By now most everyone has probably heard about the devastating earthquake that has wrecked and ended the lives of many of the people of Haiti. If you’ve seen the pictures chances are you’ve had your world rocked with the rest of us. I think there is something that’s inside of most people that just instinctively knows that this is a taste of hell. This isn’t what God intends for the world that He said was good.
Everyone that is, but Pat Robertson.
Most scholars consider the book of Job to be the oldest book in the BIble. Which is an interesting point in itself. Here’s a book about a man suffering, and it is written before any other story. It’s almost as if the most ancient question we have is Why?
And there are never a shortage of people willing to answer it.
Job’s friend’s has plenty of theories. They were like the sin gestapo, pouring over Job’s life for every little sinful detail they could find…All so that they could find a way to justify God and condemn Job.
But the end of Job is interesting. One reason is because when God does show up, he doesn’t explain himself. The reader has been privileged to the purposes God had for this whole thing. We saw the curtain rolled back in the Heavens and eavesdropped on a conversation God had with Satan inciting Job’s loss.
But no one else did.
And God never told them.
Instead he talked about what good He had done, he revealed himself to Job in a way that made Job wet his britches, He let Job know that just because he didn’t understand God’s activity, didn’t mean this story wasn’t headed somewhere.
But then God turned his attention to Job’s friends. The ones who had shown up be a comfort, and had been anything but. And this is what God says to them:
I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of
me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven
rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.
My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal
with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right,
as my servant Job has.”
They’ve been telling Job why God had taken so much away from him, and God responds by requiring them to give up quite a bit. Think about this, seven bulls and rams are quite a bit, not to mention the crow that are having to eat.
Because when you speak for God out of turn, you will dread it when God actually speaks.
And this is a lesson that all of us who speak for God must learn.
Because there is a real temptation to act as if we understand what God is up to, even when we have no idea. There is a temptation to pronounce judgement on others after the fact. But the book of Job is a warning against flippantly speaking on God’s behalf. Because you might not know what God is up too after all.
The story of Job is a caution against all those who would try to use religious posturing to make themselves look better at the expense of others.
Which brings me back to Haiti.
From Tsuanmi’s to Mudslides to earthquakes. Everytime there is a natural disaster followers of Jesus are faced with a choice. They can get airtime by saying controversial things, leveraging someone else’s pain for their own temporary glory, or they can choose to enter into the suffering of others. They can choose the hard work of partnering with God in the repair of this world.
Religious people have always had the uncanny ability to play the wrong characters in their own story. So this isn’t surprising. But it is sad. It’s sad because the news operate off of conflict, and now we have sides. People will posture on both sides, God hates Haitians, or God hates Pat Robertson, and the 24 hour news stations will have something to fill a few hours of time slots.
And silently but surely, followers of Jesus will be making their way to Haiti. Serving, giving, and caring for the “least of these.” Some will mud wrestle for charity. Some will give up their salary to get 100% of donations on the ground. Some will give up fast food or Starbucks for a season to donate more. It’s not always flashy, and it’s probably not going to garner attention (except the mud wrestling, that’ll get attention).
Job asks questions that God doesn’t answer.
Maybe his people should learn this lesson too.
Theodicy is a word given to us by Theologians. It means Why God allows suffering, and it’s a question Scripture doesn’t really answer. At least not with the kind of talking points that make the news. Instead it tells a story about Creation groaning, longing for a day when it is fully restored to the One who created her. Scriptures tell a story about a God who pursues his Creation, by entering into it.
And if the incarnation means anything, right now it means God cares about Haitians.
See what Job gets in the end is better than answers, it’s the presence of God.
Because when people suffer God always shows up.
The question is will His followers?