Devotion for Wednesday 3 June 2020
The Old Testament reading set for today’s evening prayer is part of the book of Job Chapter 3, where Job curses the day of his birth. Job who is described as God fearing, blameless and upright, had a pretty good life until he was beset with a series of catastrophes. When he lost his whole family, his herds and flocks and houses, he still praises the Lord without complaining. But after sitting among the ashes for seven days and nights, with a horrible skin condition, he finally speaks out. Initially, he says he wished he had never been born, or that he had died at birth, or that people who suffer like he did could die when they are ready. His three friends then discuss with him at length the huge question – Why do the innocent suffer?
A question that is on many of our lips at the moment. Not only the tragedy of the loss of so many lives to Covid-19, but the suffering of their family and friends as they have not been able to say goodbye in the way they would have wished. When something as apparently random as a pandemic disease or natural disaster takes so many people away without warning we feel helpless. Helpless to prevent their deaths and helpless to answer the question of those around us – why does your God allow this to happen?
In the book of Job, the discussion goes back and forth among Job and his comforters until Job finally realises that the answer lies beyond human understanding and is hidden in the deep wisdom of God. He has come to see that he has been judging God by human standards, expecting God to execute justice just as we do. God’s justice, in fact, is beyond human contemplation so we should not become paralysed by trying to fathom it out. Job himself, upon this realisation, abandons his position of inertia sitting in ashes and rejoins in the activities of normal life.
So often when we hear about disasters, we also hear amazing stories of people who act with compassion, bringing physical and moral support to those who are suffering. The book of Job encourages us to do just that. Offering our help to those who need it rather than sitting around trying to debate why it has happened. Our help to those already affected in the current crisis might only be possible through prayer and words of comfort. We all, however, have a very essential active role in containing the outbreak, by sticking to the social distancing regulations even if that causes us a lot of emotional pain.
Loving Lord, please help us to support those around us who are in the grip of confusion over the unexpected loss of loved ones during this time of separation. Give us the strength to endure our continuing isolation from the touch of our loved ones. Protect those who care for the sick and those who continue to work, providing us with essential services. Amen
Sent with love and prayers