Job and the Mystery of Suffering: Spiritual Reflections by Richard Rohr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have always been somewhat perplexed by the Book of Job. The theology seemed a little odd in the way God gives Satan free reign to mess with this guy, and things just go down hill from there. Rohr breaks down the book in a very readable and pointed way, and I really appreciated his interpretations and take-aways.
"Can a human being love God for nothing?" is the question that "sets the whole drama in motion". Rohr begins at the beginning of the book. Job goes through immense suffering, and his friends come to give him some advice.
"There is no correlation between sin and suffering, between virtue and reward. That logic is hard for us to break . . . the three and eventually four friends of Job are intent on preserving their notion of God, their notion of job, and their notion of justice at all costs. As I see it, they perfectly represent the most common masquerades for true Biblical faith: ideology, orthodoxy, conventional wisdom, and heroic idealism . . . the difference between Job and his advisers is that they want and demand clarity and order from the universe. They want to foresee what God will do. Job wants to see God. They want to preserve a world of correct and coherent ideas. Job wants to preserve his relationship with God, even if its means his "littlement." (p. 33-34)
I love Rohr's breakdown of the different perspectives offered by Job's friends. It is easy to see my own weaknesses and philosophies mingled with the comfortable doctrine presented. A big theme I noticed that Rohr emphasized was the idea that by blessing humanity with moral agency, God allows himself to not be in full control of everything.
"When Jesus sat looking down on Jerusalem and crying over it, the last thing he needes was a pious soul to run up to him and say, "Now, Jesus, don't cry. It's all in God's perfect plan. In fact, it's even prophesied in the scriptures." No. Let Jesus cry. Crying is a different mode entirely than fixing, explaining, or controlling. We need to cry more, I think . . . God remains in love and therefore out of the control mode. When we are not in love, we are invariably trying to control everything --it's a good litmus test." (p. 60)
Indeed, letting go of control seems to be the crux of true faith. "Faith is having the security of being insecure" (p. 74). This reminds me of some very powerful principals of Taoism. Letting go can be more powerful than taking charge. Simplicity is more elegant and useful than complexity. Along those lines comes the idea that our desires are ever present and molding our character.
"Job is being led beyond ideas and concepts to mere desire. He has been simplified by suffering, which is what suffering always does. He is reduced to pure desire. What we desire enough is likely what we are likely to get. The all-important thing is to desire, and desire deeply What we desire is what we become. What we have already desired is who we are right now. We must ask God to fill us with the right desire." (p. 123).
The quote above sounds like it could easily have come from Elder Richard G. Scott or Dallin H Oaks! I love it. A big thing Rohr talks about is the importance of realizing that the world and our own lives are not about us. Once we really know who we are and understand our divine identity, THEN we can really begin the journey of coming to know and love God. We must come to terms with our own fallen nature, and accept our weaknesses with integrity.
The conclusion of the book deserves more of my time and reflection. I am not sure how much I agree or even understand what Rohr is taking from this but I do feel like the general idea is aligned with how I feel about Job's story.
"God doesn't formally answer a single one of Job's complaints. Only God could get away with this. All God does is offer a radically new perspective which makes the answers unnecessary. God invites Job into a warm and personal encounter with himself." (p. 149)
Back to the original point, there doesn't have to be reasons for everything. God is not a behaviorist! He lets it rain on the good and the bad. Sometimes horrible things happen, but what is the most important is our learning God and His nature. "To see and be seen. That's all any of us desire."
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I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.