Sunday, July 31, 2016

Job and Responses to Human Suffering

Our church is off-lectionary right now as we explore the book of Job.  The readings for Sunday, July 31, 2016:

Job 3:  1-10, 4:  1-9, 7:  11-21

The book of Job wrestles with a great theological question:  why do the righteous suffer?  It's a question that still seems relevant today.  I would modify it a bit:  why do some people have such suffering in their lives, while others go through life relatively unscathed?

We see in the response of Job's friends a response that many of us might still espouse today:  people suffer because they deserve it--what goes around, comes around.  We reap what we sow.

But of course, the problem with that response is that some people suffer far out of proportion to any wrongs they may have committed.  So often in a human life, the punishment does not fit any wrongdoing. 

I wish I had a tidy theological answer, but I don't.  Many of us like the views of the friends in Job because it suggests that some of our lives are within our control.  But most of us, especially as we get older, realize how little of a human life is up to the human actor.

We see Job's response, which is a typical human response to the question of human suffering.  Job asks why, Job laments, Job wishes that he'd never been born.  Psychologists would likely tell us that these responses are quite common.

I find it refreshing that Job, the most righteous of men, has these responses.  I like knowing that even the righteous have their breaking points--it makes me feel a bit more O.K. about my own breaking points.

So, if we all must suffer, then what?

This realization leads us to a more pressing theological question:  where is God in all this human suffering?  We will wrestle with those questions in the coming weeks.

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