Before we go on: Who had less belief? The friends who could not comprehend God letting bad stuff happen, or Job, the man who questioned God outright? The man who lost everything and demands an answer, or the men who appear have all the answers?
God didn’t get on to Job about talking. I used to think that. But when I read it now, I really do think God was inviting a discussion. He never sounds upset or angry—if anything, he only gently rebukes Job by giving him a wider perspective. But he does outright call the friends idiots. So I’d say Job has more faith. Spoiler alert, but my theory is supported because after Job and God talk, God says He’ll forgive Job’s friends if Job will pray for them.
So I guess it’s okay to wrestle with hard questions, instead of hiding from the questions behind liberalism and false righteousness.
But now on to the main point: In the face of God’s defense—which isn’t so much a defense of the action, but more a testimony of God’s character—how do you go on believing?
I was recently around a believer who had been through some crazy hard stuff. Stuff you read about in a book but never really think still happens to real people, because it’s just too terrible. This woman is so joyful, and always praising God—it’s almost exhausting, to be honest!
As I spent time around her, listening and watching, it slowly dawned on me that she was not joyful because God had given her the grace not to feel pain. She was so full of sadness that she had to be joyful.
The saddest gesture in the world to me is a very simple one. It’s when a person puts their head in their hands, and folds over until their forehead nearly touches their knees. I’ve seen it a few times, in the face of grief I can’t begin to comprehend.
What do you do with a grief like that?
I was thinking about it, about how I think maybe life’s a story of loss. The funny thing about loss, that I’ve found at least, is that you can cling to things or take things for granted or think you can’t survive without something, but then you’ve lost it. You’re on the other side and it’s like… you’re still alive. You’re not okay, but you’re still alive.
Thought I was learning how to take,
How to bend not how to break,
How to laugh not how to cry,
But really I’ve been learning how to die
– Jon Foreman
We’re all learning how to die, how to watch others die. I think the grief in that is enough to drive someone mad. I think maybe the joy in Christ is the only way to stay sane, sometimes.
I feel like I am always sitting with these thoughts. Like they’re on the edge of my vision, sitting beside me on the bus or the train, and I pick them up and turn through them a thousand times. But I don’t know if I’m getting any nearer to understand anything that goes on anymore.
I guess in the end, that’s what it comes down to: Not understanding, but believing anyway.
For myself, I remember distinctly a moment when I contemplated stopping. I remember thinking to myself, This is too much. What if I just stopped believing? What if I decided this was the deal breaker, and there isn’t a god?
Maybe it’s because of my upbringing, or my faith as a kid and young teen, or maybe it’s because I am surrounded by amazing, strong believers who have gone through so much more than me and still keep going. Or maybe God was just protecting me after all.
Because for about two seconds I seriously contemplated that option. But then I shook my head. I can’t not believe. To not believe would be infinitely worse. I’m not sure if I can explain why, especially after all my complaining, but I think part of the reason I can probe so deep into my shortage of faith is because I do believe. Believing is like breathing for me.
I think now I’ve crossed the line, at least with my little toe—that line where your pain and sorrow and confusion and loss might break your heart or turn you to stone, but you have to believe. Somehow it makes you stronger.
When God finishes, Job confesses:
“I know that you can do all things,
And that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job lost everything. His family, his wealth, his health, his friends. God invited him to a conversation. But God didn’t justify Himself. God didn’t argue. In fact, I don’t think that logic or reasoning had anything to do with Job’s reaction.
Job saw. And Job understood.
Before, Job lamented that God’s purpose was great and terrible. He struggled with the idea of an all knowing God who allowed the wicked to be unpunished and the righteous to be slaughtered. But somehow, when Job experienced God, none of those apparent conflicts mattered anymore.
I had just finished Job when I found myself in another worship service. But that’s a story for the next post.