When I read the text of the first reading from the Book of Job this morning (JB 1:6-22) I thought – as usual – that it sounds like the synopsis of a bad movie. Satan, vying with God, bets that Job won’t be as faithful as he has been if bad things happen to disturb his idyllic life of favor as God’s friend. God disagrees. After he hears all the terrible destruction that his servants come one after another to tell him about, we hear the familiar line that “I came into the world naked and will leave it naked. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Of course Job doesn’t say these words as declarative, emotionless sentences. He does wail and rend his garments…and this is only the first chapter of his test.
While it is clear to me that God does not bargain with evil, even on a sure bet, the Book of Job does make me think. I am always edified in conversations with people who have lost virtually everything in life or who have had horrendous experiences, when they make similar statements to Job’s, attesting to their ongoing faith in God. I wonder sometimes what I would be able to endure of suffering – I who often profess to have lived “a charmed life.” There have been challenges, to be sure, but my supports have been such that I never have cause to complain.
Today I shall think about Job and about all the people I have known who have met and survived incredible distress in unwavering faith – especially those like our Sisters in Japan who survived the atomic bombs of World War II, the man from Aleppo whose whole world was destroyed in seconds – including the loss of his four children and his wife, or all the people I have spoken of during this year who have been victims of weather events, who say when standing in the rubble of their town, “I thank God to be alive.” I don’t think we ever know the strength of our faith until it is tested, but I am urged by these thoughts to practice, in whatever ways I can, for a time when I might feel severely shaken and need to place my trust totally in the God who loves me more than I can imagine.