The Listening God

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The story of Job is probably the oldest part of the Bible. It’s a story that we’ve been reading in the Daily Readings, and we come to see that sometimes being the good guy doesn’t pay off. When the Shaitan, which we often call Satan, makes a wager with God and God accepts, Job becomes the pawn in a giant chess game. Job is set up to lose if he curses God for killing his children and animals, plagues him with boils, and makes his life generally miserable as he sits on an ash pit scratching his sores, using pieces of pottery that were once used on his own table. We feel sorry for Job, mostly because he is an innocent. All of this happened to him not through any fault of his own but because of a wager, a wager between God and the adversary that seems a bit strange.

 

Usually, good friends will come and commiserate when bad things happen. They’ll bring flowers, a casserole, an offer of prayers, or to do something that the afflicted person is unable to do for themselves. Well, Job had three friends, and those friends were what we call Job’s comforters, although we wonder if comfort was actually what they were offering. They did their very best, in long passages, to expound on how Job must have been at fault for doing some vast wrong that would make God punish him this way. One after the other they took up the topic of Job’s unfaithfulness or perceived unfaithfulness. Instead of trying to help, what they were doing was making things worse while trying to make Job see the error of his ways.

 

Job finally got a chance to respond to Eliphaz.  He did not acknowledge wrongdoing because he had not done anything wrong. He was merely confused as to why this was happening and wondered where God was so that he could go to God and plead his case. I bet any person finding themselves in a similar situation would do the same thing.

 

When things happen, people always want to know why. The eternal question seems to be, “Why me?” Most of the time there is a pretty simple answer: it happened because I did something wrong, something stupid, or even something that I knew I shouldn’t do but decided do anyway just for the heck of it. Sound familiar to anyone? I bet that at some point in time, each one of us can say we had asked “Why me?” when in actuality we really knew the answer but honestly didn’t want to hear it. Job didn’t want to listen to the spiel of his friends because they weren’t listening to him. They focused only on their agendas and preconceived notions of what the problems were. They didn’t hear when Job tried to explain what he thought and knew. What good is a friend who doesn’t listen?

 

What Job didn’t realize was that God was listening to us the whole time. That is something that we often forget when things go sour for us. We send our prayers to God and hope for an answer, but sometimes there isn’t an answer. I know a 29-year-old young woman who was diagnosed with cancer several weeks ago, and who, as a result, had to go through surgery to remove the disease from her body.  It impacted not only her, but also her husband, very young son, and her entire extended family. I’m sure she asked, “Why me?” I have a feeling most of us, at some point in time, especially if we faced life-threatening illnesses, have asked the same question. Like Job, we want to present our case to God as to why this really shouldn’t happen to us, and we wait for an answer that may or may not come – at least with a clarity we want and feel we deserve.

 

One of the purposes of prayer is not just to place petitions before God but to also be able to verbalize to ourselves what it is we want, need, or question. Prayer is as much for ourselves as it is an appeal to God.  When we confess wrongdoing to God or another person, it is as much for ourselves as for the other person. We need to acknowledge our fault to ourselves, with no equivocation or blaming of others. In the case of Job, he didn’t need to confess a weakness because he had not committed one. What he didn’t realize was that God was listening to him the whole time and had unshakeable faith that Job would not waiver in his faithfulness. The Adversary had lost before the game even began; in his arrogance, he couldn’t conceive of losing.

 

We may never be in the situation Job is in, but as the young woman, it isn’t always the guilty who have to suffer. Granted, I’m sure she sent up lots of prayers and also has had lots of us praying with and for her. God doesn’t say it’s not okay to storm heaven with prayers because God hears all prayers. If the result turns out well, God gets the credit; if it turns out badly, it’s laid down to God’s will. But is it really?

 

Job went through his ordeal, suffering and yet continued to trust in God.  In the end, Job was the real winner as his trial was over, and his losses restored many times over.  In the end, the young woman will experience greater faith and greater trust in God. She will cherish her life even more than she had before, and will be grateful for God’s blessings. It may take a while, but it will happen. I have faith in that.

 

You see, I know God is listening to, loving, and supporting all of us, without qualification or reservation. God wants us all to know that to the deepest fiber of our beings.  “Why me?” Maybe it is because those in some form of trial need that love and support the most. That includes sinners, those in pain, grief, as well as the righteous, all inclusive, 100% guaranteed.

 

Believe it.  

God bless.

 

 

Image: Job rebuked by his friends, 1805 illustration of the Book of Job by William Blake. Found on Wikimedia Commons, originally from Religion News Service, 9/6/18.

 

Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an* group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and -retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is also owned by three cats.

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