The first readings of the liturgy this week give daily segments of the 42 chapters of the Old Testament Book of Job, well-chosen to convey the message of the entire book.
Job is a good man who has everything then loses everything: wives, children, land, livestock and health. This leaves Job in the depths of suffering desperate to find meaning in his anguish.
Much of the book involves some of Job’s friends suggesting to him that his suffering must be a punishment for his sin. But Job knows that this is not the case. The book ends with Job in new depth of conversation and relationship with God.
Instead of giving reasons for Job’s suffering God simply invites Job to see the broader and divine perspective inviting him to consider the mighty marvels of creation – as we hear in today’s first reading:
“Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning
and shown the dawn its place?
Have you entered into the sources of the sea,
or walked about in the depths of the abyss?
Have the gates of death been shown to you,
or have you seen the gates of darkness?
Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all:
Which is the way to the dwelling place of light,
and where is the abode of darkness,
That you may take them to their boundaries
and set them on their homeward paths?
Of course Job for all his big-dreams, competence, achievement, and wealth has never thought about life with God’s perspective. He realises that what he has achieved in his little but long life is puny compared to the power and beauty of God’s creation and ongoing activity in the world.
As Job listens to God he realises that his perspective is tiny and his suffering while overwhelming for him is really no reason for him to fret given the power and generosity of God who remains very close to him.
We can all relate to Job’s situation since we all suffer in ways that we do not deserve. Like Job we forget that our deepest human desire is not to avoid suffering but to live in relationship with God and with others. While Job might have appreciated the company of his friends, their advice did not help him and Job even accuses them: ‘what miserable comforters you all are!’ Job 16:2
But what Job does discover through this whole miserable experience of loss and suffering is that he is now in even more intimate relationship with the God who walks about in the depths of the abyss and who knows the way to the dwelling place of light.
Over the next twenty-four hours allow the suffering you experience to come fully into your consciousness and prayer. There is no need to be afraid. Speak with Jesus about your suffering and allow Him to use your suffering to lead you into deeper intimacy with Him.
Image above: Gonzalo Carrasco
Job on the Dunghill 1881