The Silence of God

Lectionary Passage: Job  23: 1-9, 16-17
To read this passage online, go to http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=216907967

You know, when you think about it, most of spend a good part of our lives looking for answers. We look for answers about what to do with our lives, how to prepare for our lives, and where to go with our lives. We search for answers about the weather, the stock market, and the highest-rated sports team. If we wonder about anything in this world, all we have to do is “Google” it (“Google” now being the catch-all answer to finding the answer to pretty much any question that you have.)  Even much of our faith has to do with a quest for answers. We search for answers as to what we should believe, how we should understand God, and what type of person we should be. And we wait, sometimes with an almost desperate impatience, for answers to our prayers. But sometimes, those just don’t seem to come.

Maybe that’s why this Book of Job is so hard for us. After all, we have grown accustomed to the notion that somewhere in the Scriptures, we will find the answers that we most desire and that will make our life full (and probably a little easier!). But contrary to what we may hope, Job offers no real answers to life’s suffering or life’s heartaches except faith. In fact, the writing takes all of those contrived images of God and shakes them at their core leaving nothing for us but a relationship with God. And maybe on some level, that IS the answer.

But, in all truth, this section of Job is even harder to read than the one last week.  After all, it almost seems like our good friend Job is throwing in the towel.  Here he is suffering beyond all reason and he’s done nothing!  He does not deserve this! WHERE IS GOD?!?  Good grief, at least show up so I can complain to you!  And give Job a little credit. After all, his complaint is not that he is suffering—he seems to have resolved himself to that. He doesn’t even seem to be questioning why God would do such a thing. Perhaps he is more comfortable with some of that mystery that is God than many of us. Job’s biggest complaint is that he feels God has deserted him. He feels that God is absent in his life. And yet he still holds his integrity, unwilling to sin before God.  And then, jumping to verse 16, his tune changes a bit. He admits that he is a little afraid of God, afraid of what God will do. He wants desperately to vanish into darkness and away from God. His image of God is falling into one that could quash him, could crush him. He almost sees God as an enemy and, yet, he is still not willing to sin before God. He is holding out for one small vestige of hope.
To understand how Job got here, we probably need to look at the mounds of answers that he has been fed from those that count himself as his friends. First, there is Eliphaz. Eliphaz probably sees God as “The Fixer”. You know the type. “Look, Job, if you just submit to God, if you just have faith, God will fix it.” And then there’s Bildad. Bildad is one of these people that sees God as “The Judge”. “Well, Job,” he says, “I don’t what you did wrong, but it must have been pretty bad because we only get what we deserve. After all, God is just, right? So you must be guilty.” And, lastly, we have Zophar. Interestingly enough, Zophar assumes that whatever he says must be what God is saying. “So, obviously, Job is wrong and I am right.” Good grief, no wonder Job opts to just sit in silence. You know, when you think about it, these are understandings of God that are alive and well today. In fact, there are probably few of us who haven’t at some time in our lives, fallen into these understandings. After all, they put us in control. If we do right, then God will fix it or reward us or somehow give us proof that our faith is working. And, yet, faith is not about being in control. We cannot save ourselves. That’s the whole point. Faith may not even be about trust that it will turn out alright. Maybe faith is instead about trusting that one will find God, even in the midst of the darkness.

So Job admits to being faint of heart, to not understanding at all why all of this has happened to him. Because, after all, it makes no sense. Job was good. He was righteous. He did nothing wrong. Why is this happening? He wishes that he could just vanish, wishes that the darkness would just take him. But instead, he waits. He waits in the silence and trusts that God is there–somewhere.  Job is essentially letting go–letting go of his need to understand God and understand life.  He is letting go of his need to figure it all out.  He is letting go of his need to have all the answers.  After all, faith is not about having all the answers or being certain of what’s going to happen.  As Richard Rohr, says “faith is having the security to be insecure.” (From Job and the Mystery of Suffering)

Sometimes life doesn’t make sense.   Maybe in those spaces when no answer is given is the God who is keeping silence and maybe God is more present in the silence than even in the answers that we have.  When you think about, do you think that sometimes our answers and our language about God get in the way of how God is being revealed in our life?  Austrian-born Israeli philosopher Martin Buber once wrote that “an eclipse of the sun is something occurs between the sun and our eyes, not in the sun itself.”  Perhaps our faith and our understanding of God is the same way.  Maybe we’re seeing all we can handle for now.  Maybe our questions are a whole lot more important for us than having the answer to it all.  (And here’s a hint:  We’ll read the story of our friend Job fo two more weeks.  I have it on good authority that it all turns out OK.  It just doesn’t look like what we thought it would.  Hmmm!  Isn’t that amazing that that keeps happening?)

Let go of your need to have all the answers and just be with God–there, there in the silence and hiddenness of a God who is waiting not to be defended by our answers and our words but to be given the space to say us into being once again.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli   

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