Monday, March 7, 2011

How Job’s Prayer of Despondency Encourages Us

“Why do you hide your face,

and count me as your enemy?”

~Job 13:24 (NRSV).

This is a difficult Word for the nay-sayers of pain—claiming that ‘victory in Christ’ subverts the torment of life in this world to deal with.

Did God ever say that we’d subsume a life without pain? No, God never said that; not here in this world.

The gospel message instead is the answer to pain, when there is no answer.

Job’s Plight

Always a great place to come to, is Job, when the world has shattered before our very eyes. Nuked in anguish we can find no pleasure in many things, but a faint encouragement always exists in these 42-chapters.

In the pit of chapter 13 and into chapter 14, Job spews out his diabolical rhetoric, as much to appeal to God on the one hand, but to agree with him on the other.

At this point Job knows his sinfulness, but that that sinfulness has no apparent link with his present quandary.

The fact that it’s possible to suffer when there is no logical explanation is, for a human being, infuriating. Of course, most of us know it all too well, but some know it most acutely—more than we’ll ever know.

Job’s plight could be summarised as taking him to the place of analysis paralysis. So deeply does Job enquire of his situation he’s brought to the point of madness; but that’s all part of an incredibly important undoing process—only afterwards is he to see the value of it, as he goes full-circle. We liken this to grief.

And The Encouragement?

It defies particular rationality that we can see a person in pain and derive encouragement from it.

But those ‘particular rationalities’ are not home to the things of God.

Humanity has always been given to comparison. If we have problems we’ll want to problem-solve. We don’t like problems. When we have problems we naturally search for ways to overcome. The ways of the ancients, here, teach us important lessons if we’ll be of hearing hearts.

Perhaps in our pain God has for us a special place in eternity?

Imagine arriving at the Final Judgment and getting more for your coin than you bargained for, again, maybe, for having circumvented the insanities that Satan has sought to deliver into our laps.

Besides what waits for us at the end of the physical world, there’s what waits for us in the here-and-now... yes, pain, discomfort, incredible hardship, untenable situations... but more.

It’s the capacity to endure all this. That would not be possible without God’s grace. Despondency did not kill Job and it will not kill us.

So, as we tend to life, and as our Job-Chapter-Forty-Two experiences are still approaching, we commend this life with a humble ‘bring it on’ attitude.

God is for us, and in our pain we’re in very good company!

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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