1 Job answered the Lord:
2 I know you can do anything;
no plan of yours can be opposed successfully.
3 You said, “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?”
I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand,
wonders beyond my comprehension.
4 You said, “Listen and I will speak;
I will question you and you will inform me.”
5 My ears had heard about you,
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore, I relent and find comfort
on dust and ashes.
After finding himself in the impossible situation of losing everything, and enduring thirty-odd chapters of arguments with his friends and God about why it happened, Job finally gets an answer. Someone on Twitter satirized it this way:
Job: Hey god, you killed like literally all of my kids what's up with that God: How dare you speak that way to the inventor of the hippopotamus -Daniel Kibblesmith, @kibblesmith, July 29, 2019
Agreed, we can say that God’s response to Job (chapters 38-41) doesn’t feel very pastoral in the moment. And you can argue it’s not a real response to Job’s concerns. Job is asking, “why?” about a very personal situation. And God’s response might be summarized as: “are you saying that you could run the universe better than I can?”
I know it sounds defensive. And I know I’d be angry if that was the response to me after losing everything. I know because it actually has been my response in those moments where I felt I was losing everything and didn’t understand why.
We ask why in an attempt to apply reason to the bad things in our lives – to make peace by rationalization. But suffering can’t be rationalized. I’m certain that even if we knew why bad things happened to us, we wouldn’t be satisfied with the answer. No amount of explanation of the pain would ever actually help us.
So if asking the question why doesn’t help, then what might?
Well, there’s something oddly comforting about the idea that the things that are out of your control are simply that: out of your control. That’s because what does help is acceptance. Acceptance means that we can begin to live with what is, rather than remain in the place where all we can see is what was.
So God’s non-answer answer, surprisingly, turns out to be a comfort to Job: “I relent and find comfort on dust and ashes.” By sidestepping the question completely, by forcing Job (and us) into a position where he has to reckon with the fact that he (we) can’t even get a satisfactory answer from God, he can do nothing else except begin to accept his new reality.
Sometimes, dealing with an impossible situation begins by recognizing that certain things are totally and completely out of your control.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
You probably know the saying, “let go, and let God.” Sometimes, when faced with an impossible situation, that’s all we can do. It’s as though God’s response is calibrated to get Job to let go of his questions. When have you had to let go of your questions to embrace what is, rather than what was?
Prayer: God, we always want to remain in control. We want to understand the ins and outs of our lives, to manage them, to get answers when things go wrong. Today, we pray that when we recognize that some questions have no answers, and that we are not in control, that we might find comfort in you. Amen.