Family Liturgies

Job 38: Answering the Unanswerable Questions

by Dena Douglas Hobbs

Scripture passage: Job 38: 1-41
“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.’

‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements- surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon the it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” (NRSV)

Memory Verse
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Meditation
The book of Job is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Not because it shows us all how to be stalwart sufferers when life’s problems come upon us with “the so-called patience of Job” – in fact, it is quite the opposite. After undergoing difficulty after difficulty Job ends up with a lot of questions. Questions that his friends try answer for him in some sadly misguided ways. Ways that cause more harm than good.

Finally, after Job receives no good answer from the people around him, he cries out to God, “Today my complaint is bitter . . . Oh, that I knew where I might find [God], that I might come into his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.”

At first this language from a righteous man may seem out of line. But the truth is, life is hard. And tragic things happen that have no good explanation. And though some may take to Facebook to argue who has sinned and what will fix all our problems, this brings us no closer to peace.

So what do we do when our own children are brushed with tragedy? How do we answer when they start asking the tough questions of life?

I think we learn from Job. We must be careful not to counsel with words without knowledge. Do I know why millions are being displaced from their homes without any good place to go? Do I know why young men are killing their peers in unprecedented numbers?

No. I really don’t. And I think it is okay to say this.

Life is sad sometimes and we don’t totally understand the reason why. And it is okay to be sad and mad at the injustice of it all and it is okay to cry out to God.

Because in the end, God answers. Not necessarily with the answer to our specific questions, but with an answer of presence and a reassurance that the God who ordered the creation of the world and shut the doors of the chaotic sea will keep us and all the world in God’s palm still. Even when some of God’s precious ones drown in the sea while fleeing from evil, even while the just die at the hands of those shrouded in darkness, God is still there.

Sometimes the best we can do is to be present with each other in a loving way and seek the comfort of God’s presence together.

Questions to Spark Discussion
– Are there any things happening in your life that you don’t understand?
– How do you feel about them?
– How can we be present to one another in the midst of this uncertainty?
– How can we lift these concerns to God?
– Is there anything God is asking us to do to resolve these concerns?

Spiritual Practice
Pray over the hard questions today. Light a candle for each situation of concern, trusting that God will grow the light of understanding or at least a sense of peace in our hearts.

Prayer
Might God, there is so much we don’t understand.
And there are so many hard situations
in our own life and the lives of others
that we cannot fix or explain away.
Please be with us in the hard times
and the unanswerable questions.
Help us to remember that you are still with us
and still hold all the world in your hands.
Help us to trust
that the morning stars will sing for joy once again.
Amen.

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