Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Like Job’s friends

job My wife and I are presently reading a phenomenal book that we will soon be making available to VOMC supporters entitled The Gospel According to Job by Mike Mason. This devotional commentary reflects on the suffering of Job and sensitively but honestly draws us towards an encounter with God in the midst of doubt, confusion, and unanswered questions. I have discovered how the book of Job does more than just address the problem of suffering faith; it also addresses the issue of complacent faith that seeks simplistic, even if well-meaning answers, as evidenced by Job’s friends.

This morning, I thumbed ahead a few pages to page 213 and read Mason’s comments on Job’s words in 19:22: "Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh?"

He writes:

People are fond of posing the dual questions, "Why is there so much suffering in the world?" and, "Why doesn't God do something about it?" Strangely, however, we seldom think to ask the deeper and more pertinent questions, "Why is there so little love in human hearts?" and, "Why don't we do something about it?"

The greatest mystery in the book of Job is not why Job suffers, but why a man crippled by suffering is forced to fight a long, drawn-out theological battle with people who are supposed to be his friends. Or, to pose the same puzzle in contemporary terms, why is that in most churches people who are in deep need find so little real help?

It struck me as I read these words that the same could be asked about the average response that persecuted Christians receive from those of us in the West who hear of their plight, some of us repeatedly. We hear, we sympathize, we may even suggest that somebody, somewhere ought to do something.

But we actually do very little ourselves.

We can’t find the time to write a note of encouragement to a prisoner of faith. We rarely, if ever, make a donation to a ministry that devotes itself to serving the persecuted. We don’t contact government officials, urging them to recognize the freedom to worship. We only occasionally pray for those who are suffering for our faith. And we certainly don’t take much time to really understand why they are suffering and why we are not. We may rationalize to ourselves that God hasn’t actually “led” us to do anything but I am often reminded that God does not have to lead us to do something that He has already told us to do.  The question is not if we should do something for the persecuted but rather what.

One thing I have noticed is that those who actually seek to do something for the persecuted are rarely those who complain about how we, as a mission, serve the persecuted. But some of our most virulent detractors are those who, when you dig deeper, you discover actually do very little to show their persecuted brothers and sisters the love of Christ. Like Job’s friends.


J. Voorbij said...

The book of Job has always intriged me. The most satisfying explanation did I get from the Dutch author Willem J. Ouweneel in his book "Het Jobslijden van Israel" How the suffering of Israel lights up in the book of Job. On the back of the book it states:
"It is not a regular commentary on the book of Job, neither another book about Israel. Certainly, it is about Israel, but it's hardly accesible for those who do not believe in a future for a repented etnic Israel, in the future in the promised land under the blessed government of the Messiah. These kind of people look like Job's three friends: they know exactly why Israel has to suffer and how the suffering could stop....
But Israel's suffering is a mystery, may be the deepest mystery of world history - just like Job's suffering is a mystery. It is not to explain. It is only reveled in the awe-inspiring storm of the Lord's direct presence. But there was a future for Job, and there is a future for Israel."
Unfortunately I could not find an English translation. Would be great when it came available.

Glenn Penner said...

Yes, it is a shame. I did some more checking into some of the places where I am often able to find hard-to-get books, but while I can get it in Dutch, no such luck in English. I suspect that it was never translated