In many ways, Job reads like a courtroom drama. Job pleads his case: that he has been treated abominably…that God has allowed evil in his life that was not deserved. And then we hear from his friends, who testify on God’s behalf — claiming that whatever Job experienced was justified and necessary…that God was not responsible and not to be blamed. And now, this is the point where Job gives his final statement and says… “I rest my case”.
Job says…here’s my signed affidavit, God. If you had provided me an official indictment of what I had done to deserve this punishment…then here’s my sworn statement, avowing my innocence.
And then….God responds. After 37 chapters, God responds…out of the whirlwind…out of the chaos and the storm…God shows up. Finally…what Job has been pleading for…been waiting for — for God to show up and tell him why…help him understand why he has suffered so deeply.
But when God shows us…there is no explanation offered. There is no defense. There is no justification or rationale for Job’s pain and suffering. No, instead…God simply reminds Job…that God is big. Very, very, very, very Big.
I happen to love God’s response. Some people don’t. Some people are deeply frustrated by God’s unwillingness to to tell Job that, of course, it wasn’t fair….of course, he deserved better….of course, God is sorry this happened to him.
But, instead…what Job gets is an encounter with the holy and the awesome and wondrous and the almighty. Instead, Job gets lifted out of his small corner of the world and his individual circumstances so he can get a glimpse of the wide expanse and breathtaking wonder of God’s creation…of God’s glory. Instead of God coming with a list of reasons and explanations…words of reassurance and comfort….God just comes and blows Job’s socks off. This is SO much bigger than you, Job. God comes to Job as the creator of all things…all time….all eons. God, who breathed the world into existence and stretched the heavens and set the limits of the oceans…who waters the deserts that we never see and plums the depths of the seas and vastness of the cosmos. God, who is master of the storms that tear us apart.
God shows up…with awe and majesty…and Job is humbled….reminded of all that he does not understand, all that is out of his control. Job is reminded how little he is…just one human in the midst of the cosmos. While God…is BIG. And that was what Job needed to hear. I get that. I really do.
I was leading a congregational retreat for my internship parish, and we are at a retreat center along the coast. I am one of those people who can get stressed…about having all the details managed…doing everything well…getting everything right. And in the midst of that retreat…I was feeling overwhelmed by my responsibility. And one afternoon, I stood at the edge of the sea, and watched the waves roll in. And I had this realization….if I walked into the ocean…if I drowned…the ocean wouldn’t even notice. The waves would roll on just the same. The years would continue on…the world would continue on without me. Now, for some people that might sound depressing, I know….but for me, an enormous peace settled over me. I was not responsible for keeping the ocean going. I was not responsible for everything that happens. (I know, that sounds obvious…but for people with high anxiety, it isn’t as obvious as it should be.) I found my peace in remembering that the universe is vast…and God is big…and I do not have to carry the weight of the world. God’s got that.
For me…that’s what I hear when God shows up finally in Job. Job presents his case…all the weight of Job’s suffering …and it is immense…and he is at a loss as to how he is supposed to face it. How he is supposed to go forward. He wants to understand. And God says…it’s okay. You don’t have to understand. I get to be God…you don’t have to. Just live. Just keep on keeping on…one day at a time.
So often we carry the weight of the world. The weight of the world’s injustice and pain and suffering. And that weight is immense. And it can be overwhelming. Sometimes the weight of our own pain is immense….the weight of wanting to get it right…be the right person…do the right thing. And we want answers…why, Lord? But the truth is, we don’t get them. But what we do get…is a God who shows up…in the whirlwinds, in the storms, in the neverending waves of the ocean…and reminds us that we do not have to hold the weight of the world on our shoulders. That weight belongs to God…who created it. And all we have to be is ourselves — the individual human that God created us to be. When God says, “gird up your loins like man and I will question you and you will answer me”….it is reminder that Job is…just a man. He is not God. We are not God. Rather, we are simply mortals…created to walk humbly with God…enjoying the garden…God’s creation.
That’s the piece we get wrong…we keep getting wrong…from the beginning. From the garden. We wanted to know…to have all the answers…to be like God. Hence…the desire to eat that forbidden fruit. But we aren’t God. We’re just mortals…created….limited….small in the vast scope of eternity.
There’s a kind of paradoxical judgment and grace that comes with that humility….that understanding that God is God and we are not. The judgement is… We don’t get to have all the answers, as much as we want them. But on the other hand, the grace is that we don’t have to have all the answers…it’s not our responsibility. We will never understand why things are the way they are…….but we also don’t have to understand ….it’s okay to not understand. Because our only job is to walk humbly…and to love.
Micah 6:8 is one of my favorite verses…most of you know it. “What does the Lord require of you, o mortal…but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.” Job is a book about walking humbly with God. Not pretending to have all the answers to the suffering and pain and mess of this world (as Job’s friends did). But humbly acknowledging that we are not God. We don’t keep the ocean waves rolling or command the storms. Rather, we walk with God…who does. We walk with God who is BIG. Very, very, Big.
And walking humbly with our very big God…we do justice and love kindness the best that we can. We listen when people are in pain…we don’t pretend to know their experience better than they do or explain it away. We are not God.
We do justice and love kindness the best that we can. We care. We care when people are hurting…and we try to change the world that is hurting them. We recognize that we are not the one with all the answers…but we show kindness in every way we can in the midst of all we cannot understand.
What we learn from Job…is that arrogance is our enemy…because we are not God. But we also learn that in the midst of it all — God …the God of all creation…shows up. Who sees us and hears us when we plead our case…each one of us…in the midst of all our little, bitty individual lives. God shows up — who loves us…and who lifts our eyes…above the waves, above the storm, above the chaos and all the suffering….to see that God holds us…holds us all…holds the whole Cosmos. And will not…cannot…let us go. We learn from Job…that God is Big…and we can trust God….in the midst of whatever comes. Amen.