"I cannot see him..."

I was thinking about Job this morning. Not that I compare my current problems with his; I've just been frustrated by the good advice that people have felt compelled to give me. And I still feel bad, in the dark, confused, irritable.

That's what reminded me of Job, my bad mood. Everyone seems to think Job was such a patient sufferer, I guess because they usually read just the first and last parts of the (very long) book of Job, and everyone remembers his words, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." But that's not a very good example of Job's attitude. For most of the next thirty chapters, Job complains. Bitterly. He wishes he had died at birth. He says God is treating him as an enemy.

And people know that Job's three friends aren't helpful, but who actually reads what they say? Basically the three defend God against Job's complaints. They say God is just. They say Job is wrong to criticise God and must have done something wrong that God is correcting. There's not much really wrong with what they say, except they assume Job has done more wrong than he actually has.

But their saying how good and just God is doesn't comfort Job much. Because he's not experiencing this justice and goodness.

I think that's what really sets Job apart. Not his theology—he basically believes the same as his friends, he just knows he didn't do what they think he did. I think the difference is in his hunger to see God. Job will not be satisfied with words; he wants to know where God is, he wants to experience the God he knows.

We hear this especially clearly in his complaint in Job 23:

"Today also my complaint is bitter, [God's] hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me...

"Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand I seek him, but I cannot behold him; I turn to the right hand, but I cannot see him...

"My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.

"But he is unchangeable and who can turn him? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind.

"Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; for I am hemmed in by darkness, and thick darkness covers my face."

In the end God does answer him. And Job's complaints are silenced and he falls down and repents of his ignorant presumption.

But he got what he begged for. God spoke to him. God made his presence known. And despite Job's impatience and rash demands, God commends him and gives him more than he had before—telling Job's friends that they'd better hope Job prays for mercy for them.

Could it be that the passionate hunger for God's presence is more important than saying the right things about God? If so, Job's complaints make more sense than any patient defense of God's goodness.

What was Jesus' response when God seemed to have abandoned him?