By The Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray, the bishop of Mississippi
Job continues to shake his fist at the heavens and demand a just accounting of his life. As far as he can tell, the wicked prosper while the righteous, himself included, suffer unspeakable injustice.
The so called “friends” of Job are, as has been noted earlier, no help whatsoever even as they utter traditional pieties about getting what you deserve in life. Job will have none of the clichés that pass for the wisdom of his tradition. “There is nothing left of your answers but falsehoods,” he shouts at Zophar the Naamathite (21:346)
And yet, in the midst of his agony, convinced that the universe has conspired to destroy him without cause, Job finds the courage to turn his face toward God. The extraordinary gift of Job is his understanding that even if God is, indeed, the source of what has befallen him, God is also his ultimate hope.
Thus, we have in the midst of Job’s questions that go unanswered and his seemingly unheard cry for justice those great words that create the chorus of hope that begins the liturgy for the Burial of the Dead:
“I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth . . . I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him who is my friend and not a stranger.” (19:25-27)
St. Paul is also angry, not so much at God, but at the people of Corinth for the ways in which he sees them perverting the gospel he has preached and lived among them. But like Job, Paul is quite capable of sarcasm, and it is evident throughout this epistle. This is not the way things should have worked out, he seems to be saying – a lament rather similar to Job’s.
There should be easy identification with both Job and Paul. Life does appear so very unfair at times. In our world the evil do prosper too often to suggest that justice always triumphs. And who has not seen the fruit of his/her labors corrupted by those who do not understand or do not care?
How do you make sense of a God of love inhabiting a world of innocent suffering?
Paul uses anger, sarcasm and his own keen wit to respond to the church in Corinth who seemed to have drifted far from his earlier teaching. How do you respond to dramatic and potentially destructive changes in matters in which you have invested so much of your life?
Gracious Lord, make us deeply aware of the frailty of all things. Give us eyes to see you in the midst of all sorrow and courage to ever hold to you as our hope and redemption.
The Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray is the bishop of Mississippi