Whether we realize it or not, we do indeed all thirst for an unseen something. The challenge is figuring out what that “wholly other” something is. My sense, though, is that this thirst in our soul is not anything that can be rationally or intellectually satisfied.
And that is what I think the story of Job is about. All his life, Job’s faith had been a rational one, a doctrinal adherence. He believed and trusted that, if he were righteous, God would bless him and protect him. This was a kind of bargain, and Job was a good man who was faithful in his bargains.
So, imagine Job’s surprise when his fortunes turned and divine providence appeared to have abandoned him. He was indignant. God was in default! Job might not be perfect, as Elihu reminded him, but he had been sincerely righteous enough to hold up his side of the deal. He felt cheated and angry. How was it possible that he was suffering so? His friends’ theological speculations continued on and on, as such arguments always do. These stalwart believers examined and analyzed the disaster from every angle—what Job should have done or didn’t do or should be doing. But poor Job just kept on suffering.
We’ve all been in his predicament, feeling abandoned by God’s providence and not understanding why. At least I know I have. And, at that point, Bible study and religious practice just don’t help. That’s because true solace doesn’t come in this world’s rational or logical answers, even religious ones. During times of pain and suffering, these are just “words without knowledge” (Job 38:2). For me, and I think for Job as well, the lasting comfort and relief came from the only place it could, God.
In chapter 38 of Job’s narrative, something remarkable happened to the poor suffering man. After all of Job’s reasoning about the Lord, that very Lord appeared to him. And it was in this non-rational, “sheer absolute wondrousness” of the living God’s existence and presence that Job found “an inward relaxing of his soul’s anguish” (Rudolf Otto 78-79). In such moments, our proud protests and fear-filled frustrations turn to ashes, ashes. We experience the mystery of the Lord’s presence and that is enough. Our soul is satisfied. (Living Large 2013)