Job 3: Misery
We continue our reflections on peace and we find that even in the depths of misery, there is peace.
In the Biblia de América, the commentary refers to the technique used in this book as a dialog of the deaf. This certainly explains how we so often feel misunderstood, misheard, misspoken, misunderstanding. As humans, we are often poor at expressing ourselves clearly . . . and we are equally poor at hearing well. Job’s three friends, in an effort to either console Job in his misfortune or to justify themselves in their good fortune, do not fully comprehend the depths of Job’s misery. He is innocent. He has followed God’s precepts well. He has done nothing wrong. He has done all things well . . . yet he suffers tremendously. This does not fit the Old Testament thinking that if we do as we are asked to do, we will not suffer. Goods and good times come to us as a reward. Suffering and pain come to us as a punishment. Job struggles to find the logic in what has happened to him, and here in the opening chapters he is clear about his grief; yet his friends will reply as if they have not heard the idea their friend struggles to communicate – he has done nothing wrong and still he suffers greatly. Job, looking for justice and compassion, will find only preaching and separation from his friends. It is not until the end of this travail that he will see the wisdom and awesome power of God. And for his fidelity and his willingness to suffer . . . Job will receive compensation beyond his imaginings.
Still, we are struck by the phrase: a dialog of the deaf. Is this the way we listen to one another? Are we bent on finding answers? On ending pain? On bending circumstances to our own will? Why do we not hear? Perhaps the other’s experience is beyond anything we can imagine. Perhaps others frighten us and we fear contagion. Perhaps we do not want to admit that discipline from God is necessary and that our role is to abide by those who suffer. Perhaps we are not willing to become co-redeemers with Christ and enter into the salvific pain which redeems us as well as our enemies when we pray for their conversion.
Job speaks of wishing he had never been born. This is true misery for this admits that we would rather be without God and free of pain than with God and suffering with God. Yet we only become truly free when we give over our self-control to the guiding hands of God. We can only become truly happy when we agree to live a life which depends on God’s plan for our happiness rather than our own.
True freedom and true joy can wipe out the kind of misery Job expresses here. Authentic faith, enduring hope, genuine love . . . these are the antidote for deep and inconsolable misery . . . and these come from God alone. As sufferers here in this life we can listen more to one another, we can abide more with one another, and rather than recriminations, accusations or platitudes . . . we might offer God’s peace to one another.
This is the power, the mystery and the comfort that comes from saying to one another . . . may Christ’s peace be with you. For it is the only peace that knows the depth of pain that cries out . . . if only I had not been born. It is the eternal peace of God with which God graces all life. If only we might find a way to listen . . .
Adapted from a reflection written on February 17, 2009.
LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.