By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
Have you ever heard of someone described as having the patience of Job? The person referred to is often either the long suffering wife of an alcoholic or the mother of a large family of nonstop high energy boys. Job, of course, is the most world famous sufferer of inexplicable illness.
Do you know when I have most needed the patience of Job? In 1980, I lost my voice for 18 months. That was a very painful time. But in a strange way, almost equally painful are the times when our car breaks down. I feel very attached to our Chevy Minivan, and whenever it breaks down, I feel personally insulted (can anyone reading this relate??). I’m a very ‘up” person, but one of the few times that I feel depressed (usually for about an hour) is when our car becomes unfaithful.
It’s times like that, when I start to really appreciate Job. Like Job, I ask: ‘Why me??” I mean, couldn’t my car break down at a more convenient time? Have you ever noticed how much car Mechanics resemble doctors? You go to them for One problem, and invariably they find two others. I tell you, it’s enough to drive you to God.
The book of Job is a powerful and challenging 42 chapter long poem. it is a true poem, but a poem none the less. Job is a heartfelt poem about the mystery of evil and suffering. This mystery is something that all of us will struggle with, sooner or later.
Regardless of whether we go to church or not, whether we are religious or not, whether we believe in God or not, all of us either have been or will be personally faced with this mystery. There is a best selling book by Rabbi Harold Kushner entitled: ‘When Bad Things Happen To Good People’. That best seller reminds us that sooner or later a tragedy will land at our doorstep, and life will feel very unfair.
Studies show that most of us go through some type of crisis once In every 18 months. When serious illness, like cancer, strikes our family, our whole world may feel turned upside down. Why me??’ … Why them ??”, we may say.
Sometimes in those situations, God may seem a long way away. Job’s wife had some practical advice to her very ill husband. She said: “Curse God and die., In other words, she told him to just give up. Job, however, was a fighter. No matter how tough it got, he would never throw In the towel. Job said at one point: “Though God slay me, yet will I hope In Him.’
No matter how unfair life seemed, Job never lost his faith in his Higher Power. Job was powerless over his illness, but he knew that there was a Higher Power who had the answers to all his struggles. That is why Job said In that midst of prolonged suffering: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
Job had a faith in God that not even tragedy, sickness, and death could shake. He’d lost everything his children, his business, his fortune, his reputation, his health. He had lost everything, everything except his faith In God.
On top of all this, Job had to suffer through the well meaning, but horribly insensitive advice of his four friends. instead of listening to Job and showing that they cared, they blasted him with endless lectures. Their basic message was: “You got what you deserve. It’s your own fault. Anyone who Is sick has done It to himself. God is obviously condemning you for some secret sin. So hurry up and ‘fess up.” The 42 chapter poem made it very clear by the end that Job was not to blame for his sickness, and that we too should not blame others when they are sick.
The unfair and mysterious suffering of Job points ultimately to the unfair and mysterious suffering of Jesus on the cross. The cross shows that God can take everything that is against us and turn it to our advantage. God took Good Friday (the most evil day in history) and turned it into Easter Sunday (the most beautiful day in history).
My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us, like Job, will find the courage to keep on struggling, even when life seems unfair.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector
BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
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