The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God’s presence in our suffering, but it’s also our primary biblical protest against religion that has been reduced to explanations or “answers.” Many of the answers that Job’s so-called friends give him are technically true. But it is the “technical” part that ruins them. They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The answers are slapped onto Job’s ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle. In response, Job rages against this secularized wisdom that has lost touch with the living realities of God.
The late (and I might add great) Joe Bayly and his wife, Mary Lou, lost three of their children. They lost one son following surgery when he was only eighteen days old. They also lost the second boy at age five because of leukemia. They then lost a third son at eighteen years after a sledding accident, because of complications related to his hemophilia.
Joe writes in a wonderful book, The Last Thing We Talk About:
I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I knew were true.
I was unmoved, except I wished he’d go away. He finally did.
Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour and more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left.
I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.
You have done it right when those in agony hate to see you go.
We must leave Job in his misery for now. We’re mere onlookers. Had we lived in his day, there is no way we could say, “I know how you feel.” We don’t. We can’t even imagine. But we do care. Our presence and our tears say much more than our words.
Words have a hollow ring in a crucible.