I decided on January 2nd of this year to read through the Bible in a year. I decided about six months after that to read through the Old Testament in a year. Seems I wasn’t moving as quickly as I had hoped.
But that’s actually a good thing. I thought the Old Testament would be tortuously boring. Turns out I kept finding little nuggets of gold to examine. Things I had never seen before, or had seen and forgotten. So whenever I get to something that makes me look up and go “hmmm… ” I stop to ponder. Or absorb. It just doesn’t feel right plowing through something quickly to get to the end. Which is the opposite of how I do everything else in my life. I’m a sprinter.
But not with this project. Yay! People can change!
I was recently facing my trip to the hospital and found that I would be at the book of Job during that time and after. To be honest, I was disappointed. I had hoped so much to be in the book of Psalms. Psalms is where I live during the hard parts of my life. Psalms is where you can be sad and disappointed and isolated and ask the hard questions and end with praise. But that was not to be. Job was where it was to be.
And it turns out that that is right where I needed to be – the mysterious and somewhat terrifying book of Job where God could in no way be thought of as a kindly Grandpa/Santa-type being. Job, where God lets Satan inflict misery upon misery on his most devoted creature. “Have you considered my servant Job?” God asks Satan. Bad stuff happens. Really bad stuff. Stuff that Job dreaded may one day happen.
And I find that interesting. He, Job, had negative thoughts. He often made sacrifices for his children, just in case they did something wrong. But that is not why God inflicted him. Scripture doesn’t tell us why. It only tells us that God points Job out to Satan and that Job is blameless.
Anyway, Job suffers, his friends come to mourn with him. Then they start blaming Job for his problems. “If only you were a better person,” they said, “God doesn’t allow this kind of suffering to those who are righteous.”
“If only you thought positive thoughts.”
Okay, Job’s friends didn’t say that one. Our friends do.
Apparently, positive thinking can keep diseases and disasters away from you. Yay! But wait… what about earthquakes and floods and hurricanes? Pollution! We can blame how people have mistreated the environment for our bad weather! Yay! Wow, we love having control over everything. We just need everybody to be peaceful and think good thoughts, and do something about the environment – we haven’t figured out exactly what that is yet, but yay! It’s all up to us!
Okay, yes, yes, yes, positive thinking is VERY important to our physical health and mental well being. Yes, yes, yes, clean air and water and soil is VERY important, we need it to live. But the reality is that bad things will happen to all people. You, my dear positive thinking earth loving friend, at some point in your life, are going to have some amount of shit land on your door.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t look at ourselves very closely when bad things happen. We could very well have opened a door to suffering ourselves. Cause and effect is a thing. But the problem with us, and the problem with Job’s friends is that we will never know for certain why many of the bad things that happen to us or to anybody else happens to us or anybody else. We don’t know. And when we act like we do, we are only trying to protect ourselves from the terror that we do not hold all things in our hands. We do not control the world, or even the cells in our bodies. We influence, but we don’t control.
Does that terrify you?
It terrifies me. But not so much about my body. My terror lies more along the line of Job’s – I worry over the people I love, especially my kids.
And that’s where I have to jump off the cliff into the unknown. God has control. I do not. But I also know that God loved Job. And he loves me, and my kids, and you. And the things that he lets (causes) happen to us don’t always look like a happy ending, as far as we can see.
But we can only see so far.
Meanwhile, if I act like I know why you or anyone is suffering, tell me to go stuff it.
Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.