This week in our services we will hear the curious story of Job. (Job 1.1, 2.1-10) It is the section where God and the Satan essentially have a kind of a wager over whether Job, a faithful servant of God, could be turned from God if Job were to experience great suffering.
This was never meant to be read as a literal story. It begins, after all, with the line “There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.” If that sounds to you like the start to a fairy tale, you would be right. “Uz” has no definite location – a mythical land somewhere to the east. What this fable-like story does do is open us to the questions. How do we make sense of our suffering, and where is God in it all? It also represents not just individual loss – in its context, Job is also a stand in for the loss of the Jewish people in exile.
In some ways the story also brings us back to the idea that I explored last week of “belief” being what we bind ourselves to, or that to which we give our hearts. This utter commitment means that we hold to a story of love and forgiveness even when everything in the world seems to be telling us that we should give up because there seems to be a total absence of grace in the world.
CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, created a fictional conversation between a demon called Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood. Screwtape says to his nephew, “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s [i.e., God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of [God] seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
Some of our most courageous moments are when we quietly choose, despite all evidence to the contrary, to align our lives with grace, believing in the light even when the days seem dark.
I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when He is silent.
Unknown (written during WW2, on the wall of a cellar, by a Jew in the Cologne concentration camp)
Grace and peace,