautiful words. I aspire to aspire to be more like that. To be strong and resilient, trusting God all along the way, even in the most tragic of circumstances. I think I’ll leave you with those words for now, for the sake of our attention spans, emaciated by the media ;). But I will be talking more about Job and what it means to me in the days to come. Thanks for reading friends.