We begin the scripture readings today with Job’s lament. It’s very downbeat. His days are full of misery, which he projects to everyone. He calls man a drudge, a hireling and a slave. All this is very different from the opening pages of the Bible, which describe the human person as one who shares God’s creative power. Job’s saddest remark is that he will not find happiness again.
We have probably heard that at times in our lives. When a marriage breaks up or a parent has lost a child. There is a cry of despair. The main issue with despair is that it is self-fulfilling. People who fear the worst tend to invite it. Heads cast downward cannot scan the horizon for new beginnings. Bursts of energy do not spring from a spirit of defeat. Ultimately, hopelessness leads to helplessness.
Job identifies with us, but does not leave us totally disconsolate.
We must remember Job did see happiness again. His days of misery came to an end and his days were once again filled with hope. Job saw the liberating hand of God. He felt relief when things looked hopeless, and he was given hope brought to better days.
It is true that none of us go without trials, without illness and without pain. That’s always been true, part of our human condition. In the Gospel today, we are told of Jesus seeking out the sick, after sunset. The sick would not be brought out during the day, for fear the glaring heart of day would make them more ill.
But as evening drew on and the cooler wind from the sea refreshed the village, we can picture a small processing of the wounded and disturbed coming towards a central place to meet Jesus. We can almost picture Jesus among the sick; healing the brokenhearted, touching the blind, breathing on the person shaking with palsy; talking gently to those in grief. This is the Gospel at its most beautiful. A clear example of the love and power of Christ.
Pain and suffering continue as part of everyone’s life. We know this, though we neither like nor understand it. Especially when it happens to good and innocent people.
We are left with an enigma: Why did He create a world in which we must suffer and die?
The short answer to such a complex question is that God does not will evil. But with the rebellion of the human race, evil came into this world. Perhaps the only real answer to evil is trust. Trust in the love and power of God and trust in each other. Trust is learned gradually, step by step.
It’s easy to trust and believe in God when we are untroubled. But let the storm come, let sickness come, the loss of a job, let fear come and then we can trust in God. And we learn to trust in God by first trusting in our friends. We all help each other grow. If we are weak, we look to a friend. If we are strong, we offer our love and trust. This is one of the reasons we come together as God’s people.
Yes, it is true we can talk to God alone. But all throughout history, God has demanded that His people come together to worship Him, and to be aware of the needs of others. This is part of the meaning of Church. A group of people, a group of believers, helping all to believe, trust and love.
Disaster may not visit you today, but tomorrow you may be weak, afflicted and asked to walk in valley of darkness. Then, you will need friends to trust. Trusting them to lead you to the Lord.
With God, I cannot promise that you will escape suffering in this world. But I can promise that in despair, He is with you. Even until the end of the world.