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Friday, September 5, 2014

Hope on a Dark and Gloomy Night

"One of those nights" left me with lots of time to pray and think and read the Bible as I could not fall back asleep. It is a blessing and a curse (sort of like the verse "sweet on the lips but sour in the stomach) as you get a chance for extended 'holy time' but you are also tired. 

As I have shared, in MP we are reading Job each day. Today's reading (Job 19) was very painful. Job is wisdom literature. It seems to be a (Holy Spirit inspired) reflection on God's activity in the world. Ironically, most of what good Christians say about sin and suffering is heard from the mouths of "the three friends"; with a key theme being "no one is righteous before God, all have sinned and God is just." The end of the book turns this on its head, as God rebukes the three for speaking wrongly (while Job speaks right). It does get the head spinning a bit. We will visit that later when we read it.

Today Job says:
How long will you torment me, and break me to pieces with words?
...God has put me in the wrong...He has walled up my way...He has set darkness on my paths. He has stripped my glory from me, and taken the crown from my head...He has kindled His wrath against me...He has put my family far from me, and my acquaintances are wholly estranged from me. My relatives and close friends have failed me...My breath is repulsive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family. Even young children despise me...and those whom I love have turned against me.

And in a sense, most of us have been able to say such things at one point or another. Job provides a mirror to reflect our own experience of being a "Loser" or a "Reject." It is the experience of depression or despair. It is a common feature of human existence. Awful, yet common.

Job is, more importantly, also a type of Jesus Christ. The spiritual reading of the text (stripped of glory/crown from my head=emptied Himself and became a man. Also alludes to being stripped of clothes/crown of thorns on cross) Jesus was deserted by His "family=disciples" (only a few women with His mom, and the Beloved Disciple are there at the end). Jesus is rejected by "His own" (children, those whom I love) who despise and turn against Him. The story of Job is a prophetic parable about Jesus, for only Jesus is truly righteous and sinless. The reason I believe that Job, the innocent and perfect man, is not about real guy, is because there are no sinless and righteous people (numerous places the Bible says "all have sinned"); yet, in a sense, it is about a real guy: Jesus!

It is also an open window into the Dark Night of the Soul. Few Christians have been trained in the classical spirituality which helps explain the progress of the person's life in Christ. Job's experience, in a way, is the Divine work of purifying the senses and the soul. "Is there anybody like Job?" God asks. "Sure he is good," replies Satan, "because of all the benefits!" What follows is a test. He is tempted by all he endures. He is tempted by his closest loved ones: "Curse God and die!" The purification of love requires a purging of the seven deadly sins (Pride, Anger, Envy, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth) which affect our body concretely and our soul spiritually. We want God for what we get. When God takes away the joy all that is left is a purity of love. And isn't that what true love is? Focus on the other for their sake, not our own? Isn't much of what we call love really self-seeking and pleasure-seeking? Aren't we all in need of purgation and purification?

So, that is a bit of what I pondered and prayed about this early morning. I hope it is of some use to you on your own journey of faith. 
Love God not for what you get, but because He is worthy of love. Even in the midst of the worst sadness and pain, hold on to the hope which allowed Job to conclude chapter 19 with these words: For I know that my Redeemer lives...then in my flesh I will see God, Whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold and not another.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, amen, and amen. Thank you for this, Jeff.