Friday, September 28, 2012

Homily 40: On Job and Suffering (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees Thee." Job 42:5

The book of Job is an enigma for many, but its main mystery does not lie in the question, "Why do the righteous suffer?" For many, the real mystery is found in why God chose to answer with an apparent non-answer. Job asks for the reason behind his suffering. Fair enough, we say. Then God shows up and never addresses Job's suffering at all. Instead, He uses a series of questions in order to make a statement about Himself: His power, His majesty, and His glory (and subsequently Job's lack of those things). The whole exchange reeks of non sequitur, and yet Job finds satisfaction. Suddenly it is not a matter of bullying on God's part (a case easier to make if the book had ended at 40:5). God does not want Job to shut up, to "place [his] hand over [his] mouth"; He wants him to see something, i.e., Himself. Job does see, and this gives him peace. He asked for an explanation, but what he got was a revelation, and it was enough. Perhaps that is the actual mystery: neither Job's suffering nor God's apparent non-answer, but rather Job's satisfaction. In that mystery, however, there lies a profound significance that we must not miss.

We are all shallow creatures indeed, thinking that some formulaic explanation will bring ultimate satisfaction to our souls. Believer and non-believer alike often think that if God would simply state His case (with flowcharts and footnotes), then we would be content. But we would not be content, for it is not God's case that we need but God Himself. In the book of Revelation, the glory of Heaven is not that we will receive some syllogistic answer for our troubles but that God is there (Rev. 21:1-4, 22-27; 22:1-5), and (as Job seems to suggest) God will be the answer. That is the mystery and the beauty. The gray rain curtain of this world will one day fade away, and as we see the sight all souls long to see, as we catch the beatific vision of the Empyrean Prime in His Beauty, as we come face to face with our Maker and Lover and Friend, there will be no more questions, no more doubts, and no more tears. God's mere presence, His mere Self, will be the answer to all the riddles. Words fail at this point. They always fail the truth at some point, but all shall be well. Like Job, we too shall one day move beyond mere words, beyond mere hearing and into the glory of sight. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012


  1. What a delightful post about the book of Job. Too many dislike God for what He did to Job. Rarely is it heard about what Job needed from God. We hear of the patience of Job to wait so long and suffer so much before God would answer, but do we praise the patience of God who waited so long for Job? I find an overlooked verse, that of 32:1, which offers the clue. Job and his friends had all the explanations and the wisdom, but they still lacked something. They sought and explanation for what their wisdom had failed to answer, and yes, when they were finally done, they received a "revelation." Thank you for clarifying that it is not the answer which will satisfy, but only God Himself.

  2. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. 8^)