As we’ve seen over the last few weeks, the Book of Job is a bit of an enigma – or maybe we could say that it renders life as an enigma. Part of what makes us human is the quest for meaning. Whenever we pick up on something being meaningless, it’s like we short circuit. “It must have meaning somewhere,” sounds the voice deep inside us.
This is especially true when it comes to suffering, death, and loss – and this is exactly where the Book of Job takes us in this search for meaning. But, in the end, if all we are looking for is meaning, at the end of the book we’re left waiting at the altar by ourselves.
The end of the book does have some resolution, though. Job gets back everything he lost, and then some. He even gets children. New children. Good looking children.
And here’s the thing… after forty-two chapters, we might be ready to accept that everyone lived happily-ever-after, and move on with our lives. But, look a little closer…
He lost all of his sons and daughters to horrific disasters. Would getting “new ones” be any consolation whatsoever?!
I mean, these new kids might be lovely. They might be smart, and humble, and easy on the eyes. They might have great temperaments, and truly admirable outlooks on life. He might have been able to develop very meaningful relationships with each of them.
But, wouldn’t there be a hole in his heart for each and every one of the children who he lost? Wouldn’t he go to bed with tears in his eyes every night thinking of them, their smiles, their idiosyncrasies, and the joyous times they shared? Wouldn’t their names be written on his heart for the rest of his days?
And, in this light, we might take a second look at Job being compensated double for all the property he lost. I mean, yes, that’s lovely – and wouldn’t it be nice if this was the norm for all of us when we suffer some calamity. But, none of these newfound riches would erase the experience of that one horrible day. That sitting down in the ashes of his former life. The sinking feeling of loss, dread, confusion, anger, and helplessness.
That trauma can’t be healed by the magical appearance of new stuff. Trauma like that takes a lifetime to work through.
Scholars think that this ending was added much later to give the book a little resolution. And, if a “little resolution” is all your looking for, then that’s maybe all we get. But, all the questions that we came to the book to begin with are still bouncing around in our head, left wanting for answers.
And isn’t that the answer? We can try and plaster quick-and-easy solutions over our experiences of pain and loss, but the pain and loss is still there. And so is God.
In this sense, perhaps Job’s initial words to his wife on the Terrible Day are the real point of the book after all: The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.