Are there any foods you really hate? I’ve two at the top of my revulsion list. Bananas and olives. Bananas are just slimy. I can’t stand the texture. And the salty, bitter taste of olives? Yeuch!
In perhaps the oldest book of the Bible, Job lets us know that top of his disgusting list is egg whites. He won’t touch them, not because of the strong flavours but because they are tasteless. Bet you never expected menu planning from Job! But it’s not really about food. He’s using tasteless egg whites as a metaphor for life. With his wealth stolen, his children killed in a tragic accident and his health in ruins, he has nothing left. He sits in the dust and scrapes the itchy boils on his skin with a bit of broken pot. Life is tasteless, just like the egg whites.
And as if this isn’t bad enough, his ‘friends’ come round and only make things worse. The chat between Job & his mates goes a bit like this.
Job: I feel awful. I wish I was dead. In fact, it would have been better if I’d never been born.
Friends: Don’t say that. God always helps the good guys.
Job: But life is rubbish. I can’t do anything. I’m in so much pain. I’ve given up hope.
Friends: You must be one of the bad guys then. ‘Cos good guys always put their trust in God.
Job: But look what he’s done to me! I’m not some great sinner being punished. I wish I had a friend to stand with me. You lot are a waste of space. I’m sure someone will put in a good word for me with The Almighty.
Friends: We don’t buy it. You are a great sinner. It’s the only possible reason for your situation.
Job: God seems so distant. If I could find Him, I could put my case. We could sort this out.
Friends: Actually mate, we’re all sinners. Human beings are like maggots, worms, compared to God.
And then we have it. A vision of God and his wisdom. His power and might. Job says that only in seeing God is true wisdom found. Chapter 28 has this beautiful poem. In the middle of all his suffering is this vision of the search for wisdom. It’s not a break in the story but is integral to it. In seeing God, we see wisdom. And then a few chapters later God turns up and speaks to Job. The funny thing is, God doesn’t actually answer Job’s question. Again it is a reminder of how great God is: that He has made the heavens and the earth, even the most fearsome creatures of land and sea. And when Job sees God, what does he do? He shuts his mouth and worships.
Perhaps this is the answer to suffering. It is simply to see God. In our desire for logical answers to philosophical questions sometimes the answer is surprising. It is a relationship rather than a set of statements. It is a different kind of truth. One that Job only learned in his brokenness. The Apostle Paul knew it too when he heard from the Lord that ‘my strength is made perfect in weakness‘.
So in a way maybe God does answer Job’s questions. He does show up and speak to Job.
In my own weakness and illness it has been tempting to just turn my face to the wall, to give up hope. But this message from Job is an important one: that even when life is tasteless, seek God. Not for instant answers. Not even necessarily for an end to the pain. But when you have nothing else left, you still have God.
Job was waiting for an advocate who would talk to God on his behalf. Although Job couldn’t see it, (the book was written at least 2000 years before Christ, if not earlier) we have the fulfilment in Jesus. He is our witness, our advocate until the day when we see God face to face. Right now, Jesus stands in heaven, speaking on behalf of you and me. Whatever our suffering, he speaks for us.
As one broken person, I am so glad to have the book of Job. However dark life gets, it offers comfort in the midst of even fear and despair. Job holds humanity at our most broken and shows us a God of compassion who comprehends the depths and sits there with us.
Personally, I’d say that if you are not at your lowest ebb, avoid this book. Avoid this person. It’ll depress you. But if you couldn’t get any lower then jump right in. You’ll find Job’s brutal honesty and questioning despair strangely comforting. You can start reading here. A hero for the most cracked of pots in a broken world.
This is part of the Cracked Pots series of posts. Out every Monday. Hope you’re enjoying reading them as much as I’m enjoying writing them.