And Job again took up his discourse, and said: “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent, when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were all around me, when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!” – Job 29:1-6
Thursday, June 12, 2014
The Long and the Short
Now that I have gotten older, I have a tendency to look upon the world as increasingly degenerate and decadent, and I think there might be some objective evidence for that, just here in this country. Not knowing the story of Job, a person might read the verses above and think that Job is waxing nostalgic for the days when things were better and more wholesome, for Faded Love and Crocodile Rock.
Job has gone through a great and heart-rending series of losses, and it is all inexplicable to him. He has no way to comprehend the reasons for what has happened, and no reason he can find for believing that his suffering has an eternal and transcendent meaning. From his perspective, life has taken on the aspect of chaotic randomness and appeared to have lost all its significance. He longed for the time when he thought differently, when his faith and righteousness seemed to be bearing fruit and making the world a better place.
As believers and rational creatures, we consider that our existence is part of a grand design governed by laws, that good pleases God and is rewarded by Him and that evil is disobedience and will be punished or corrected. There is a reason for us speaking of the “patience of Job”. Through Job’s story, God is revealing that sometimes faith only works in patience, in that most descriptive word, “longsuffering”. We wish there was a shortsuffering wherein worketh Instant Karma with bolts of lightning delivered on the spot to fry the wicked while the good are all “drinking that free bubble up and eating that rainbow stew.”
So you have Evil Roy and lovely, unsullied Miss Innocence. God ought to protect Miss Innocence from Evil Roy. At what point does the lightning strike? Is it when Roy conceives his first little thought of violating Innocence? What if he sees that his course is wrong and changes his mind? Maybe instead of a lightning bolt God could just use a cattle prod? Those of us that have one call it “conscience”. When we are the ones ignoring the prodding of conscience, we are not usually calling for higher voltage. That’s the problem with free moral agents: they are just as free to be immoral.
I knew a girl who was molested and abused by her father. He ended up in prison for other crimes. She decided to call him one day. She told him how much he had hurt her and caused her to suffer. Then she thanked him. She said that without that pain she would not be the person she had become. She would not be as strong, not as much a person of unshakeable faith had it not been for the vile torture inflicted on her by a person she ought to have been able to trust.
I don’t know how someone does that. I can’t imagine. But, she was right. She suffered long, yet she found a way out. It was not by going back to a lost past made golden in memory, though, no doubt, she had, like Job, wished for that at times. It was to go through, to patiently keep pressing on in faith that, somehow, some way, someday, the senseless would make sense.