…okay, I am done.
But, really, doesn’t it seem like every month this year brings more and more horrors and disappointments? Like, just when you think things can’t get worse, they inevitably find some way to get worse.
And so, I have been really, really appreciating and finding comfort in the daily scripture readings as of late, which are about the story of Job.
For those who are not familiar with the story, basically God and Satan talk with each other and God points out that Job is such a good and righteous man. In which Satan basically replies that the only reason why Job is actually good is because God has given him lots of good fortune in his life. And, if Satan were to destroy that fortune, Job would curse the name of God and hate God without reserve. And so God allows Satan to do evil, as long as he does not hurt Job.
6 One day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, the satan also came among them. 7The LORD said to the satan, “Where have you been?” Then the satan answered the LORD and said, “Roaming the earth and patrolling it.” 8The LORD said to the satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil.” 9The satan answered the LORD and said, “Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing? 10Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land. 11 But now put forth your hand and touch all that he has, and surely he will curse you to your face.” 12The LORD said to the satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on him.” So the satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
And Satan… well, Satan does what he does best and destroys everything. All at once. Without mercy.
13One day, while his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys grazing beside them, 15and the Sabeans carried them off in a raid. They put the servants to the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16He was still speaking when another came and said, “God’s fire has fallen from heaven and struck the sheep and the servants and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17He was still speaking when another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, seized the camels, carried them off, and put the servants to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18He was still speaking when another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, 19and suddenly a great wind came from across the desert and smashed the four corners of the house. It fell upon the young people and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Talk about a bad day!
But Job remains faithful!
20Then Job arose and tore his cloak and cut off his hair. He fell to the ground and worshiped. 21He said,“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,and naked shall I go back there.The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;blessed be the name of the LORD!”22In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with wrong.
And so then Satan says that the only reason why Job is faithful is because he has his health. Thus, if Satan were allowed to hurt his physical body, he would surely curse the name of God.
1One day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, the satan also came with them. 2The LORD said to the satan, “Where have you been?” Then the satan answered the LORD and said, “Roaming the earth and patrolling it.” 3The LORD said to the satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil. He still holds fast to his innocence although you incited me against him to ruin him for nothing.” 4The satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But put forth your hand and touch his bone and his flesh. Then surely he will curse you to your face.” 6And the LORD said to the satan, “He is in your power; only spare his life.”
…and Job still remains faithful.
7So the satan went forth from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with severe boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.8He took a potsherd to scrape himself, as he sat among the ashes. 9Then his wife said to him, “Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die!” 10But he said to her, “You speak as foolish women do. We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?” Through all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
Mind you, he is Not Happy about this whole thing. In fact, the rest of the book is basically him complaining about his predicament. Which hopefully doesn’t sound boring, because it is so, so good. It is a hard (but amazing!) book that tackles the issue of suffering and God’s role in allowing us to suffer. At first he argues with his friends, of whom are insistent that he must have done something wrong to be suffering so terribly. Then Job addresses God. And then GOD comes in and talks with him, and yes, it’s totally amazing. Here’s the first chapter of it, if you would like to start reading it. You can also find it your favorite bible… it’s the Book of Job!
Anyway, as you probably figured out right now, I found an amazing artwork that I would like to share with you…
It is of Job! He is an old man. His garments are torn apart, he is alone, and he is pleading for God. Alone.
And he looks so, so vulnerable.
Léon Bonnat had a singular way of painting the vulnerable. This picture is awkward to look at. It is painful to look at. Job looks so weak and frail. His veins seem to pop out of his skin while his eyes seem to roll upward in a way that seems not quite natural. While his body, holds a hint that once this man had strength — notice the muscles in his arms — veins pop out and he looks emaciated. The strength that Job once had is gone. He is alone. And now he has been reduced to pleading for God for justice.
And yet, though he grumbles against God and laments his suffering with bitterness, he remains faithful, throughout it all.
25As for me, I know that my vindicator lives,and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust.26This will happen when my skin has been stripped off,and from my flesh I will see God:27I will see for myself,my own eyes, not another’s, will behold him:my inmost being is consumed with longing.
Yes, he is bitter. Yes, he is suffering. But he opens up to God and allows himself to be vulnerable to God, entrusting himself to God anyway, despite his great suffering.
And yet… this is not Léon Bonnat’s most famous painting. His most famous painting is arguably this powerful painting of Christ Crucified…
In it, Christ is alone, His eyes turned upwards and His arms outstretched, looking to Heaven. Just like the picture of Job, it is almost a photorealistic image of suffering which makes us feel uncomfortable to look at: veins seem to pop out of His skin, beads of blood drips from His wounds, and you can see every bone in His chest. At first glance, the background looks to be just an encompassing darkness, but gradually if you look at it, you can make out a horizon with an eerie red sky that seems choked with blackness.
It is a dark picture of suffering.
And yet, it shows us of what we need to do. Because yes, we can suffer. And sometimes we can suffer in ways for things that are Not Our Fault, at all. Job was a righteous man, and he was afflicted greatly. Jesus Christ — God Himself! — was completely innocent, and He was crucified.
You can probably think of events or circumstances in your own life in which you suffered greatly for something that was not your fault.
And yet… somehow… we need to find a way to entrust our sufferings to God.
Because God is our Redeemer.
He knows our sufferings — indeed, He Himself suffered for our sakes.
And He will never abandon us.
When Job cried out to the Lord, the Lord answered him finally in a gust of wind. And, though He never gave an explicit answer to Job as to why Job had to suffer, the response is nevertheless enlightening…
12Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morningand shown the dawn its place13For taking hold of the ends of the earth,till the wicked are shaken from it?14The earth is changed as clay by the seal,and dyed like a garment;15But from the wicked their light is withheld,and the arm of pride is shattered.16Have you entered into the sources of the sea,or walked about on the bottom of the deep?17Have the gates of death been shown to you,or have you seen the gates of darkness?18Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?Tell me, if you know it all.19What is the way to the dwelling of light,and darkness—where is its place?20That you may take it to its territoryand know the paths to its home?
Jesus Christ knows the path to the light and has turned it into a home for us. If we entrust ourselves to Him, even in the messiness of our lives, He will guide us there.
Let us follow Him.