Wednesday, October 01, 2014


By Colleen O’Sullivan

Job answered his friends and said:  I know well that it is so; but how can a man be justified before God?  Should one wish to contend with him, he could not answer him once in a thousand times.  God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has withstood him and remained unscathed?   (Job 9:1-4)

When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there.  (Anonymous proverb)

Suffering is a great mystery, a reality to a greater or lesser degree in each of our lives.  Job, a wealthy, upright and pious chieftain, loses his property, his children, and his health.  He wants to know why.  He demands an answer from God.  His friends serve as the Greek chorus in the story, telling him he’s being punished for sin and should seize the opportunity to repent.  (Today’s reading is taken from Job’s response to his friends.)  That doesn’t feel right to Job, so he continues to seek an explanation from God.  He never gets a direct answer, just a powerful reminder that there are some things intended only for God to know and understand.  With humility, Job accepts God’s answer because he trusts God.

It’s natural when we’re suffering to wonder why.  Why did my child die?  Why did my spouse get Alzheimer’s disease?  Why did I lose my job?  Why do I have cancer?  Why, why, why?  We don’t get direct answers any more than Job did.

The older I get, though, the more I can see that the way to God is often the way of descent or, as Richard Rohr puts it, the way down is the way up.  Suffering isn’t a totally negative thing.  I don’t believe God deliberately inflicts suffering on us (we’re talented enough at that ourselves), but I can see how suffering has been a means at times to spiritual growth in my own life.  Suffering sometimes gives me the chance to see ways in which I need to change if I really want to follow Jesus.  If everything went along smoothly all the time, would I ever look at myself with a critical or appraising eye?  Suffering can provide the opportunity to be drawn closer to God.  If my life had never had any bumps in it, would I ever have sought out spiritual direction?  Would I have missed out on hearing the voice of a God who loves us beyond telling?  Would I ever have realized the depths of what Jesus was willing to endure to compassionately be with us in every trial we undergo in this life?

Job suffered but trusted in God’s goodness.  St. Thérèse of Lisieux, as our saint for today is also known, experienced her share of suffering in her short life, losing her mother at age 4½; her older sisters one by one to the convent; and dying of TB at 24.   Although she experienced a dark night of the soul in the weeks before her death, she never stopped trusting in God.

What about you?  What suffering have you experienced?  How has it affected your relationship with the Lord?

No comments: