Without a doubt, the African-American students in the class said that Job's story is about our faithfulness and God's reward because of that faithfulness. It seemed like a reasonable answer and it was what I had always been taught growing up in the church. "If you just hold on like Job," the minister would holler from the pulpit, "God will bless you just like Job." At the center of the Job story for many African-Americans was this idea that everybody has a cross to bear, but if you just hold on God will bless you in the end.
But in the face of what I call Gold Card Christianity, (Name it and Claim it) New Age thinking, Prosperity Ministry, have we taken this way to far? I mean I hear so many half quoted, out of context scriptures and positive thinking quotes I sometimes want to scream.
You know how they go: Ask and you shall receive; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy is coming in the morning. I even heard Joel Osteen say the other day,"Famine first, then favor. So just tell yourself, everything is going to be alright." So is he saying that God will only bless me if I have hardship first? These off the cuff quotes sometimes wrapped in creative sermons go on. "Without a test there is no testimony." But, I'm confused, isn't waking up in the morning without any adversity a testimony too? Is a testimony only rooted in suffering? Sometimes when I hear these quote, I have mixed emotions.
But then it is also true, sometimes bad things happen to good people and it makes no sense. A young woman loose her baby. A family is hit with cancer hard in one year. Kids are born with HIV to mothers with HIV that didn't do all that she should have done to prevent it. Why should that child pay for that mother's choices?
Yes, it's hard. But how people deal with other people's tragic situations is not always in the best of ways. I can't image someone would think it's comforting to tell a young woman who just lost of child that she is still young enough to have another child. How do we make sense of it all, when one day you have a child and the next day you don't? Is it a greater testimony to say I lost my child but God kept my uterus in tact so I can have another child, or to say that my child was born healthy and lived a long life?
Or when I shit on myself in public and have to wash up in a cold toilet in an ice cream parlor, that this humiliation had to happen because God wants to use me for a great work. How does that take away my pain and humiliation at that moment? How does that make me feel good about myself, or even God. Isn't God loving? Why would He want to break my spirit to build me back up? Wouldn't He want to build on an already strong spirit, build on the greatness of the creation He has already made?
All these questions are good ones and equally as good as God's word. But do we take God's word out of context to help explain the unexplainable? To help us understand the complexity of suffering? Or is it the easy way out, the easiest thing to say in a difficult situation? But why not just say, "I'm sorry, baby, that this has happened to you, can I give you a hug?" Why try to explain it?
All we can do is be accountable to ourselves. Job's faithfulness was about his relationship with God, not so much what God will do, but what we should do. And in the end, it may work out to our advantage, but it may not. I often wonder what we would have thought of God if Job continued his course and there was no blessing at the end? Is a blessing required because we love God and are faithful to His word?
It's all so complicated. And honestly, I don't have answers. I know for sure that there is suffering in this world. And I know for sure, it does not always work out the way we want it to. And I know for sure that sometimes a goodness happens out of a bad situation that we could never explain no matter how hard we may try.
Yes, slaves took the Bible and made it their own. The Israelites were our shinning example of God's deliverance. But what we fail to remember is that after liberation from bondage they wondered in the wilderness for 40 long years. They made the best out of a bad situation. They didn't always have the answers and sometimes they just lamented.
It seems shallow and insensitive to me, to throw around all these saying in such a way that they are supposed to have some sort of magic for us. That I can will my hunger away when I have no food or money to buy food. Or I can find joy in the fact that I had to wash my panties in a toilet of an ice cream parlor.
How often have I been told, "Girl, just remain faithful, like the three Hebrew boys and you will come out of the furnace and won't even smell like smoke." HUH? For Real? is what I really want to say to people. But in the end, I understand that story very well. Yes, the Hebrew boys were delivered from the furnace, but they still stayed in bondage right there in Babylon. What a contradiction. Awww, go on, search the Bible all night long to see if I'm telling the truth. God lifted them up in their bondage, but they were still in bondage nonetheless. I've thought about suffering a lot, and in the end, I cannot make sense of what seems senseless.