Day 16: The Suffering of Job
Genesis 31:1-55 Jacob fled from the unfair Laban with his family and flock, but Laban caught up with them. After some discussion, they formed a NEW COVENANT between themselves; this pact was formed under God’s watchful eye shown by the fact that God had spoken to Laban the night before and urged leniency toward Jacob. Household gods: These were small statues of pagan gods, which provide evidence of pagan practices in Laban’s household. Rachel’s theft indicates her own attachment to these idols. (CCC 57, 2110-2117)
Ch 31:53 Fear: A translation of the word Jacob used to refer to God, indicating his power and majesty. Jacob had a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with God demonstrated by his familiar way of speaking. The phrases “God of Abraham” or “God of Isaac” reflect a personal bond with God rather than a distant and aloof connection. “Fear of the Lord” is called for in the Commandments and is also one of the GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. (CCC 1845)
Ch 32:25-31 On the evening before his planned confrontation with his brother Esau, Jacob wrestled throughout the night with a mysterious being, overpowering him and exacting a blessing from him before he departed. The mysterious person who took the liberty of changing Jacob’s name, and at the same time, refused to state his name, is God or God’s special messenger. Jacob’s new name, Israel, would become the name by which the people of God would be known. The Church has traditionally seen this episode as symbolic of our struggles to persevere and remain faithful to prayer as an indispensable way to overcome temptation and grow in sanctity. (CCC 409, 2573, 2592, 2725, 2752)
Job 22:1-10 Eliphaz accused Job of all kinds of treachery, especially the exploitation of others. He made a rash judgement about Job: that he believed God did not care about a person’s sinful actions. Eliphaz again urged Job to repent since he thought God rewards or punishes each person to his or her deeds. It is only by God’s grace accompanied by good actions that we are able to express faith in and love for God. (CCC 682, 1821, 2005, 2009)
Ch 22:27 Through CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER aided by the Holy Spirit, we can meditate on the mystery of God. If we are faithful to moral law and display a strong trust and a humble desire to do God’s will, we can be assured that God hears our prayers. (CCC 2598)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Key Event 12: Jacob Wrestles with God (Genesis 32:22-31)
Just before he reunites with his brother Esau, from whom he had stolen the blessing, Jacob “wrestles” with God, a pivotal moment in his journey. Here, Jacob receives the name ISRAEL, which means “to wrestle with God.” This is also the name of the nation that will come forth from his twelve sons.
Father Mike did not go over what happened in Genesis 31-32 today, so I take the liberty of explaining:
Jacob stays with his uncle Laban for some time, but finally decides it is time to return home, back to the Promised Land.
The Lord allows Jacob to prosper in the land of Haran, and he leaves that land enriched.
As Jacob and his family near the Promised Land (Gn 32), Jacob sends messengers to Esau asking that he might find favor in Esau’s sight, hopeful that the twenty years that have passed have lessened Esau’s wrath.
The messengers return to Jacob, reporting that Esau is coming to meet him with four hundred men.
Is this a welcome party or an army?
Fearing for his life and that of his family, Jacob cries out to the Lord (Gn 32:9-12).
This time, however, rather than making a conditional request, Jacob begins by recalling God’s promises, faithfulness, and steadfast love, and Jacob’s own unworthiness!
This deceiver has begun to turn away from his old ways (REPENTING)!
That night, Jacob meets a strange man and wrestles with him through the night.
Jacob asks for a blessing and receives it.
The man changes Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “he who strives [wrestles] with God” (Gn 32:28).
Jacob’s new name will become the name of the nation formed by the tribes of his twelve sons, a nation that will do its own wrestling with God.
The strange man then gives Jacob the blessing—this time not stolen, but requested and received (Gn 32:26, 29).
The lesson for Jacob is that he did not have to steal the blessing from Esau.
Here, he asks, and God blesses him, and Jacob can say, “I have seen God face to face” (Gn 32:30).
This remarkable encounter in which Jacob sees the face of God is the key to the next day’s events.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
Job’s buddy Eliphaz has a common understanding of the role of suffering, the role of tragedy that has come upon Job
One of the reasons for suffering is because we reap what we sow
If we sow in the vineyard of affliction, we will reap God’s wrath
If we sow sin, then we reap the consequences of sin
Eliphaz tells Job that he needs to repent, and once he repents then God will be with him and hear his prayer
The things we believe almost always have an element of truth to them, which is why they are so convincing
These things are not FULLY true, but they are PARTIALLY true
The role of suffering is the consequence of our own bad decisions
The role of suffering is sometimes the consequence of someone else’s bad decisions
Sometimes God ALLOWS us to suffer in order to WAKE US UP
Sometimes God ALLOWS us to suffer in order for us to REPENT
God will not necessarily spare our lives or our goals, or dreams, or hopes so that WE CAN GET OUR SOUL
One of the fruits of suffering can be REPENTANCE
One of the fruits of suffering can be something God uses to teach us deeper wisdom about life that we could never ever learn outside of suffering
These are not the only truths, however
Job was righteous and wise
People went to him for advice
Now, kids won’t even listen to him
Job did not experience suffering because of something that he had done
His friends are making a convincing argument
But the truth is, Job was NOT GUILTY
This means something else is at work right now in Job’s life
Sometimes, offering people platitudes can often be INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS
The best thing Job’s friends did for him was in the beginning of his suffering they sat with him in SILENCE for 7 days
Job’s friends are much like us as friends and sometimes we just need to sit down and shut up and just be there with our friends who suffer
We want to help and sometimes we feel like we need to give an answer
Sometimes we get tired of being with someone in their grief and we just want to talk our way out of it
Sometimes THERE IS NO ANSWER
Sometimes the answer is something we cannot offer
Sometimes the answer is something that can only come from GOD HIMSELF
Each one of us is in the fight for our lives
Let’s hold each other up in prayer
Prayer by Fr. Mike: "God in Heaven, we know that you love us. You love us in our brokenness and in our weakness and we can trust you, even when we do not understand what you are doing. Help us to trust you this day as we journey with you, as we live this day in your presence, as we live this day in your will. We make this prayer in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."