Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves, therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up, he shatters, but his hands heal. Job 5:17-18
Little did I know in my youth, the story of Job which bored me to tears with its perpetual speculations of “why God let good people suffer”, would be the story that continues to give me wisdom and saving Grace. Job, an upright man in his community, undergoes a series of events that lead to suffering. Although he was never given a direct answer as to the why he was made to suffer, his choice led to a doorway of abundance. My youthful ignorance could not decipher the wisdom this story offers. But life has a way of teaching people lessons.
Now as an adult married with two grown kids, I lived through series of fated events that included miscarriages, deaths of my parents, my child’s descent into autism, frightful moments raising a rebellious teenager, and a couple of near fatal encounters that tore the fabric of my faith in God. I personalized everything. “God why my family? We are good people. We go to church and serve others. We don’t deserve this!”
Over a decade of asking, “why”, God may have grown tired of my “deserve” declarations. He sent my way a mystical teacher by the name of Caroline Myss. Accidentally purchasing her audiobook believing the contents contain information of the human anatomy to help my son, this book turned out to be a spiritual anatomy that would heal my wounds. Myss definitely answered my “whys” and her answers were swift,
“Who do you think you are? What makes you think you are so special that you can get away from not suffering?” Adding insult to injury, Myss added, “Who do you think it would happen to? Your neighbor?!”
Breathless, having the wind knocked out of me, her words of wisdom pierced through my soul. I had to look up to see if it was God himself responding to me. Captured by the intensity, not offended at all, I prayed “God you have my attention”. Carolyn Myss’s words led me to deep meaning to Job’s story.
Persistently Asking Why. My persistence locked me in pain for over a decade which is a lot longer than the Book of Job. The asking comes with pain of grief that offered no quick fix. Yes, grief takes time and it is in our nature to ask but beware not to let it hold you back. Caroline Myss has me contemplate, “Let’s say God gives you the answer, now what? Will knowing the answers change your son’s illness? If he gives you an answer, will you then move on?”
Her direct questions is my wake-up call which lead me to let go of asking why things happen as they do. However, due to the complex nature of my son’s autism and the strong impulse to fall back into the illusion of normalcy, I carefully watch myself walk that fine line between order and choas. I remind myself, parents with normal typical children struggle too. Although our struggles differ from each other, the feeling is similar – feeling very much alone.
Good vs Bad people. Now, as for the idea of divine justice, God rewarding the good and punishing the bad is simplistic. Yes, there are consequences to our actions. However, not all bad situations that happen to us are a result of our actions. You may go through experiences where you feel you don’t deserve this. There’s no way to sugar coat it, “it is what it is”. Life includes suffering, and to alleviate suffering, you must find truth and meaning.
“There is no such law of retribution and that nature is neutral to man’s moral action. The sun rises on the righteous and sinner alike (28:13, 15)
It is disheartening to see Job’s friends initially go to him to offer comfort, only to leave judging him in the end. Caring for a son with special needs who exhibits odd behaviors that is frowned upon in public, I know full well that compassion is preferred over the ignorance of judgement. The truth is despite the many challenges my family and I face, our love for each other drives us to meet our responsibilities head on. This drive offers us deep meaning which alleviates our suffering, for which we are grateful.
Divine Chaos. There is Divine order to chaos that we may never understand. One must live through it. Myss asked a poignant question to her audience, “Your choice is this: “Are you able to handle what life has given you or do you just simply give up?” In one of her lecture series, it seemed as if she spoke directly to me, “Stop making those you care for, feel like a burden. Just stop it!” -Ouch!
Job must have faced this same question and answers it by wishing he had never been born. God seeing that Job does not understand “out of the whirlwind”, he appears to him and walks him through it. It seems Job also got the wind knocked out of him.
God’s Virtual Reality Tour. God answers Job’s questions with rhetorical questions while parading the marvel of his creation:
“Where were you when I founded the earth?…Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place? …Do you know the horse, his strength, and endow his neck with splendor?” (Job 38: 4, 12; 39:1,19)
As God gives Job a cosmic view of the world, Job begins to understand human nature. The creation of the sun, moon, earth, and the universe are a vast complex undertaking. The greatness of God’s power, cannot be understood fully by the limited knowledge of man. We cannot place an infinite God in a box created by the finite limitations of man’s understanding. God is mysterious, purposeful, and powerful.
Human nature is finite and complex. Human’s duality of light and shadow tendencies, make it so we don’t even know our own selves. So how will we ever understand the workings of God? The grandeur of what Job witnesses, leaves him humble; a mystical experience. Have you yourself felt humble with the images captured from the Hubble telescope?
Job understands the same lens of the victim which takes life for granted can be switched to the lens of the victor overcoming suffering and being open to what life has yet to offer. The grace of this mystery allows him to give up the need to know why things happen as they do. In the end, God never answers Job as to why he suffers. Simply, he was asked to choose.
Abundance. Job in the end is rewarded with riches and abundance because he chose to have faith in God. Like Job, my choice includes faith and developing a new perspective of how to respond to pain. The Book of Job, boring to me as a child is now a wonderful treasure which pulls me out of my suffering.
The abundance is knowing that although I may not know the complete vision God has for me and my family, the pain we have endured lead to our spiritual development. Each of us have infinite resources we have yet to discover. Our human needs for materialism may tip us off balance between external and internal values from time to time. However, I’m reminded of a beautiful quote, “things of this world will never satisfy the infinite longing of the human heart” (Father Ryan Dunn). Learn to recognize your internal values and treasures.
Called to Trust. God includes in this majestic universe, “a soul” he knows by name. When called to trust, Job responds completely, entirely, and faithfully. He gives an eloquent speech where the reader is left to wonder “can I be as equally trusting and faithful during suffering?” This is for you to decide. Me? I trust the One who created this vast Universe. The One who knows my name.