Job was a righteous man. And he was very wealthy as well. Now if that’s not Paradise in this world, we don’t know what good is. Job knew and thanked God for it everyday of his life. Yes, he gave sacrifices for the sake of his ten precious children and knelt in their behalf that they might also walk the way he walked.
But Satan had to have his way with Job. Take away his health then his wealth and then his children and he will curse you. Job’s wife chorused with the Tempter: Curse and die! The test was beyond a test of patience. Or love. Or faith. Or perseverance. It was a test of the entire human spirit, all that it is and all that it can possibly sense and contain. Like those archeologists who use tiny brushes to brush off every inch of dust in the hope of recovering what many would see as useless dead bones, such a test scratches away the unimportant things that prevent us from seeing the sunshine.
The ultimate test of the human spirit aims at the essential thing that makes us what we truly are. In truth, we are nothing but spirit, the kind created from the same image as God is, not flesh or dust, not blood or guts, not intelligence or idea. Moreover, it aims at proving each and every one of us of the indestructibility of life. A terribly hard lesson for one person to learn that we all, in various ways and in a much lesser degree or perhaps greater at times, have been privileged to undergo.
Job’s story ends with his becoming wealthier and having children who are more beautiful. Not to mention the corresponding maturity of character from his experience. What the latter is, the story does not dwell with at length nor do many of us truly recognize. As such, many quote the Book of Job invariably using Job’s words while in the pangs of pain and frustration. How easy it is for us all to use commiserating words of those who have eloquently described their journeys through suffering. Even today, Christians continually highlight the so-called seven last words of Jesus to somehow glean wisdom or courage that may come in handy in times of trouble.
And so, the violent death of 33 people in a mad and murderous rampage at Virginia Tech feeds our need for solace, hope and understanding. Desperately, we clutch at dry straws of platitudes as we hang from the cliff of insecurity. Or we grab and hurl broken rocks of raw emotions with which to express our outrage and confusion. Yet, some would echo the dirges of those whose sufferings may have mirrored the pain others may go through now. All in the hope of gaining or providing the healing we all need as one suffering family.
Yes, Job went through so much and we quote him while he went through pain and grief. But Job, perhaps not unlike Adam and Eve, never knew what eternal motives moved God and Satan to showcase him as the great experiment on suffering and faithfulness. The mystery of suffering has remained but has somehow lost its darkness in the revelation of what God allows and eventually grants to those who – well, stick it out with Him: ultimate triumph of goodness over evil, spiritual salvation and eternal life.
Thus, Job remained a righteous man throughout his ordeal -- almost. His one and singular mistake was to presume that God, in creating and blessing Job and letting him be destroyed so, could not renew or revive him. For Job questioned God and wished to die in his agony (did we forget to say Satan knew how to hide from the scene as the crisis raged?). He spoke things he did not understand, in the same way that many of us do. But when Job heard God speak in the storm and saw Him (and also Satan perhaps?), he bowed down and said: Now, my eyes see You and I retract.
We see evil in one man and we trace that evil from his past, his family, his friends, his schools and, naturally, his country. But do we know where that evil came from? From traditions? From society? From our genes? Or from the evil that is already there, sown everywhere and growing where it wills?
Evil lurks in every place. Until we see it as it is, we are wretched fools talking like Job and pitying ourselves and claiming how absolutely good or right we are. Until we all see God, like Job eventually did, we are blind fools postulating and sermonizing to other blind fools.