What Can We Learn from The Worst Year Ever?
Many people will be happy to have the year 2020 in the rear-view mirror. COVID-19 related losses and restrictions and other bad things that have happened have pushed many to the brink. The impact on the global human family will likely continue as the suffering and hardship continues to mount. What are we to make of all of this?
Part of our response as Christians is to turn to the Scriptures and see if there is guidance for living in all seasons of life, including times of suffering. Often people counsel engagement with the old Testament book of Job, saying that it will help answer questions of suffering and explain the problem of evil in the world. But is Job really helpful as a theodicy (an explanation of why God allows evil in the world)?
First, a short overview of the book of Job:
Thousands of years ago there lived a man named Job who had what was arguably a worse year than you or I ever had or will have. He lost 500 teams of oxen and 500 donkeys to Sabean raiders in a single pillaging spree. Then he saw 7,000 sheep die in a cataclysmic fire. Immediately after this, Chaldean readers stole 3,000 camels from the poor guy. Then he got the most horrible news a parent could imagine: his 7 sons and 3 daughters all died at the same time in horrific house collapse. On top of all this, he lost his health, experiencing terrible boils from head to foot. All this stuff happens in the first 2 chapters of the book!
After these horrible events are narrated, the majority of the book is poetic discourse and involves three main cycles of good old-fashioned Hebrew debate between Job and his friends. It’s quite the emotional roller-coaster to read but essentially Job asks for an audience with the Almighty and (surprise!) he is granted just that. God spends time giving Job a virtual tour of the universe (chapters 38-41) and then the narrator returns and sums up Job’s experience. The end.
Here's a great video overview of the book (11 min) by the people at The Bible Project:
What is the message of the book of Job?
The book is frustratingly far from tidy, mostly because the book isn’t actually a book about why people suffer (it’s not even really a book about Job’s suffering). The book can feel like it leaves us with more questions than answers and yet it is also strangely satisfying. The book highlights near universal themes of what it feels like to have good people not understand you or say stupid things when you are going through times of suffering. Job gives us uncanny insight into what to do when we are experiencing depression, grief and loss. Job shows us how to stand your ground in a conversation with friends who are both right and wrong at the same time and how to be brutally honest with God. The book also teaches us what it looks like to trust God’s faithfulness in the midst of challenging times: not unlike the times we are living in right now.
So join us on online every Sunday at 10:30 AM starting Jan 10, 2021 as we unpack the book of Job and what you and I might learn from Job’s year which was, arguably (no offense to 2020), the Worst Year Ever.