Life can be hard sometimes. Really hard. It seems that all too often our news feeds are filled with stories of violence and greed, deep sorrow and natural disasters. In recent times we have been inundated with tragic accounts from the Royal Commission into childhood sexual abuses in institutional care, press releases from war correspondents in Syria, and tales of hardship from farming families facing drought in Western Queensland. Many of us were shocked by the recent Four Corners expose into residential aged care, and we found ourselves thinking, ‘How could this happen here in Australia?’ Some of us have experienced such personal loss and pain that we have begun to doubt whether God exists, or even worse – whether God actually cares!! This feeling of despair is not new. In fact it is as old as faith itself. Theologians call this ‘the problem of theodicy’. It can be summed up by the following dilemma: ‘If God is all-powerful and all-loving why do bad things happen to good people?’
The Book of Job is written as a heartfelt cry to God in response to the pain and loss we often experience in life. And it also seems at points to be a heartfelt cry from God to those who are dearly loved and yet faced with such brokenness. Job takes us on a journey through sorrow and heartache, anguish and doubt, honesty and longing, desperation and faithfulness. It is raw and gutsy and robust. It is not written for the fainthearted, and those who are looking for easy answers. But it is written for those who want to be real about their faith, and want to wrestle with the tough questions.
Throughout the month of October, the lectionary gives us a glimpse of some of the key passages in Job. But if you want to really learn from the ancient wisdom Job has for us – I would encourage you to read it all the way through. More than once. At first read it might seem like a bit of a fairy-tale, or some sort of ancient poem. But it is much more than that. When we read Job well – it becomes for us a companion. And we realise that when tragedy strikes – and it eventually will – that we are not alone. We are never alone. God is with us. Even when it hurts. And God’s love never ends.