This time of year, friends will often ask, “What are your plans for the holidays; any travels on the horizon in the new year?” But this year, the answers are often more uncertain; “We hope to get to see family and maybe take that delayed vacation, whatever’s possible at the time.” Continued impacts of the pandemic, even amid booster shots and easing numbers of those in hospital, lend a note of uncertainty to what lies ahead, making it more challenging to plan. We hesitate at times to get our hopes up, having had to postpone so many gatherings and travels already in the past 18 months.
In a time that has held such uncertainty, our Scripture reading for this Sunday brings us the last reading from the book of Job, telling the story of a good man caught up in tempestuous times, when all previous certainties have been shaken.
The book of Job has been considered part of the Bible’s wisdom literature, including the Psalms, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. In the world view of Proverbs, there is a sense that the universe unfolds as it should; the good are rewarded and the foolish or evil, punished. Yet in Job and Ecclesiastes, which have been called “wisdom in revolt,” we find less certainty that the world always unfolds in the way we wish it would. Job is a book to read when life doesn’t make sense, when suffering strikes and leaves us wondering why.
Scholar Samuel Terrien wrote a book that explores Job’s life, Job: Poet of Existence. He notes how Job holds meaning for us in uncertain days, as it “views life without illusion, but not with despair.” There is an open-eyed ability to see life in (what the Confession of 1967 called) its “sublimity and awfulness” without losing heart, that is a note of authentic hope for such days as these.
As you read this week’s passage from Job 38 and 42, you’ll find this ancient story grapples with the questions of life and meaning and suffering that still are ours today.
I look forward to seeing you for worship; in person or online!
Wishing you peace,