Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Skepticism and the Book of Job

Job lost nearly everything, his wife was horrible, and his friends were worse.

Job railed at God.

God said, "Stuff it, I'm bigger than you."

The End.

Not the most satisfying ending, is it? But at least God talked to Job. I know, it's a literary work (i.e., not exactly a documentary), and maybe that's not quite how it all went down. But suspending disbelief for a moment as we must with all stories, Job talked and God talked back, and I think that is the material point.

I have never been able to see that God in any way answered Job's questions. He goes on at length about the animals, the ocean, the storms, his power, his omniscience, and apparently anything else that comes to mind, but he completely ignores the very valid "WHY?" I've heard many sermons, and a few very good sermons, on why this is. Most of them come back to the general principle that God is so much higher than Job that God has no responsibility to explain his actions to Job. I take issue with that, of course, because I do think that being a living breathing bleeding poker chip in a high-stakes celestial bet should have earned the poor guy a few answers. But that's really beside the point.

God answered. Not in the wishy-washy "I really feel this was an answer to prayer" way that believers and semi-believers and pseudo-believers all seem to use. Not in a probable coincidence that could look sort of like an answer to prayer if you look at it sideways and kind of squint so it's a little blurry. Not as a warm fuzzy feeling in the cerebral cortex that is then interpreted as the peace that passes all understanding. Rather, the answer was out loud, using words, real words that hit Job's physical eardrum with real waves of sound.

At this point, I almost feel like I wouldn't care what he said, as long as he said it out loud. I have grown weary of reading the signs and portents in daily life, turning the day's events this way and that like an old crone over her tea leaves. We are told that God's silence builds our faith. But sometimes it also builds our doubt and our skepticism, and from what I can see, the cost to his people and his church is immense.

I have not talked to God in a long time. I am no longer able to shake and rattle the facts like so many dice, rolling and re-rolling them until they fall in a pattern that resembles an answer to prayer. I have come to believe that a little silence may build faith, but that too much silence breaks it.

Even so, in the dark hours of the early morning when I am sleepless and worn thin "like butter scraped over too much bread," I confess that even these tired, skeptical ears would like, for once, to hear the voice of God.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

Beautiful article. I hear you completely. There is only so long you can wait before hope dies altogether, and at that point you are faced with the choice to either continue down the road you've taken, accepting that there will be no voice, or to take a different journey.