During my senior year of college, I took on the intimidating task of studying the book of Job. This will be great, I thought to myself, I’ll figure out everything I need to know about the toughest life questions. Unexplainable suffering, tragedy, the mysteries of God’s will? It’s all here. This will revolutionize my spiritual life!
Two months later, I read the final verse of the Old Testament book and closed my Bible in exasperation. How on earth had Job earned the reputation for being the go-to source for human suffering? Sure, there’s more than enough to go around for Job and his poor family, but I thought there would be some solid answers, too. As it was, I didn’t understand suffering any better than I did before I started the study ten weeks prior! At the end of the story, I couldn’t deny that Job seemed satisfied with God in a way I wasn’t.
It’s been nearly a decade and a half since I wrestled through that study and while I’m not sure I have better answers now about unnecessary suffering, I have lived a lot of life and have witnessed more of it myself. God’s mysterious—and sometimes seemingly impersonal—responses to Job still don’t satisfy my thirst for rational explanations, but they do ring truer now than they did all those years ago. Because what I’ve learned is that much of life is simply a mystery, and sometimes being a Christian means being willing to sit in the tension of a loving God and horrendous events.
I’m not sure I’m on board with the popular adage, “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe that something redemptive can come from event the most devastating loss, and I believe Divine love is nearest to us in our suffering. The dialogue between Job and God might always frustrate me, but perhaps not. Perhaps it will resonate with me in another two decades way more than it does today.
By now, I know better than to presume to understand the sufferings of life. But day by day I am slowly learning to stand in awe of divine Mystery. Here, I demand fewer answers. Here, I replace questions with wonder. Here, I believe that Love is the most powerful force in the world and that one day, only goodness will remain.Here, I believe that Love is the most powerful force in the world and that one day, only goodness will remain. Click To Tweet
How can you experience less isolation in your suffering, sister? Turn to a friend, confessor, small group. Allow your community to remind you that God is with you, and we are, too.
Shannon Evans is a Protestant missionary turned Catholic convert who lived to tell the tale. She is an author, essayist, and speaker, but potty training four boys will be the achievement on her epitaph. Shannon and her family make their home in central Iowa, where they seek to live out the social teachings of the Church in their small and ordinary days. You can find out more about her here. She is the author of our 2018 Advent Study, forthcoming and Blessed Conversations: The Our Father study found here.