After last week, all the tragedy striking Job’s life but his staying faithful and not blaming God, Job’s friends show up. And we skip to chapter 23. Why? Because those 20-some chapters are full of he and his friends talking about all kinds of nonsense. No, but for real, Job’s friends present to him over and over what most religious experts, wise people, the “learned” would’ve told him – “just stop being sinful, Job, and God will hook things up for you again. God is good but we humans are so sinful that suffering is just God’s way of giving you what you deserve. It must be that you have some hidden sin in your life, that’s why your success is gone.” Funny…I’ve heard that…before, somewhere….
Aaand, over and over Job lets these cats know that they’re wrong. He doesn’t claim to be perfect or totally “sinless” but he knows he’s lived pretty righteously and loves God. And that never changed, but still *ka-blam* he had all this stuff happen to him. You can hear in Job’s voice how aggravated these guys are making him. On top of his suffering, the “wisdom of the day” is accusing him of deserving it all…seems like his friends just bring more mental suffering.
In the face of that jive-talk, Job longs for God to come to his defense, let him know he’s not crazy, and more. So, chapt. 23 is about Job’s question, “where can I find God?” Isn’t that a big part of how we react to evil/suffering on earth…do you ever wish you could just summon God, or go to his house and get an explanation? Or explain your own case, or seek his help/comfort? When we hurt why doesn’t God always just show up?
It kinda, only kind of, reminds me of parents raising young kids…there comes that time when the kids are left to sleep in their own room. For the first time, alone, in the dark. In that child’s world their need for comfort is sometimes very real, but many parents learn not to answer their baby’s cries every time, or else baby will learn that mom/dad will always come a-runnin’. And the crying will continue. Let’s face it, every child craves the presence of a good parent. But a good parent knows that their child can learn to face the dark on his/her own. ‘Cause mom/dad can’t be there every time, but that doesn’t mean baby isn’t somehow cared for or provided for.
In some ways that’s a terrible analogy to our relationship with God, because the evil/suffering in the world is way more substantial than being afraid of the dark, and because, no, I don’t think God wants us all to just “quit being babies” and grow up and stop calling for him and fend for ourselves. That is NOT the idea.
But parents teaching children about bedtime illustrates that the real thing at stake here is our need for God’s love/presence. And it’s hard because no matter how much we want it, we can’t just make God appear. So now the question becomes, can we trust that God has reasons for not coming running every time? When God isn’t where we want him to be, the way we want him, all the time, can we still believe that we’re absolutely cared for?