By the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald
Like many of the stories that illuminate the life of Indigenous Peoples, the story of Job functions at quite a few levels of meaning and complexity. Modern Western readers, used to reading things at only one level, may misinterpret a passage like the second chapter of Job, assuming it is a description of the world-view of some ancient primitive mind. On the contrary, this section is a thick description of a complicated topic: humanity’s tense and precarious relationship with God in the midst of a world of good and evil, tragedy and blessing.
In this profound and intricate mix another element is placed. The family and friends that are so much a part of the blessings of life, can complicate, even hinder, our healing. Their love and loyalty, so cherished in the good times, will often mean that they cannot face the pain of beholding such suffering. In those moments when human affection and community are bent out of shape by suffering, what has been dear can become a threat.
The praise of Psalm 147 is acutely aware of the saving and blessing presence of God. Paul is also aware, but like our passage in Job, we are forced to face what is a challenging paradox: we are saved in a vividly perceptible intervention of God, all too often experienced in the midst of suffering and pain. The saving and satisfying presence of God thrusts us into a pattern of responsibility and, dare we say it, a pattern of suffering that is a recreation and representation of the life of our Saviour. Ultimately, the meaning of suffering is found in the one who suffered with us and for us. Not that this answers all questions neatly or directly. It is an answer, as we shall see in the rest of Job, that comes through living, praying, and even questioning.
How have you interpreted suffering in your own life?
In what ways have friends been a help or a hindrance in your suffering…in your Christian faith?
What do you understand to be your relationship to the suffering of Jesus?
Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, treasury of blessing and giver of life, come and dwell in us. Cleanse us of every impurity and save our souls, you who are good. Amen.
The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald is the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop of the Church of Canada.