Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Patience of Job

Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!-- Job 15:15-16

I don’t usually pull verses from Job because it has much in common with one of Plato’s dialogs or a philosophical novel and calls us to take it as a whole more than most Scriptural writings.  Like Job and his friends, we are always searching for the reason behind and the meaning of suffering, why there must be evil, even why there can be good. 

We long to find a way to avoid trials, to live free of grief.  We think perhaps if we can be good enough, sanctifying ourselves, being kind and generous, taking care of others, living morally and circumspectly, that God will have mercy upon us and spare the losses and the pain that afflict so many.  If we get a bad diagnosis from the doctor, if our marriage falls apart, if our children take the wrong path, we have to declare bankruptcy, etc., we want desperately to believe there is some reason behind it – even if that reason is that we have made mistakes and sinned or that God is capricious and unjust. 

Personally, I can’t help siding with Job’s friends.  If something bad happens to me I assume it is because I have done something wrong.  I know -- far better than anyone else does, how corrupt I am.  I know the evil and darkness that I sometimes embrace and so easily excuse.  I suspect that most of us live with a degree of guilt and shame.  It is probably one of the few things in which I am above average.  But that is just because I have a self that is one of Job’s friends – one of his accusers, a Pharisee of Pharisees. 

We are all Job, and Job’s friends, and Elihu, and something else.  The dialog and drama that is Job is what plays out in our souls.  We accuse; we self-justify; we blame God. 

But you are full of the judgment on the wicked; judgment and justice seize you (Job 36:17).  We are, rightly, quick to want evil to face justice.  I hear about a child molester or some creep who raped and murdered a little old lady, and my response is almost always to wish that I could have ten minutes alone with the perpetrator in a locked room.  Islamic terrorists are loose in Paris?  Let’s kill every Muslim on the planet! 

We are creatures, save for the apparently increasing number of psychopaths among us, who believe in fair play and “an eye for an eye”.  The laws of Moses make sense to us.  The love of Christ does not always.  When evil befalls us, some of us are naturally prone to think justice must be the cause.  I have learned but a few things in life.  For example, my encounters with the courts and police have taught me that we do not have a justice system but a legal system, that what is legal has little to do with what is moral, and what is moral, right, and just is, as often as not, illegal.   

Another thing I am learning is that God is not a formula.  He does not perform for me.  He cannot be manipulated.  In Chapter 75 of Christ the Eternal Tao, we read:

The world is like a hollow utensil
And cannot be manipulated.
That which is not the Way soon fades away.
Hence the sage assists the natural development of all things,
Even though he does not venture to interfere.

It comes down to trusting God.   Job, in the end, realizes that, while all that is false, including the illusions of self, are broken and ground to dust by truth, the yielding essence of our being, the spirit within us, the Way within us is always right and inevitably overcomes.  The accusers are shamed and silenced but so is the justifier, the rationalizer, the moralizer.  There is none good but God.    


John Lien said...

Good post Mush. These days I just ask for strength to endure the trials of life. I don't ask why. If I go that route then I better ask why I'm among the most fortunate persons to have ever lived. I mean, when you look at all humanity throughout history.

mushroom said...

That's very true, all things considered.