“But now they make sport of me, those who are younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock. What could I gain from the strength of their hands? All their vigor is gone....
In Job’s mind, he and God had been in very good transactional relationship. It was like Job controlled God - Job’s family, wealth and respected social status were the gifts due him from the Lord as compensation for his good behavior. Thus, when his suffering arose, Job was tortured not only by his physical ailments, loss of children and social position, but also from the belief that God favored him because he was a good person. With this outlook, it’s no surprise that Job reproached the Lord for causing horrible calamities to befall him and, to add insult to injury, for ignoring his pleas for help. Job thought that he understood the ways of God and found out that he was mistaken. God was definitely not acting like God was supposed to!
How human it is to want to believe that good behavior WILL lead to or cause good outcomes, and that the opposite is true, that bad outcomes are attributable to bad or neglectful actions. There can be much truth to that, and when we hear about a problem, we can go quickly to seeking the cause: “She has been diagnosed with lung cancer! Did she smoke?”; “His tire blew up on I-10! Had he checked the pressure?”
While these beliefs about cause and effect are often true, that’s not always the case. We hear of the conscientious, healthy young mother who suddenly dies in her sleep, as well as the old gentleman who smokes, drinks and eats ice cream every night – yet lives to a great age in good health. The hurricane levels a solid house and spares one long in disrepair.
I think the coronavirus has turned many into Job, questioning why some are stricken, others are diagnosed but asymptomatic and many are not ill at all. Why, Lord, did this plague visit us? Why, Jesus, are we who once partied and traveled practically confined to quarters now? Why did I have to miss my graduation, my college experience, my dream wedding or my dear friend’s funeral? What have I done? How did Grandmother deserve to be on a ventilator for a week before she died? Why-Why-Why we ask.
In later passages, the suffering Job maintains to his friends that he still will follow the Lord and do the best he can, although his confidence in “I do A, so God does B” is shattered. It’s hard to accept that God’s love for us is not always expressed in a conventionally loving way, that sometimes our efforts fail, that sometimes all is lost. In this time when so much is wrong, we can reflect on and re-align our walk with the Lord.
Musical Reflection Lead Me Lord - Wesley
Heavenly Father, help us to carry on with hope and good cheer. Give us fortitude to deal patiently with the pandemic, to pray for those who are gone. Strengthen us to help others at a time when so many have lost so much and to abide in faith with you. Amen.