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Wisdom for Life | Job

God assails me and tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me.

Job 16:9

In December last year, Channel Four broadcast the documentary Surviving Covid. It follows the stories of four coronavirus sufferers. One of them is a pastor called Tobi, who is treasured by his family, congregation, and community for his vivacious personality, strong faith, and personal warmth.

But the film shows him in hospital writhing with discomfort under a mass of tubes and wires. He has had several strokes and his kidneys have failed. When eventually he returns home, he has severe physical and mental disabilities that mean he can hardly speak or lift his head. Most traumatic of all for his loved ones, his ready smile has vanished and gleaming eyes have dimmed.

Tobi’s story evokes that of Job. In both cases, a righteous, God-fearing man suffers the loss of almost all the things that constitute his quality of life. Both thereby raise the age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people?

On this question, as this series has shown, Proverbs teaches that, when people do good, good things will eventually follow; and Ecclesiastes that it is a mystery why this does not always happen. But the book of Job holds out the prospect of addressing this question head on. Indeed, it records conversations on this matter not only between Job and his friends but also between God and Job, and even between God and Satan.

Ultimately, however, this book does not solve the puzzle of why the righteous suffer. When Job eventually challenges God to account for his suffering, God delivers a poem in which he gives Job a tour of the universe and poses to Job the rhetorical question: ‘where were you’ when all this was created?

The poem suggests that the world is good, beautiful, and under God’s ultimate control, but also that it is wild, unsafe, and imperfect. As such, it is an arena for the complex and unpredictable interplay between flourishing and suffering. For a mere mortal like Job to question God’s justice is, therefore, to make the same mistake as Job’s friends of simplifying God. A simplification is needed – but only of trust.

How will simple trust in God’s goodness be demonstrated this week as we grapple with the complexities and uncertainties on our frontlines?

 

Peter S Heslam
Peter is director of Faith in Business, Cambridge.

As Peter asks, what does this simple trust look like on your frontlines this week? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Might part of the answer lie in God’s desire for us to live our lives simply for Him, for his sake, because we trust him whatever the outcome, rather than as a touchstone for our own wellbeing and comfort?

    By Greg Bright  -  24 May 2021
  2. Thanks Peter … I’m presently reading through Job, and can certainly see that in the end the call is to greater trust as the complexity of the universe is above our IQ to understand. God is sovereign, and worth trusting, even when we don’t have a clue.

    At the same time, I’m encouraged by the very inclusion of this book in the canon of Scripture, with some 38 chapters of diverse perspectives and strong characters wrestling with theodicy up close and personal, questioning, even complaining … this rawness and genuine dialogue is a reminder that God invites the struggle, and makes space for us to make sense of what’s going on, even if our all-too-human reflections don’t solve the mysteries of the cosmos and at crucial points get it wrong.

    As for your great question at the end – ‘How will simple trust in God’s goodness be demonstrated this week as we grapple with the complexities and uncertainties on our frontlines?’ – I’m still wrestling! Have moved internationally mid-pandemic last July, it feels like life in the UK is only just beginning. For me, it means making space every morning to hear the Lord’s voice through his word and prayer, paying attention to those around me as I increasingly get out and about, and looking for ways to journey patiently with others (and, frankly, myself, amidst frailty and frustration) to discover unexpected beauty and life in the wake of a season of anxiety, lock-down and death.

    Job had a vague sense of hope through it all … “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25–27). Praise God, through Jesus, that we have a solid assurance of resurrection to come, giving meaning to even the most seemingly pointless and painful suffering.

    Dave Benson
    By Dave Benson Culture & Discipleship Director, LICC
  3. Trusting God to help me manage the demands on my failing energy, to do those things like work & see Mum & complete my course

    Trusting God to bring the support to help make some if this a joy

    By Su  -  24 May 2021
  4. Thanks for this post, Peter, engaging with the complexities and challenges of the book of Job. For me, simple trust often looks like checking the activist streak within me that simply wants to surge ahead and act in the way that I think is best, and instead bringing things before the Lord in prayer, believing that he wants to speak even into the most mundane of my everyday experiences.

    Matt Jolley
    By Matt Jolley Culture & Discipleship – Research & Development, LICC

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