By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
Job was a man acquainted with a river of tears here on this earth. The subject of a wager between God and the adversary, he lost all of his children, all his wealth, and was left with a sorry set of human comforters he called friends who tried to convince him that he must have done something wrong or none of this would have ever happened.
You see, Job’s friends had the answers. They felt they understood what was going on. Bad things don’t happen to good people. Job had appeared to be a righteous and wonderful kind of guy, but he had obviously done something wrong to anger the Holy or none of this would be happening.
We’ve met some of Job’s friends in our own lives – those who know the answer. That hurricane? Our acceptance of gay people caused that. Earthquake? God is telling us to mend our evil ways and end abortion or give tax breaks to the rich. A bombing? Gotta be Muslim. Everybody’s got not just an answer – but the answer – whenever disaster strikes.
What Job discovers though, and what the Holy invites us to discover still today is this, sometimes there is no answer.
Sometimes, stuff happens, and explaining it won’t make it go away or make the pain or suffering any better. Who really needs to know why a hurricane strikes or someone with evil in their heart plants a bomb? Does knowing the reason make it all better? Does having the answer solve the problem at hand?
Job talks directly to God and never, ever gets an answer. What he finds instead is this – living in the tension, living in that place of mystery and unanswered questions, produces a sweet heaven all its own. Certainty is where we find ourselves plunged into hell. Job’s friends, all those purveyors of certainty who sat around trying to convince Job he was a miserable sinner who deserved his fate – they were living in hell on earth.
Certainty closes our hearts. Certainty closes our minds. Certainty means that we condemn others to hell for even daring to ask the questions. Certainty makes us rigid, and robs us our ability to feel compassion.
My guitar teacher, Rusty, lost his son, Roger, in a car accident several years ago. The life of young 20-something man cut down in his prime. One day, he asked me where his son was now. I looked at him for a long moment and then shrugged. “I don’t know where Roger is, Rusty. I hope he’s in the arms of the Holy.”
Tears began to spring to Rusty’s eyes as he nodded. “That’s the best answer I’ve heard so far,” he said with a smile – a little bit of heaven shining through the river of tears he had already shed. He went on to tell me that some of his good church friends had told him that his son was in hell, because Roger wrecked his truck after ingesting too much alcohol and drugs.
Like Job’s friends before him, Rusty’s friends were certain that Roger must have deserved his punishment. This, Jubilants, is why certainty is dangerous, because when you’re certain, you have no problem telling a father that his son is in hell. Instead, such certainty means you can speak such cruel words and think you’re being loving.