stretched to the breaking point

In our circles we often talk about God stretching us to make us grow. Maybe Job is a good case in point, from the biblical text. He is stretched all right, but the text does not really say to make him grow. He is stretched well beyond the breaking point, and ramps up his protest among naysayers, who think he is being punished for good reason. Until God finally speaks, after which Job repents in dust and ashes, with the knowledge that he certainly neither understood what he was talking about, nor did he begin to understand the One of whom he spoke and to whom he protested.

Just look at life if one doesn’t think people are stretched to the breaking point and well beyond. Children dying, spouses or significant others, as well. One’s own health shattered. The world full of injustice. Take a glance at the brutal injustice that marks certain places in our world. The systemic injustice at home. Is it any wonder that many of us feel like we’re stretched beyond our own capability to endure? And some of us in our makeup seem more prone to absorb the pain and suffering around us, as we more readily take it in, in ways sometimes that don’t seem altogether healthy and helpful.

In Job’s case in the end, he has a new appreciation of God and surely is not the same person. So evidently we might say there was room for growth in his case, even though God in the beginning of the book called him blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. Maybe what I’m grappling with here is something of a Job like protest against the regular folly of injustice and rounds of futility which seem to mark this present existence. Not that I’m never a part of the problem, but oftentimes in my thinking I am not. Not unlike Job, then.

I don’t like easy answers. Did Job get an easy answer from God, like A, B and C? No. It was more like a revelation of God in creation, one that struck Job at the time. A revelation which settled Job without specifically answering his questions or solving the problem of evil. I would imagine that later on Job had to look back and live out a good share of his experience by faith. Yes, God blessed Job in the end, but Job could never be the same, even though the wisdom story tells us that he was blessed again with seven sons and three daughters- the most beautiful of the land. They were a blessing, but could not replace the seven sons and three daughters he had before, since those children would always be missing. And he was made even more wealthy than before.

And so I accept in this life that in some sense life is always going to be a pressure of breaking us beyond our own capability to endure. Not that God won’t be with us. And that we need God’s revelation to us of himself. I dislike intensely being subject to some of the struggles I seem subject to, but I find that they do indeed become something of growth for me, or of better appreciating and being open to the revelation of God which is fully given to us now in Jesus Christ. Somehow, something of wisdom for us in this life. As we await the end of this struggle.