Eastertide: Move Over, Job!

MAY 10, 2020

These days, don’t you kind of feel like Job? That Old Testament man’s life was one big tragedy.  I mean, think about it – his family was healthy, happy and prosperous. Job was a devoutly religious man. Then tragedy stuck. I mean one tragic thing after another: his entire family wiped out in a freak accident; his property destroyed; his livelihood was obliterated; his wife bitter and unsupportive! “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9), the woman had had enough!

 Can you relate?  Consider this:

  • Our entire world is under lock down – I won’t offer the specifics here – we are living it!
  • Thoughts of re-emerging back into community elicits a mixture of anger, trepidation, and anxiety
  • All that we have worked for has dissolved before our very eyes. 
  • Relationships we have developed are strained both by social distancing AND by being confined in small spaces with those we love but are no longer sure we like! 

Crises just don’t happen at this magnitude in the world, much less in our nation – it’s always ‘over there,’ but now, we, as a world are literally ‘in this together.’ What is happening – when will it end – how can we fix this? Move over, Job, this is our ash heap, too!

Well, think about Job. What happened to him? His friends show up.

At first they all sit together in silence on what may have been the ash heap of Job’s estate.  Nothing is said – no words seem adequate – after all, if such a thing could happen to someone as righteous as Job, surely the same thing could happen to them as well.

We’ve been there, too, during these last very long weeks as we reach out to each other by phone and social media – just to ‘be together’ even if it’s only by sharing cute animal videos and weirdly humorous dad jokes.

But, the similarity doesn’t end there. After a mere seven days of sitting together in companionable silence, the friends began talking – offering explanations for Job’s tragic circumstances.  Obviously, even though Job was considered a righteous man, he must have done something wrong to tick God off so badly! They start offering their half-baked theological litanies of all the reasons for Job’s tragedy and their solutions that might make things all better. 

None of what the friends said was true; their theology was exceptionally flawed (a major point of this Old Testament book), but they kept talking anyway! 

Like the friends, we, too, have entered the time of talking: everyone seems to be looking for someone to blame – some way to explain all these challenges and tragedies that are threatening to crush us – some even blame God!

Solutions are currently a dime a dozen and both speculation and research are in hyperdrive.  

I, for one, am grateful for the scientists among us who patiently and humbly admit their scientific limitations, yet commit to tenaciously and sacrificially and prayerfully (yes, I have heard them talk of praying!) as they work for answers through the employment of their God-given wisdom and expertise!  

But in the midst of it all – what are we to do? Where do we find our strength?

Do we remember the truth of who and Whose we are?

We are Easter people.

We worship the One true God Who will never leave us or forsake us, as Paul reminds the believers in Hebrews 13:5. This isn’t a sappy fortune cookie platitude – it’s the truth! 

We worship the One Who was crucified and rose on the third day in proof of His deity and the verification of the truth of His teachings!  Even though Jesus Himself felt forsaken in the horror of His sacrificial love poured out on the cross(Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34), God was with Him – the source of the strength of Christ’s prayer of forgiveness and love – even in His time of greatness need. God may have been silent during the horror. Jesus might have felt abandoned. But God never left. 

Then, in three days, Christ, the divine Son of God, rose from the dead! He re-entered the world, through the power of the Spirit and all things were made new.  Life for Christ never went ‘back to normal;’ life in Christ offered a new normal for us – a life defined by love – empowered by sacrifice for others all for the sake of God’s holy love. 

This is our not only our hope as people of faith but our truth as well!

We have the assurance of knowing that no matter how bad things are, this is not all there is to life – this is a challenging season, but we will be raised to new life in the days to come.  That was the realization Job came to as well (Job 19:23-27). Even in tragedy, Job found strength in the presence of God.

Like Job, we might experience silence in the midst of challenge on a human level, but in retrospect, we will see this time as a gift if we have used it as a time to calm our overwhelmed souls and process what we have endured. Such prayer-filled processing takes time, humility, and the willingness to think outside the box in order to claim the new reality waiting on the other side.

In all things, God will never leave or forsake us; life on the other side will be different but at the same time, we will not remain on the ash heap of tragedy forever.

God is present, just as God was present with Job and with Christ, whether we sense that presence or not – providing the silent strength and wisdom we need to make it through our challenges; raising us up from the ashes into a new beginning on the other side.

A new beginning much different from what was, yet informed by that very challenging time we have experience. We will grow deeper our understanding of significance of our lives, our relationships, and realization of a God-given strength we never knew we had.

We will come to a deeper understanding of Christ’s commandments to love God and love others, (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:27-28). As God works through us, these commandments become our touchstone like never before. We are indeed all in this together!

The question is – how will we ‘get through it?’ Will we recognize God at work in and through to raise us up from our current ash heap?

Will we love God and all others sacrificially and without exception and be restored heart, soul, mind and strength as a global community?

Will we become bitter like Job’s wife – curse God and others as we ‘do our own thing’ to the expense of all others?

Such questions inform all sides of the current debate over health and the economy – and the answers will come through God-given wisdom informing both science and economics, not as a consequence of personal preference. 

We will rise from the ash heap – question only we can each answer for ourselves is – HOW?

And to God be the glory! AMEN.

<<<Further reflection and prayer can be found in In the Stillness>>>

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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