I have been studying the Book of Job recently. In fact, on Monday, I plan to start a study of this book in my Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday studies. My usual method is a verse-by-verse expository look at a book or a theme, but Job calls for a whole other approach. I have never done a study like this before. It is interesting that after all these years of ministry that I find myself in unfamiliar territory, but that is what scripture does! It is always new and deeper and richer each time. This is what makes the Bible endlessly fascinating.
Much of Job is filled with the counsel of his ‘friends.’ Many banal words and phrases come from their lips. The term “Job’s Comforter” is a term of derision evoking the image of someone who is not just unhelpful but kind of hurtful. In one aspect though these “Comforters” are maligned. When they first come on the scene Job is devastated in grief and pain. Upon seeing him they wept and sat with him in silence for seven days and nights. It strikes me that this is a beautiful example of how to share in someone’s sorrow. They ruined their ministry when they opened their mouths just to put their sandaled feet in them!
I recall some forty years ago sitting with a grief struck family in a remote Cree community. The whole community was gathered in silence around the family. Someone got up from their seat next to the family so the young preacher could sit. We sat in silence for what seemed like the longest of times (it was probably no more than a half an hour) and I decided to break the silence. I read some scripture in English (though few could understand) and prayed (again in English). After which I shook hands with the family members and left. The rest of the community remained after I like Job’s Comforters had opened my mouth. Ever since that day, I look back with a mixture of shame and regret that I was unable to join the community in grieving. Long ago I repented of my ways of that day and my kinship with Job’s unhelpful slightly hurtful friends. Just a few years earlier as we buried my own son I had appreciated those who sat with me and was a bit hurt by some of the trite ‘counsel’ of others. I should have known better, but I did not! I no longer beat myself up for my failure. God forgives my rookie mistakes (and I made many of them,)
Lately I have witnessed those who have effectively ministered to my son in his grief, and I have noted the ones who have and continue to ‘sit with him’ in his hurt, loneliness, and grief. I want to be like Job’s Comforters began not how they ended up.
I am drawn to the drama and the poetry of Job. It reminds me of Homeric poems and Ancient Greek plays. I am also drawn to the glimpses Job gives us of the unseen realm. We only get fleeting glances in other places in scripture like the story of Elisha and his servant in 2Kings 6:17 and following, or Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. We get an apocalyptic view from John in his Revelation, but Job gives us real insight into this realm. C.S. Lewis wrote that every square inch is claimed by Satan and counter-claimed by God. We are in the midst of the emergence of the Kingdom of God. We struggle and suffer in that context until the moment comes when God in Christ Jesu puts all things right.
Job is the story of humankind, and it is my story. The pages are filled with pathos and with hope. If we press on through the pain and yes the mystery we arrive at a glorious end where our biggest questions pale in the glory of the Lord.
On another note:
- renovations on the last two bedrooms will be completed next week
- people continue to respond to our “Meat the Men of Threshold” appeal
- two new residents will be moving in Tuesday with another one ‘in the pipeline’