Via Positiva: A Time to Embrace — Embrace Wonder

By: JUBILEE! Minister Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Hebrew scripture (Job 38:1-11), we arrive at the end of Job’s long trial of suffering. After losing his children, his livelihood and anything else in this world that ever meant anything to him, he’s challenging God to explain it all to him.

Job asks the ultimate, “Why me?” question throughout this book, and his friends are happy to line up and explain to him why bad things happen to good people.

The friends are well meaning and their reasons for Job’s suffering are all too familiar even to our modern ears. One tells him, “Job, you screwed up. You pissed God off in a big way, and now you’re paying for it!”

Job argues that he’s done nothing wrong. He’s been living the best way he knows how and can’t figure out one thing that he’d done, said, thought or left undone or unsaid that would tick God off this badly.

One goes with that and says, “Hey, man, it’s your arrogance that is pissing God off. Of course you did something wrong. We all screw up!”

Another says, “Hey, God is testing your faith. This is a good thing because you get to show the world how righteous you are.” The editors must have removed the section of scripture where Job punches this guy in the face.

In the end, God shows up, not so much with an explanation, but with an invitation to Job — and to us — to embrace the wonder, the mystery and the inscrutability of both God and this life we’re all living.

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” the scripture records God as saying. A better translation, though, could be, “What the hell is the matter with you?” Or, perhaps even more directly, what God is saying to Job is this: “Shut up!”

And in the next line he tells Job to “gird up your loins like a man,” meaning, basically, put your big boy underwear on and stop whining about all your troubles.

God then begins to describe the amazing wonders of the universe that God has created, including laying the earth’s foundation, creating light and darkness, forming mountains, creating wild animals, causing rain to fall and vegetation to take root and bloom. And lest you think God is just showing off, there’s a deeper lesson in all of what God is saying here.  It’s a lesson in awe and wonder.

God tells Job in a few more chapters that he’ll concede the argument to Job if Job can act just like he believes God acts, namely, “treading down the wicked where they stand.” Job, of course, cannot do this because this is not how God acts in the world.  God does not punish the wicked or reward the good in the ways we think God should, so why do we insist that the world work that way?

God even tells Job that chaos and confusion are part of the world’s design because God has created the Behemoth that brings earthquakes and other disasters — and you thought that was brought on by gay people!

This encounter with God, in the end, does not bring any answers to Job, but it does spark in him a renewed sense of wonder, and a deeper understanding that we can never put the Holy in a box — as much as we’d like to try. We can never tame this wild God who acts in ways that we can’t understand and most of the time we don’t even like.

The good die young, the wicked prosper, the powerful ruin lives, the weak die in pain and loneliness, innocent lives are ended in tragedy, and yet … we still must embrace the wonder and dare to daydream of a wild God who loves all of her creation beyond measure.

Breathe deeply.

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