“Is There Suffering?”
By Pastor Jerry Donovan
I thank Rev. Dr. Derek Weber for his continuing inspiration and teachings used in this article.
The Book of Job is designed with a purpose. Focusing on the historical questions misses the point presented in The Book of Job. Is there suffering in the world? Are there people who have lost everything? Of course there is and of course there are. The Book of Job is real life; it asks real questions; it wrestles with the truth in humbling and transforming ways.
Our story begins like a parable to teach us something. The question with Job is, “What is it teaching?” It begins There was a man “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil”. Human failings dominate the history of human beings. Still there is a striving for uprightness, and being blameless.
The whole point of the book is that even if we could achieve being perfect, we still would not be immune from suffering. Random stuff happens. Even the most health conscious can become infected with illness. Even the most safety conscious can suffer an unforeseen accident.
Wait a minute, you might be thinking, this isn’t random stuff happening. There is purpose; there is interference; there is Satan! That is the explanation for all our ills. However, this is not a valid explanation or an excuse. In The Book of Job, Satan holds an office in the heavenly court, and he raises a question and opposition to God’s boasting on the character of Job. Then the conversation begins.
“11 “But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.”12 God replied, “We’ll see. Go ahead—do what you want with all that is his. Just don’t hurt him.” The Message Paraphrase Bible
God is a participant allowing, and in collusion in all that happens to this blameless and upright, obedient servant of God. So now what? Why do we believe? What is faith all about? These are fundamental questions hovering beneath the obvious ones about suffering all of which are crucial these days.
The truth is, Job doesn’t give us easy answers. There is no bumper sticker faith here. We are invited to examine the depth of our souls and the foundations of what we believe. Having waded through this book, a person might be woven more tightly into the hope of the kingdom. The transformation here is toward a faith that doesn’t hang on external circumstances, but on inner convictions seeking to grow into Christ-like relationships and practices. In chapter 28 of the Book of Matthew, Jesus gives all Christians our mission, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This mission needs to go through the experience of wrestling with Job.
Come and explore with us over the next three weeks The Book of Job, searching for answers to today’s issues. Sunday Worship times are 10:30 AM Central time at the Methodist Church in Van Horn; 11:15 AM Mountain time at the Methodist Church in Sierra Blanca; Livestream Worship begins at 9:00 AM on my FaceBook page.