I often say I’m an open book. I know a lot of us do. But there are things I don’t share as much in social spaces like this. They are things that have refined my life but not defined it, if that makes sense. They are things that have formed my great affection for the long-road journey with you, and why I say with confidence, “We’re in this together, and I am for you.”
Reading through the Bible chronologically this year has me sitting with Job right now. And the thoughts can’t help but gather as I read the words spoken to him by friends.
I think sometimes that I would love to peek behind the veil and see all of the “whys” in every “what” in our lives. And then I consider what I would do with all that knowledge. While I would love to fancy myself a benevolent soul who would have some next right step for every part and parcel, I have witnessed enough human nature in these decades to know that I would likely try to become a savior or a self-righteous warrior. And no matter what, I would most certainly leave a wake of destruction in my not-so-graceful path.
Job’s friends look at his life—a boast-worthy life deconstructed in mere moments, and a God who makes no good sense at all. There is no way I could begin to step into Job’s shoes, but the words of his friends remind me of the ones I heard from well-meaning people over and over again in times of trial contemplating divorce as a pastor’s wife and young mom, praying to be healed from a disease that ravaged my body, wondering if I would ever feel welcomed in a church again.
The words were plentiful about not having enough faith, words about not confessing enough sin away or not being submissive enough or not saying just the right words to make the pain go away. Words inspiring dark conspiracy and speculation. Words inviting shame rather than healing.
Reading the words spoken to Job is like reading the words spoken to me—words telling me that God’s goodness was conditional based on my performance. Well-meaning folks who felt they knew the “whys” in every “what” telling me that things like abuse or sickness were of my own making, that perhaps they were even deserved.
I remember asking God to make things make sense, and wondering if, somehow, I had crossed over an invisible boundary into a life that would forever be almost but never quite enough. I remember being told I would burn in hell for fleeing a thorny situation rather than submitting quietly. I remember wanting to nail indictments on the doors of every church building. I remember wishing I could simply disappear so as not to embarrass those who looked at me with pity or disdain. I remember finally going to a doctor and hearing the words, “Had you only come sooner…” I remember wondering if anyone would ever take the time to ask how I was doing, rather than offer advice on how I could make things better so God would smile at me once again.
I remember wondering if God was even worth the bother at all.
When I say I understand, I do. When I say there’s a real hope that is gritty and war-torn and meaningful, I mean it. When I say there’s redemption, I believe it with all my heart. For you and for me and for all the ones who speak all the words.
What I love the most about the journey of Job in scripture isn’t the “and then everything was suddenly great” ending that gets a lot of attention and applause. It’s God’s powerful intervention in the midst of all of the words, in the midst of a raging storm.
In Job 38:1-3, God does the speaking.
“Who is this that darkens counsel, who covers over sound instruction with empty words void of knowledge?
Now, prepare yourself and gather your courage like a warrior.
Prepare yourself for the task at hand. I’ll be asking the questions, now— you will supply the answers.”
God asks more questions in the book of Job than in any other book in the Bible. He offers no advice, no alliterated tips, no formulas or quick fixes. Instead, He offers Himself.
God offers His sovereignty. He offers His creativity. He offers His power and purpose. He offers grace and mercy. He doesn’t offer all the answers to every “why.” Instead, He does something more—He offers His presence. He sits and listens. He takes it all in. Every accusation. Every curse and comment. Every prideful statement. Every scripture ripped from context. Every platitude. Every destructive whisper. Every plea for help.
That image, of God sitting with us in the midst of a maelstrom, leaning close to hear every word spoken by us and to us and about us.
His gaze fixed on us, unfazed by the storm raging around us. His heart fixed on us, unfazed by our wondering heart.
As God sat with Job in that storm, Job said, “I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes.”
And that brings me back to here, to this moment. Gathering thoughts about the words we speak, gathering thoughts about the long-road journey, gathering thoughts about being in this together. And Job’s words are my prayer for us. That we would see God with our own eyes, not through the lens of well-meaning saviors or self-righteous warriors, but through the lens of real relationship.
Today, He still offers His presence. Today, He still offers Himself.
And that’s why I can say to you, “We are in this together, and I am for you.”