Day 116—Honesty and Argument—“Life’s Hardness” Job 6:1 – 14:22
April 26, 2021, 8:05 AM

Day 116—Honesty and Argument—“Life’s Hardness” Job 6:1 – 14:22

When I read Job, I fall headlong in love with the Bible. This book is IT for me because the language is so beautiful, so wrenching and so true. I know this is not how everyone feels because Job is hard to understand and if this is your first time reading it, just keeping track of who is talking when is difficult enough. This book defines wisdom for me, by which I mean that it wrestles with the hardest questions of our faith lives through personal suffering, bad advice from well-meaning friends who don’t understand, and a picture of God that starts out so small and becomes surpassingly powerful, inscrutable and almost overwhelming by the end of the book.

It’s not the beginning of the book or the end of the book that capture me, so it’s not ‘the story’ of Job that grabs me. It’s the dialogue, the soul searching, the timeless conversations that Job has with his friends that we could still have today, and the honesty of a suffering soul crying out for understanding. Spoiler alert: we don’t gain the kind of understanding you might want. We gain understanding of what we cannot know and we begin to realize how small our own little snapshot of the world really is.

As I told a friend this week, when I start to forget who God is, I read the end chapters of Job to remind me and they bring me to my knees with beauty, power and mystery.

Ok, enough gushing about Job. I thought it was fair to let you know how much I love this book.

Short outline:
Chapter 6: Job answers his friend Eliphaz
Chapter 7: Job addresses God
Chapter 8: Bildad, Job’s friend, insults him and blames him for his current situation
Chapter 9: Job answers Bildad and continues to focus on God’s role in the universe
Chapter 10: Job is utterly bereft and wrestles with the difficulty of understanding God’s ways.
Chapter 11: Zophar, another ‘friend’ of Job’s, blames Job for his troubles and tells him how to fix the brokenness of his life, and is very black and white in his reasoning.
Chapter 12: Job tries to teach Zophar a more nuanced understanding of God
Chapter 13: Job continues to speak to Zophar, but there is a switch at verse 20 when Job addresses God directly.
Chapter 14: Job continues his one-sided conversation with God

The honesty I find in this book startles me every time. I find myself wanting to fist -pump at certain times saying “Yes! You got that EXACTLY right Job!” Am example is when Job answers Eliphaz in Chapter 6 and he says “You see my calamity and are afraid” (v. 21b) So much ‘advice’ we receive from people comes out of a place of judgment or fear. Job continues “How forceful are honest words! But your reproof, what does it reprove?” (v. 25)  In other words, what good is your advice? What help is your outlook, Eliphaz? You are speaking untruth from a place of judgment. Job’s words, on the other hand, have the power of honesty throughout the entire book. We hear his suffering, his questioning, his anger, his confusion so clearly. He is not embarrassed to speak directly to God, to even challenge God to defend himself to Job. How wonderful is that?

While Job is a parable-like book, and is not factual, it captures the truth of the human spirit with cutting accuracy. In chapter 7 Job utters a phrase that I experience, and usually say, every day of my life: “Do not human beings have a hard service on earth?” (v. 1a) My way of saying it: “Earth is hard work.” No matter our circumstances, being human is difficult. We experience loss, pain, sadness, fear, confusion, indecision, illness every day of our lives. It is hard not only tobe a ‘successful’ human, but it is hard to be a faithful human! And Job addresses God with these real questions: Why God? Is it because you’ve been waiting for me to sin and then you can target me with your almighty power to punish me? Am I a burden to you? (my paraphrase of 7:28). Come ON!!! Don’t you ask these questions sometimes?

And then your good Christian friend comes along like Bildad and says things like: oh, if you were just a little more faithful. Oh if you just went to church more. Oh, if you were only pure of heart instead of having a heart of coal. Isn’t it great when people who know nothing of our suffering feel as thought they have the answer to it? (sarcasm intended here) And then Bildad has this weird fairy-tale like ending to his pretty little speech: God will not reject a truly good person. God will make you laugh again, Job, and celebrate IF you are a good person.

That is such a bunch of lies! No one deserves suffering. People often suffer consequences for their actions, but no one deserves unplanned tragedy. In other words—both good and evil people died from Covid-19. Both good and evil people might have a house fire that destroys everything they own, including their pets trapped in the house. Both good and evil people can get cancer, get in a car accident, lose a loved one…you get the point. We know it is not a matter of deserving either good or bad things in our lives—earth is just hard work, and we cannot predict how to avoid disaster and sadness and suffering.  But we can choose how to deal with it.

Job is so raw and honest in his outcry to God that I am silent before his human misery. Job does not get distracted from his prayers to God by his friends who alternatively blame him and pity him, but he listens to them, the poor man! Of course, these conversations are scripted so that we hear stereotypical arguments from Job’s friends that remind us of

We have lost our voices in our conversations with God, becoming polite and holy when God will hear the scream of grief from your soul, the red-hot anger of injustice bubble out from our hearts, the chaos of fear when a family member is suffering, the babble and wordless joy of looking into the face of a newborn child—perhaps a new grandchild?—and recognizing the power that we are given to be co-creators of life with God.

Today I want to reclaim my honesty with God, not just in my complaints, but especially in my praises.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

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