Tuesday 28 September 2021

Bible Book:

'Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? ' (v. 11)

Job 3:1-15 Tuesday 28 September 2021

Psalm 149:1-5


" Why did I not die at birth?"asks Job. "Why was I not buried like a stillborn child? Why is light given to one in misery? Why is light given to one who cannot see the way?"

My superficial but immediate response to Job's questions is "Oh do stop moaning!" But if I resist my desire to dismiss his suffering, I am moved and feel compassion. People in pain are hard company. You can be overwhelmed by their sadness and struggle and want to do anything to move away. You may seek to comfort them with kind words; challenge them to ‘buck up and be brave’; place their suffering into context, saying ‘others also suffer’; or distract them by recalling something of your own story. You may simply not visit or phone them. All we are asked to do is ‘be there’  and not run away from them. So, let us stay with Job in his aching longing. He isn’t seeking an explanation as such. His questions are not intended to elicit an intellectual response.

I studied theology before I intended to candidate for the ministry. I had in many ways a purely intellectual love of the idea of God. I wrote essays on ‘Evil and the God of Love’ and probably felt I knew the answer. Years later while a chaplain in a hospice I was never once asked a ‘why question’ that demanded a revision of my past efforts. What I heard then, and do now, was not "Why is all this happening to me?", but "This hurts, I’m afraid, I feel lonely; will you come back tomorrow, or stay with me a while?"

The answer to the deepest 'why' questions is  not a philosophical discourse, but human presence. And in that presence, one becomes a channel of God’s love. In a profound way, by being prepared to be with someone who is hurting, you are being Christ for them.

What do you feel as you read Job’s questions? I wonder if you sense his anger, his loneliness, his misery. And what do you want to do about it? Do you want to ignore it, run away, or explain it away? Or do you want to comfort or distract him? The author of Job is inviting us to stay with the question and not hurry away somewhere else. We're asked to experience the discomfort that another’s pain can evoke. And in staying, I believe, we encounter God, whose answer to the suffering world was not a book, even the Bible, but a presence, the ‘Word made Flesh’. In that mystery of a present God, a crucified God, we have the divine response to the philosophical problem of pain, and the divine command ‘to do likewise’.

To Ponder:

  • How do you respond to your own suffering, of heart and mind?
  • How do you run away or distract yourself?
  • Where might God be in that discomfort?


Give me courage to ‘watch with you’ and not fall asleep. To be present to my own suffering and to that of others.

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