|Albrecht Durher: Job on the Dunghill|
I've been thinking about Job quite a bit. Not so much out of pity for myself, as much as a desire to make sense of all that I have lost in the last few weeks. Not that there is much sense to be made of it. Part of me believes that it's just a string of really bad events. Coincidence.
Job's story doesn't offer a satisfying explanation of why suffering exists; but it does teach us a way to respond to the pain of existence.
Job stayed faithful. So did God. When life takes everything away, God remains. Paul prayed to have the "thorn in my flesh" removed, and God's answer was, "my grace is sufficient for you." God isn't cruel and unfair: life is. But what God is, and this is a most radical and difficult idea, what God really is, is faithful. Did God take away my friends? My health? I don't know. But what I do know is that God will not take away the Steadfast Love that is at the heart of the universe. When everything else is lost, God's love remains. If there is a theme that ties all of the Bible together, I think that is it. Life may be confusing and painful, almost unendurable at times. But it is a pain that we can endure because in our darkest hour, when it seems like everything we need or desire has been taken away, God's love remains.
In spite of the healing I feel every day, there are still times when it feels like the only reason it isn't getting worse is that I have nothing left to lose. But that is not true: my purpose remains. There are still people with cancer. People will find comfort and inspiration in the story I have to tell. People need to know that there is abundant life after cancer. People's lives can be better because of what happened to me.
My life's work remains. And where will I find the strength to do that work? It will be where it has always been. Even when I thought it was coming from smiling faces and kind words. My strength comes from God, who will never abandon me, not even in the deepest regions of the shadow lands.
People in the 21st century might find that a pretty foolish thing to believe. Many of the people I love find Job's story to be silly and superstitious. I can live with that. "Religion is for the weak," others will say. I can live with that, too. If this season of darkness has taught me nothing else, it has taught me just how weak I am. Healthy people don't need doctors. Strong people don't need God. Well, I'm not healthy, and I'm not strong. I need God's love to stay alive.
And by God, I'm staying alive.
A famous theologian, Karl Barth was once asked, "what is the most profound religious truth you have ever heard?" His answer was one that could transform the world, if only we would let it:
Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to him belong,
They are weak, but he is strong;
Yes, Jesus loves me...
The Bible tells me so.