The Job story does NOT sit well with me. At all.
Why, I wonder, was the Book of Job included in our sacred canon? Is it because misery loves company?
Today’s reading from Job likely resonates with you, no matter where in the world you are. A full year into the global pandemic, relief seems a long way off still. Millions of us have been sick, have lost jobs, have lost loved ones because of the Covid-19 virus. Like Job, we are restless, anxious, distraught, miserable.
Job’s story isn’t comforting. Not even a little bit.
Am I missing the point? Because, seriously, this story does not put God or His followers in a particularly good light.
I hate the idea that the Almighty Creator is petty enough to enter into a wager with Satan, at the expense of a good man.
I hate the increasing levels of suffering that Job is put through for the sake of that bet.
I hate Job’s jerk friends who only manage to make Job feel worse. How is it that they—his best friends in the world—immediately toss aside everything they have known about what a good man Job is, and right away insist that this extraordinary amount of suffering must be because of something he has done; that somehow he deserves all of this?
I hate Job’s wife. More accurately, I hate the way the story completely ignores the fact that she, too, has lost everything, including her children. Instead of keening in despair and grief, she is portrayed as a shrew who is scornful of her husband.
Most of all, though, I hate that after God wins the bet, we are all expected to accept the new home, livestock, and children as restoration and restitution. There is no way that Job (and his wife) just got over their grief for the incalculable loss of their children, and the home they had lovingly built for their family.
Putting aside the extreme cruelty of the wager in the first place, why didn’t the omnipotent Creator God of the Universe and All That is In It just restore everything to as it was before? Surely it would be easy for He With Whom All Things Are Possible.
Every time I have had a lesson or heard a homily preached about this story, it was to point out how one is supposed to behave towards God during our times of suffering. Job is pointed to as a model believer who never wavers in his fear and respect for the Almighty. Job (who never did anything wrong in the first place, remember) takes his hits the right way, and as a reward, he gets a bigger house and better livestock and more riches and new children.
I have more questions.
Is God actually capricious and cruel? Are we so insignificant as beings that our suffering is of no real importance to our Creator? If suffering is just par for the course of an insignificant human life, then what is the point of our faith?
I don’t ask these questions as a heretic. I ask as one of a long, long line of believers who have questioned, bargained, and wrestled with God until they got their blessing.
I don’t have answers yet. I cannot tie up this post neatly with three points that all start with the letter “P” and a final paragraph that will make you respond with an Alleluia.
I am hardly as righteous a being as Job was. Still, in my sufferings I have yet to curse God. If you are wrestling, too, know that you are not alone.