"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" Job 38.4
The Book of Job in the Old Testament can be approached as a treatise on undeserved suffering. But rather than offering us a conclusive answer, it presents an alternative perspective. Job's misery is transported into a larger context and is thereby transfigured. God may not be giving away all his secrets but he is reassuring Job - and all who suffer - that he is in control, that there is meaning and purpose in everything that he allows and that the best thing we can do is to hold fast in trusting God - like Job.
We have been blessed with pristine winter weather here: clear skies, snowy mountains, light winds and bracing temperatures. And we can walk all day through this majestic landscape without encountering another human soul. And then, through the wonders of technology, we can pick up with friends and be entertained.
At the Breakish Folk Club last night a couple of us shared poems we had recently composed. In one we were reminded that the idyll described above is not everyone's experience of lockdown. The loneliness of a self-isolating old person in the middle of a bustling city tugs at our heart-strings, as does the anguish of a young family holed-up in a high-rise flat. Different contexts, different experiences. God may still be in control but how do we make sense of it? What is a compassionate human response?
In his letter to the church in Ephesus (4.2), the apostle Paul urges: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Being a neighbour begins by recognising the different contexts we occupy. It challenges us to stand and walk in others' shoes. It puts love at the centre of our relationships, whose perfect expression is God, who holds everything together, who may not reveal all his secrets but who really does have all the answers. So we invest our trust and our hopes in him and commend into his wise and loving care all for whom we are concerned...