Pastoral theologian, Frederick Buechner described what God said to Job about suffering and calamity, “You don’t want to know why things happen. You want to know that I love you.”
Job, one of the books in the Bible, describes the story of a man who lost everything but his life, and after losing everything else, he wished he lost his life too. Job lost his wealth, his family, his friends and his health. Left utterly and completely alone, he wanted to go nose to nose, toe to toe with God and ask, why? Why did you allow this to happen to me?
Can you blame Job. Who wouldn’t? I haven’t lost as much as Job, and I have look God straight in the eyes and asked, why?
At some level, all of creation is in a Job moment. Disasters, poverty, racism, a pandemic have brought the world to a common experience – tragedy and loss. We have lost family, friends, time, identity, health, trust, jobs, time with people, innocence, confidence, and the list goes on. It is not just what an individual has lost, but the community – family, church, social relationships, school, the neighborhood. People in our networks are all experiencing similar loss. Collectively, we most likely have never globally and collectively known such loss, tragedy, fear for such a sustained period of time.
You would think people would lose faith, belief in God. Nope. A recent Pew study found that people’s faith at this moment has not changed because of the pandemic.
We cling to the Advent/Christmas story in which God said, I love you. This faith, this love, this hope does not come easily. It is hard fought. Just ask Job, or your friend who just lost their mother, or the parents who have been at their wits end working, engaging children in online learning and struggling with not enough room in the house to find a quiet space for an important Zoom meeting.
It’s hard, and yet, it is worth fighting for because God fought for us, a love greater than we could have imagined, that came as a whisper in the birth of a child.
This Avent/Christmas season, don’t forget in the midst of the tragedy and challenges, you are loved. And don’t forget to love someone else. It may be their only means to know that they too are loved by God.
Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas.