Tonight I wrote a paper for my Old Testament class. I turn it in tomorrow, but I don’t want to wait till then to post it here. I think it needs to be posted tonight. It’s nothing long or extraordinary – it’s a Job response paper. Job as in Job from the Bible, with the suffering and questioning and comfort. Well, it’s always been comfort for me. I talk about that in the paper. The premise of the paper is simply to talk about the point of Job as we understand it. Because Job isn’t about refining fire or growing closer to God because of suffering or even that being a Christian will make you happy and content. The point is this: Do I follow God because He can make me happy, and I want to be happy, or do I follow God because I must, because He is everything I’ve got and because His joy is eternal and because ohmygoodnessHeIsGod. (And yes, I know that is technically a question, but I needed the sentence to end with a period so I did it anyway. Sometimes, you just have to break grammar rules.)
I often find myself going to Job for comfort. Throughout high school, I remember pouring over Job (occasionally moving to the more depressing portions of the Psalms for variety), as if I was searching for some semblance of reason behind my pain, some definitive promise of “all will be well.” Once, after months of living in Job, I remember stopping abruptly and questioning my insistence on finding what I was looking for in this particular book. It felt like I was just seeking comfort in the fact that someone had suffered a whole lot worse than I ever had – and if that was the case, I was obviously evil, or so I thought. No one who really loves God delights in someone else’s pain, even if it was the pain of some ancient, long-dead Bible guy. I related all this to my mentor and youth pastor at the time, wondering why I kept returning to Job even though I never felt better afterwards. I only ever felt vindicated in my sullenness. She told me she didn’t think I was comparing myself to Job; rather, she thought maybe I just longed for what Job longed for: I wanted God to speak. I wanted Him to tell me I was wrong, that I couldn’t understand Him, that His plan was too vast to comprehend, and therefore my trials were as well.
I read Job differently after that. I read it with my true intentions in mind: in the midst of my own pain, I wanted God to assure me of His glory. I wanted a reminder of why I chose Him even though nothing made sense. I didn’t have real, concrete words to put to my intentions for a long time. But in a book of the Bible so many people avoid for its gloom, I found solace. I read God’s responses in Job and I tried to imagine myself standing in the middle of a great desert, being talked down by the God of the Universe. I imagine it would be the most terrifying lullaby in the world. To have Yahweh calm my spirit by unveiling my eyes to my own insignificance was a joy. In His words to Job, God was also proving to me that as hard as I tried, as controlling I thought I was, I could never come close to getting it right. You see, I yearn for order. I can read a person’s voice and tell you his feelings, then predict what he is going to do in order to launch a counter-attack for my own advantage. I like to be in control, and I’ve gotten horribly good at it – earthly speaking. But I hated that I was like that, growing up. I hated that I drove myself sick with worry over my lack of control, that there were so many things far out of my control. I worked hard to combat this trait throughout high school. No one would see it, but inside, I was grasping blindly for an order that I could never truly master. I had gotten so good at having a perfect life, but I was crumbling. I wanted someone to tell me it was okay to let go. I wanted to be told I couldn’t do it. So I read Job, because that is exactly what God tells him.
When I finally got a grip on myself in college, when I finally started to understand the “letting go” thing, I had time to think about the process. I had time to reflect on why I sinned the way I sinned, why I thought there would be comfort in control. I realized that when my mind felt frenzied, it was because I thought there would be satisfaction in the end I could achieve. If I could master my life, if I could ensure that everything would always fall into place exactly right, then I could be content. I worshipped – I still often worship – control. I worshipped my own power. But in the back of my mind, or in my heart of hearts, I knew I could never do it myself. I knew that I was inadequate. I knew I needed God to control everything, not just the aspects of my life that were easy. I knew I needed to trust Him. I was born into a community of people who trusted Christ. I grew up in a family of loving, wonderful people who, despite their faults and trials and humanity, knew they needed Christ. But I am so, so stubborn. I wouldn’t let go unless I was forced. And God, in His infinite grace and love, kept a spark burning within me that sought truth. As cliché as it sounds – and I do not like cliché’s, so I only use them when absolutely necessary – God led me to Job. He instilled in me a love of Job. Because He knew I’d hear Him there.
I have tried hard my whole life to follow Christ. In the ever-referenced Seasons of the Life of a Christian, I have thoroughly experienced each one. I have been the ideal church-going Christian girl, leader of her youth group and the next-generation hope of the local congregation, all while a darkness lived inside me that I didn’t understand. I’ve been to the mountaintop, in the height of summer, blazing and on fire, truly, for my God. I have prayed with passion and with legality. I have been inexplicably joyful and inexplicably lost. And I think we are all like this. I do not think an ideal Christian exists; I do not think anyone is perfectly content for long. We are cyclical beings, depressed for a season and then consumed with peace the next. I think it is normal, but not natural – we weren’t made to feel empty, but we fell, and maybe when we fell we sprang a slow leak. Job’s story, while extreme, is not too unlike that of many. I question God constantly, even now, when I finally feel like I am beginning to really fall in love with Him. We have been friends for my whole life, but these past few years I feel like I truly understand why people have called Him the Prince of Peace, the Lover of the soul, the Good Shepherd. But I am still so often full of doubt. It comes down to this, though: do I call Him my Lover, my Prince, my Friend, my Father, because of the way He makes me feel, or do I call Him this because He is Yahweh? Is it about me, or is it about Him? If it’s about me, then I only read Job because it makes me feel like I’m not alone. It makes me feel vindicated in my anger. But if it is about Him, then I read Job because He sings the most terrifying, beautiful lullaby, and nothing else can satisfy. He doesn’t tell me all will be well; He tells me something even better:
“Who are you? Because I Am God.”