Living Job

” ‘Very well,’ Yahweh said to Satan, all he has is in your power.  But keep your hands off his person.’  So Satan left the presence of Yahweh.” (Job 1:12)
And the Lord gave permission to the devil to assail Job – but he must stop short of taking Job’s life.

There is only one will with God – God is one. He cannot be divided, as to be of two minds. That would be, to be human. Always God’s will is to “Be”! “Live”! Always live! Whatever God wills is life and the enhancement of life. Thus, of course, there is no such thing as the finality we call death – only life to life. So coming back to Job – the devil cannot take life. Life is in the hands of God. Only God can bring life to a new form of daily existence that ‘frightens the hell’ out of many of us – so to speak – that is the daily living with suffering, the daily living within the presence of evil, the daily living the Cross, carrying the cross that comes directly from the hands of God.

If life is in God’s hands then all of life is in God’s hands. All that occurs in life is in God’s hands. He can enact whatsoever He wills. Since God’s action is always “let it be” then whatever He wills is “let it be”. The problem with this for we humans, comes when we only understand, or chose to understand “be” from the aspect of our limited understanding of “good”, “love”, “life”, “mercy” in relation to God. To get around this we define God in our human philosophy and rationalism.

The very difficult aspect of Job for us, and therefore for our own lives, is that God gave permission to the devil to wreak havoc in Job’s life. That is, God willed that it should happen! Then, in anger and confusion most of us stop there. “Who the hell is our God anyhow”! Two doors are in front of us at this point. One is a door to a whole new relationship with God, that is an invitation to the depths of God, or the other is the beginning of a journey away from God. What often happens is we give ourselves permission to philosophies, to rationalize, to define God in human terms, avoiding the unknown depths, while fearful to walk away from God. So we become a human god – much like Job’s so called comforters. Our hands are on both doorknobs at the same time! It is difficult for us to say with Peter in the storm – “It is the Lord!”

And, it may be asked, where you are going with this. My direction has to do with the magnitude of God’s invitation to us, to be one with Him – in and through the person of Jesus. For me the life of Job has much to do with the life of Jesus. When God says to the Devil – “my friend Job” it is in line with the Father saying “My Son in whom I am well pleased!” The Father did not spare Job from affliction but, granted, willed Him the affliction! The Father did not spare His only Son – innocent, undeserving in human terms of pain, torture, humiliation and ultimately death. The Father willed both of these events. We abhor this truth and so come up with all kinds of jargon to explain it away.

The most insightful words of Job are not about the Lord ‘giving’ and ‘taking away’. The awareness of Job goes much, much deeper than this. This acknowledgement by Job  of God’s ‘giving’ and ‘taking’ away, is what allows him to stick with God – “come hell or high water”, to use a colloquial term. “Before, I knew you only by hearsay but now, having seen you with my own eyes, I retract what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)  This is the profound, insightful statement of Job!

I have “seen you with my own eyes”.  “What “eyes”! The same “eyes” with which Isaiah experienced the presence of God and called out his sinfulness – “Woe is me I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips and yet my eyes have seen the king, the Lord of Host!” (Is. 6:5) The eyes of the soul are the light of the physical eyes. But this ‘seeing’ cannot truly happen unless we are willing to travel to Golgotha by way of Gethsemane learning to see the Father’s will as a “gift”, not a stumbling block! The so called comforters of Job made the Father’s will for Job, into a stumbling block that lead to ingenious twisting of the truth, with half truths thrown in to further confuse the mess. Philosophy, rationality, and human desire to define the mind of God, a definition often mistaken for learned theology, become a bog!

By dying to everything he knew about life, and had in life, Job came to possess the mind and heart of God! He came to be filled with everything that comes from the heart and mind of God. Through his suffering, life became envisioned with new eyes – was seen from deep within – “Before I knew you only by hearsay, but now … I have seen you with my own eyes.”  Job was given new life.  Everything Job had was seen as an abundance – seen with new eyes, lived with an enriched heart.  He was witnessed as a new creation.

It is a mystery how God’s will can be, and is, lived out through evil, within evil, gift wrapping the depths of love, and life! This mystery is done a great disservice when it is defined away by such terms as “perfect” and “imperfect will of God”. Either God is perfect or He is not! God only wills ‘being’, not death – proven by the Resurrection! Jesus asked the apostles if they could drink the cup that he was to drink. He told us to take up our cross and follow him. He promised us, who would be his disciples, that we would drink the cup, carry the cross, suffer the same trials, misunderstandings and rejections as He did. And He promised that He would be with us through it all.

So, why are we scandalized that he would will that we suffer! Why do we not see it as an act of loving friendship? “My friend, Job.” “You are my friends.” “I call you friend”. “I want you to be with me where I am.” “Take up your cross.” “My yoke, (that I give you) is easy, my burden is light!” This is no permissive will! This is the Will of the FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT, that will bear much fruit, that thus begins the entering into the mind and heart of God! And we only enter the mind and heart of God, when we drink the cup that He drank.  At every Eucharist we say “Amen” to this Cup!  It is only seen as ‘permissive will’ when we misconceive suffering and death as evil – rather than as Paul tries to teach us – It Is Gift! It is Life! It is entering the mind and heart of God! Suffering must be embraced within ourselves and within others compassionately! This is the living out of the Redemptive action of Christ, as St. Paul tells us over and over again.

It is only with faith that we conceive the magnificent ‘gift’ of the suffering of Job! Not without pain, not without fear, not without tears, not without anguish – these are all part of the willed gift of God inviting us to participate in his calling out in the original Garden, Eden – to mankind – “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9)  We, with God, in the gift of suffering, are calling to new life.  As Isaiah found out – the closer we get to God – the more we live in friendship with Him, the hotter the coals of purification are.(Is. 6:7)  We are becoming one with the Lord!    All of the prophets, friends of God, were afflicted with suffering. Job, a good man was being purified – purified not only for and within himself, but for and within all he lived with and met. This is the will and gift of God – if we would open it! Yes, open it as Jesus did, in sweat as drops of blood! As Jesus said “Yes!” to the Father’s will, then we as friends say “yes” with Him, knowing that we are sinners, redeemed and redeeming! Yes!  By our Baptism we said “Yes” to being a friend of Jesus!   One with the suffering Jesus, evil is transformed into new life!  We see with new eyes! We see, we touch the love of God , the merciful love of God, for each of us, and for all He has called to “Be!”  We, with Peter see the suffering, the storm, the violent wind, as presence of “the Lord”! ( Mt. 14:28) – just as the storm of Job’s life was the presence of the Lord.  Within his new found knowledge and love,  seeing God with new eyes, Job prayed for his misguided friends.(Job 42:10) That is a true fruit of suffering embraced!