The book of Job has been on my mind lately. Leave aside the remarks of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu, it is one of the most honest books ever written. Many people think Job is trying to answer the question of why the good suffer. If so, it does a poor job. No, Job is an exploration of suffering, and Job really isn’t looking for an answer why. Instead, he simply wants his pain to be heard. No fixers, no advice. Simply to be heard and to know he’s been heard. You see, in the world of the Bible words were significant. Many prophetic utterances were simply that—utterances because it needed to be said. Job ups the ante quite a bit, however, when he begins to wish that God would answer him. God, after all, is responsible for his pain.
The world is full of sadness. Some people feel the sadness of others deeply. We all strive for some kind of equilibrium, some balance. There are, however, a lot of people out there that truly do suffer and for no particular reason. Job is a polarizing book. Many people dislike it intensely. I suspect that some of them don’t like to think of the world in this way. Those who do good should be rewarded. (The book makes plain that Job is perfect.) Those who do evil should be punished. Job makes clear that that’s not the way the world actually works. For reasons we can’t know (who’s privy to the divine council and its deliberations about our fates?) we may end up losing our hopes, dreams, health, and wealth. Job is kind of a horror story.
There are those who read Job and argue from the point of view of his friends. In the book itself God condemns the outlook of the friends, noting that Job—no matter how challenging his words were—spoke honestly. Life is seldom fair. We as human beings must strive for fairness as best we’re able since we sense that it’s morally good. Indeed, much of the Bible upholds fairness. The book of Job questions it. Not it’s goodness or morality, but rather why the world doesn’t reflect it. When someone is suffering one of the most helpful and difficult things we can do is listen to them. We need not open our mouths to fix, suggest, or advise, like Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu. We simply must let the words be said.