Today's Reading: Job 21-23
I decided to look at Job this morning as I arose fresh from sleep instead of tired from the day. I'm a little more objective this morning, and what I see is a sandy shore upon which many try to build their homes. If one does not get all tied up in Job's pain and instead looks at Job with the scholar's distancing rod, one can see that Job is packed with philosophical questions that seem to end in a rabbit trail without satisfaction.
Why am I suffering?
Where is God?
Why do the good suffer and the wicked prosper?
What must I do to please God and thereby avoid calamity?
If I please God, will all go right with me?
If God is my judge, what are the rules that I might avoid God's judgment?
Who can comprehend the will of God...it seems senseless to my mind?
If I have tried my best, why am I being punished?
Is life even worth living if we all end up as food for worms?
What is the way to live one's life purposefully and prosperously?
Does God even care about us?
I'm sure I, along with most humans who have gone before me, have asked similar questions, struggling to comprehend and grasp some sort of roadmap, some sort of direction for our lives.
Some would say this quest is what "religion" is all about---getting in good with something or someone greater than one's self in order to be safe and prosperous. Finding a protector, a provider on the playground of life so that the bullies can't cream you at will.
Others would say, forget "religion" and be self sufficient. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die. Go for the gusto. Every "man" for "him"self. Slog through life, grab what you can and let it go at that.
Still others would say, "Go with the flow." Accept the good and the bad...life has both. You are here for a short time. Life makes no sense, and once you've accepted that, you have become wise.
And a fourth option is this: You will never have a good life here on earth, so set your sites and hopes on a future life in another place and time where there will be no sorrow.
All these precepts are played with and lulled over in scripture. Each one is considered in the group of literature called "Wisdom" in scripture. As we read it and the Wisdom literature of other religions, we find these questions are the gristle on which many have chewed.
Now, earlier, I named them "rabbit trails" because, once again, though they are "good" questions, I think they are the "wrong" questions, simply because they are rabbit trails...they lead to an abyss of meaninglessness, naivete, selfishness or purposelessness.
To me, the greatest wisdom is in the two commandments: Love God, Love Neighbor. These two "guides" for life seem to serve me well, even when suffering. Here's what I mean.
You find yourself suffering, perhaps the death of a child, perhaps a painful illness, perhaps imprisonment, perhaps great shame and guilt. If you love and believe in God, can trust God enough to continue to worship and lay your life at God's feet like the OT Joseph, Noah, Esther, Rahab, Ruth, David and the Babylonian captives in the book of Daniel, it seems the "relationship" becomes "enough."
And if, in the midst of suffering, you are able to "see" others around you and offer them love and grace, then even in the pain, there seems to be purpose. Check out Elisabeth, Simon of Cyrene, servants who dare to speak truth to their masters, and of course, Jesus.
In my thinking, my philosophy, my "wisdom," I vote for "love" and relationships instead of trying to figure out all the whys and wherefores. Instead of the previous "why?" questions, the appropriate question seems to me to be "who?"
God asks, "Who do you say I am?" Now that's a question to answer.
God asks, "Who was neighbor to the one suffering?" Now that's a challenge.
And I believe the answer to both is the solid bedrock of wisdom upon which a safe house can be built.