The topic for this week is: Does God give is more than we can handle?
This is one of those recovery phrases that I never really identified with — not that I have a problem with it, but that I never had a sense of a Higher Power that was doling things out, giving tests, checking results, and so on.
I always felt like, for me, this would lead to some kind of confrontational notion of me and God, like Job had. I only recently learned the end of that story; after God had destroyed Job’s life, Job went to God and said “What the hell?” (Needless to say, I’m paraphrasing). God’s response (paraphrasing again) was “Who the hell are you to ask?”
At first I thought, man, who wants a God like that? But then I thought, maybe what God was saying was, “Why waste your time with thoughts like that? Why put yourself through all this misery wondering why or what, or getting into self-pity?”
I’m a long way from a Biblical scholar, but it’s an interesting story to consider. Maybe one lesson from that story is “Life simply is. Don’t fight it.” I mean, when Moses asked God who he was, didn’t God say only “I am.” Dude.
I have this weird, non-formed, semi-unified, combo Buddhist-Tao-Mystic notion that all these concepts like “me” and “you” and “God” are just constructs of our mind, created for purposes I don’t understand, and that all suffering comes from our attachment to these ideas, when what really works is going with it, not putting labels on it, not trying to intellectualize it, etc.
Success, suffering, failure, happiness — all ideas we came up with to understand things. Acceptance and peace — that’s what I’m after!
I don’t know if that makes any sense at all, and I hope I haven’t offended anybody (especially any Biblical scholars who might be reading). Just random, spiritual thoughts in a coffee shop on a rainy Oregon morning.
Thanks Paul for your post.
My thoughts about this goes like this.
God’s Test. HHhmmmmm….
Is there or isn’t there God. I’ve read much of the bible. I’ve listened to many preachers and teachers of the word. I’ve also lived of the world for many many years. I’ve shut the door in the faces of, I’ve laughed and scoffed at many Christians. I’ve been baptised 4 times of different faiths. I’ve listened and read other religions and sects not Christian.
All of that to say this. It all comes down to is there or isn’t there a God. The only final conclusion to me was simply this; if there is no God, it doesn’t matter if I believe there is a God or not. But if there is a God, it does matter if I disbelieve. So I thought to be safe, I would really believe there is a God and do that of His will for me. It’s kinda funny, when I started this belief and the action, I accepted God’s Son, Jesus. Since then, I have had joy, peace, better understanding, freedom, happiness, and a love that I never have evr known. Genuin love. What is funny about all that you mmay ask? Well, I thought that I would never have these things in my life. Prejudices have slipped away. Financial security has begun. Lasting relationships is far greater than ever imagined. Shame and guilt feelings have been smashed. Confidence has emerged. And another thing is, I never asked for all these things. They just happen.
Now, tell me there is no God!! I will only smile and say a prayer for you and pray that you too will be convinced as I am.
I do not preach to people to convince them. I live the word as close as I can and that in itself makes relationships that draw them to He that is within me.
This came in from my first sponsor, who has a masters in theology:
I tried. I came up with a dozen different approaches to your question and I just can’t simplify it enough. Job is such a complicated book and it’s theology (what it says about God) has confounded scholars forever. While your interpretation is good and thought provoking for it’s purpose, it misses the mark where Job is concerned. And I can’t explain it in a email. Your topic title and the theme of Job is right on, the essence of Job being, “Why do bad things happen to good people”. But even that question is not satisfactory answered in Job, because God set-up the whole thing. He allowed the devil to plague Job as the result of a bet.
My thoughts: the world is full of Jobs. Job sings his song loud and clear, but who are we to tell him that life should be any different. In other words, we can see ourselves in relation to Job in one of two ways: as righteous or indignant. In the former, we have the answers to Job’s problems and if he would only listen, then he would get better. In the latter, we are angry with Job and treat him with distain. It’s judgment in either case. We need a third option and biblically, that came in the person of Christ and his commandment to love. The story of Job can be transformative not by understanding Job and what he can do different, but by understanding what God calls us “to be” in the face of what is unlovable.
As for God’s response to Job. If I remember correctly, scholars believe it was tacked on by later biblical writers who were uncomfortable with notion that there was no solution to Job’s suffering. Thus, they put he focus back on God as the creator and unquestionable authority of the universe. The story reads much better without the God speech.
That’s it. That is the best I can do right now.
Your post reminds me of a guy who once said, in a meeting, that knowing God exists is like knowing wind exists. You can’t see wind or really know where it comes from, where it’s going, or why. BUT you can see a flag ripple and you know there’s wind. He said when he looks at what’s happening in the rooms of recovery, he knows there’s a God.
The Marijuana Anonymous book says, in the 2nd Step chapter, “We think it would be foolish to believe there is no power in the universe greater than us.”
More on this between me and my sponsor:
WHAT I SAID in response to his first comment:
Well, darnit, I like things simple!
I had forgotten that Job was involved in a bet, and I had no idea about the God part being added later. I wonder what the evidence for that is. But you’re right. It would be a better story without God even answering that question. Then, I guess the lesson is only to look at Job’s reaction? Or am I missing the point again (being judgmental)? Maybe the question is, does the story of Jesus tell us that God wants us to be loving towards each other, no matter what?
WHAT HE SAID:
I know, I like things simple as well.
Take out the God speech and “the deal”, and what your left with is a man who should not be suffering because, according to all religious standards of the time he was blessed and righteous. His fall then, is a contradiction. It’s the problem of evil, “theodicy”: if there is a god why is there evil in the world?
In the story, Job has three visitors and each of the visitors tries to convince Job that he is somehow responsible for his suffering; this is God’s punishment for something he did and he needs to repent. This is a classic Old Testament view of God. The visitors get increasingly harsh with Job. There is also a fourth visitor, and his voice is somewhat more prophetic and wise. He locates the sin not in something Job did, but in the way he is reacting to his suffering. Not unlike your interpretation. Job, of course rejects all of this and wants hold God responsible.
In modern philosophical terms, Job’s situation is existential because God is absent from the picture. Job is forced to contend with the problem of evil on his own. Anyone who has every struggled with evil will understand this – God is conspicuously absent when we need help – thus, the lack of answers leads to suffering.
So where is the light? Christ revealed a nature of God that brought hope to the hopeless. His mission was to the hopeless and all who were being condemned by a dogmatic religion. His reversal of the nature of God was a heresy for the Jews, but liberation for all who followed his message. Christ revealed through his actions that God was love. And he left us two commandments: love your neighbor as yourself, and love god with all your heart, soul and mind. As Christians, we are called to bring light to the suffering, just as Jesus did. Job may be beyond hopeless, but maybe all he needed was someone who cared, to sit in the same room with him, to hold a vigil outside his house, to pray for him. As Christians we are called to go beyond ourselves and ask, what is God’s will and then be prepared to do God’s will. This selfless action, listening to the call when it’s given, and following it at all cost is the essence of what Jesus taught and died for.
So, I think your right, at least in our discussion – we are trying understanding the story of Job as a bystander to his problem. We are looking at Job’s reaction, but we need to look at our reaction to Job if we want to be a source for doing God’s will or examining what we are being called to do. Look, however, at what needs to be removed in order for God to work through us – nothing short of a complete absence of the ego; “nothingness, bare nothingness” in the words of Whitehead.