A number of members of our congregation have been reading through the entire Bible this year. It's been a rewarding project. I've been reading Eugene Peterson's paraphrase in The Message, which reads more like a story book than the NRSV translation of the Bible. I've learned things I didn't know, and have a greater appreciation for some of the things I already knew. For example, after reading all the details of the planning and construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, I found myself truly sad when I read the story of its destruction in 587 B.C. I have worked hard to be sure I never fall more than a day or two behind. There's not a lot of reading for each day, but it piles up if I don't do the work on a regular basis. So far I've managed to never get more than a couple of days behind. I will miss this next year when I've finished all the reading.
In a couple of days, I will have finished reading the book of Job, the story of one man's suffering and all the inadequate responses his friends make in their efforts to get him to see the light and admit that he must somehow deserve what has happened in his life. Otherwise they will be forced to accept the fact that sometimes bad things really do happen to good people. We visited my husband's step mother this past weekend, and she is still deeply grieving the death of my father-in-law in May. They had such a short time together, and were so happy that his death has been really hard on her. This morning at the gym I struck up a conversation with one of the twins, two men in their 70s who are at the gym whenever I show up. He said that this week his wife will have been in a nursing home for seven years, and that's a long time. She has Alzheimer's, and he says he thinks it's the worst disease. I said I could see that as the person you love is still there, but they're not, and I expressed my condolences for his suffering in this situation. His wife seems to be beyond much suffering a this point.
Some days, like Job, I wonder what God is thinking when I look around and see the suffering of this world. For all the great theologians that have struggled with this problem, I don't think anyone has come up with any good answers. I know Job's friends didn't! What I do know is that in the darkest times of my life, when I have hurt beyond bearing, God has been as close to me as my very breath. So while, like Job, I may question God in my hurt and anger, I also trust that God loves me, and I'm grateful for that love to hold onto in this scary world.
Grace and Peace,