One of the major theological questions of today is “if God is good and in control, then why do bad things continue to happen to good people?” This is called the “theodicy question” and in our limited understanding of fairness and justice, it seems like a legitimate question. However we forget that we chose and continue to choose brokenness in our life and this distortion thwarts the divine reality God originally created. It is not God who picks and chooses winners and losers in life; it is the ambiguity and randomness of our chosen state of brokenness that does that. The story of Job is intended to teach us how to live a faithful life in the midst of our ambiguous brokenness. I pray that these readings will compliment this week’s sermon as you journey toward a deeper experience of God’s presence in the middle of your brokenness.
Monday: read Job 1:1-2:10
God brags to the divine beings about the faithfulness of Job. The Adversary, a divine being responsible for searching out unfaithfulness presses God by asking if Job would remain faithful if God did not protect him. Two tests ensue for Job – an external loss of possessions and his children, then the personal one of battling painful sores that cover his entire body. Through both tests Job perseveres and is faithful to God. Job believes and says that God can give and God can take away and so he continues to bless the name of the Lord. Put yourself in Job’s place (maybe you already are); how would you or have you responded to others and to God?
Tuesday: read Job 2:11-13
One of life’s biggest challenges is having the right words to say when we engage those who are grieving. We find ourselves caught between saying nothing and the need to say something. The grieving have a need – they crave words of comfort because it lets us know that we are not alone, but uninformed words, while well-intentioned, can also be painful. Can you recall a time when someone’s words made the situation even worse? What was it that caused their words to be painful? Or can you recall a time when you offered words of comfort but within you there was tension because you knew the words were not the right words?
Wednesday: read Job 10:1-7
We have all heard or used the phrase to describe someone as emulating “the patience of Job.” But when you read carefully Job’s story you will see that Job was patient and impatient; Job persevered but he did so with a lot of questions, doubt and accusations all directed at God. Job’s analysis was that God wounded him for no reason (9:17); God was responsible for his misery (12:9). Job was angry, questioned God, and expressed despair because of his circumstances. Can you recall a time when you felt like Job? What was the situation and what did you accuse God of?
Thursday: read Job 31:1-37
Job’s final speech to his three friends is his legal brief stipulating his righteousness. Job has avoided lust, deceit, adultery, and abuse of others. Actually Job has given aid to the defenseless, worshipped God only and demonstrated concern for his neighbor. When you think about it, Job does have a legitimate complaint, or at least according to our understanding of fairness and justice. The reality of life though confirms that the rain falls on the good and the bad. The world is not ordered so that the good prosper and the wicked are punished because human brokenness is arbitrary. So what is God in absolute control of, if not every good or bad thing that happens to us?
Friday: read Job 31:40b-32:5
The counsel of Job’s three friends has concluded – they encourage Job to confess because somehow Job has sinned against God. That is their only way of understanding why Job has experienced the calamity that he has. His wife has not spoken since the beginning when she told him to curse God and die. Now that Job has finished stating his case, the defense rests. He expects God to answer because God has been silent since the beginning of the tale. But instead, a different voice appears – it is the voice of young, inexperienced Elihu who has been an observer of everything and who could no longer stay silent. Has someone ever given you wise counsel and they were the person you least expected it from? How did you feel in that moment?
Saturday: read Job 38:1-15
Now God speaks but not as a defendant in a law case. Why? Because God and humans are not equals. Instead God probes Job’s defense with a series of questions. “Where were you when I…?” “Do you know…?” “Can you…?” God’s questions pointed to the divine creative power at work and that we humans cannot do what God has done or is doing because we are not creators, we are a part of creation. God draws Job into a wider view of the world rather than entertain Job’s complaint and question – why me? The reality of life is that it is ambiguous; there is little that is certain other than we breathe in our first breath and we will eventually breathe our last breath. The invitation of God is to walk faithfully with God through this ambiguous life. Are you walking and talking with God each day? What is your routine or practice of faithfulness? How are these practices empowering you to live within the ambiguousness of life?
Prayer focus: injustice in this world that is attributed to God; faithfulness as walking and talking with God each day; faith is not just a mental understanding of God, it is a lived experience of God.
Blessings for the journey.