“And you beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow…”
There is so much suffering in the world. War, disease, starvation, abuse, murder… the heartache of billions of human beings. And we naturally question life, the universe, the powers that be, wondering why – why?????
I sit in the dark turmoil of my own brokenness and limitations with Job. Job, who not only lost his wealth, security, health and strength, but also his family – all of his loved ones dead. And, after all of that, he was supposed to still love God. But, how??? If this is what can happen to a good person who is loved by God, then what good is that supposed love?
Job questioned, too. His questions, in the divine light, were “words without knowledge”, merely obfuscating divine reason. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom, and, so, the answer for Job’s WHY began like this:
God thunders forth marvels with his voice;
he does great things beyond our knowing.
He says to the snow, “Fall to the earth”;
likewise to his heavy, drenching rain…
Out of its chamber the tempest comes forth;
from the north winds, the cold.
With his breath God brings the frost,
and the broad waters congeal.
The clouds too are laden with moisture,
the storm-cloud scatters its light.
He it is who changes their rounds, according to his plans,
to do all that he commands them
across the inhabited world.
Across the inhabited world, the Unmoved Mover has unquestionable power, unlimited might. We are but creatures, who, like the grass, may fall dead with the first breath of winter. Who are we to question God? As intelligent and imaginative as we are, human beings are dependent upon Creation and the Creator behind it all. Helplessly and hopelessly limited are we, at the mercy of the Almighty One, who makes and rules the universe and beyond.
It is only reasonable that we suffer the limitations of being creatures. Given free will, it is, perhaps, only natural that we inflict even more limitations, and, so, even more suffering upon our fellow human beings. Where is love in this? Where does love need to be in any of this? What scientific observation or mathematic calculation determines that the infinite/eternal Source of All is identifiable as love? The First Cause and Final End of all things could be thought to be cruelty, power lust, mindless chaos… but for divine revelation…
Job is told that God heals the afflicted through their afflictions. And, frankly, that doesn’t sound very loving, either. Why allow the afflictions in the first place? Why set up the world in such a way that human beings, who are supposed to be the beloved images and likenesses of God, suffer pain, cruelty, and death?
The prophet Isaiah pictures a servant of the Lord, who is the pinnacle of human love and devotion to God, precisely as a servant who suffers. Isaiah details all of the agonizing and humiliating things that this holy one will endure – and then declares that, by the wounds of this suffering servant, our wounds shall be healed.
How can human pain heal human pain?
The Almighty One who set the universe and all of its workings into motion, who “thunders forth marvels” and “does great things beyond our knowing”, did one ridiculous thing. The one ridiculous thing that God did was to become one of us.
When the Word of God, the Word that is with God and is God, was made flesh… all accusations of divine cruelty must vaporize. God’s omnipotent Word – that thunders and roars Divine command across the inhabited world and beyond – was made flesh. The One who tells the rain to fall so that it may be rain, who tells the wind to blow so that it may be wind, who tells the sun to burst forth its radiance so that it may be sun… Divinity Itself assumes fragile and limited humanity. God Almighty, whom we mere creatures question and accuse, becomes one of us to suffer with us.
What else is this but love?
The Creator is born a creature, subject to the womb, to birth, to his mother in helpless infancy. God, who laid the cornerstone of the universe, caused the stars to sing, formed the raiments of clouds, set the sea in its boundaries, and made to leap all the wild things of earth, is wrapped up and immobilized by a few strips of cloth. He who places the planets in their revolutions is now placed in an animal’s feeding trough to sleep. And sleep he must, for his small eyelids grow tired as his little muscles whimper for rest. It’s a big world. And this tiny baby has much to live, much to suffer… so very much to love.
I’ll be celebrating Job’s Christmas this year, in awe of the Incarnation and the intensely profound meaning of God’s love. For no pain can be made right, no affliction can be healed, no cry of oppression heard, unless God suffers them Godself and cries out in a human voice. Though Job may have had material wealth, health and descendents restored to him, he could not know the deep and abiding joy of God With Us – Emmanuelle. I doubt he could ever have imagined God, the fearsome Creator and Master of the Universe, become incarnate… suffering with us, limited, stricken, mourning for his own loved ones. Job did not know that the God-Man, weak and tired, abused by the world, was sitting upon the ash heap with him – not to repent, but to redeem.
“… Look now for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing,
Oh rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.”
© 2014 Christina Chase
 Job 37:5-12
 1 John 4:7-21
 Job 36:15
 Isaiah 53:5
 John 1:1, 14
 excerpts from “It Came upon the Midnight Clear”, by Edmund Sears