I wrote this in March 2005, just 2 years ago.
Today I was thinking about the book of Job again, after doing other things , some of them a million miles away from that place I used to be.
And I thought that the poetry of the book of Job may still have a place in my understanding of suffering.
The story is simple.
The devil is wandering around the world and gets a bit peeved to see good old Job happily worshipping and praising the Lord.
"I bet if he lost everything" said the devil to God, "he'd curse you."
So God, being a fair sort of chap, allows the devil to carry out an uncontrolled n=1 experiment on Job (not really having taken on board that such a thing cannot be extrapolated and really should be regarded as anecdotal evidence.)
He kills off Job's family, lets him lose everything, but doesn't yet touch Job's person.
And Job is annoyingly placcid in all this.
A line that often used to come to my head in times of loss is uttered...
"The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord."
So the devil is allowed by God to up the ante.
He touches Job's person.
Boils cover him and he is reduced to sitting alone, wondering why, as I often did. Why has God allowed this? What could I have done to deserve it? What part of his plan is this suffering?
His friends come along and suggest possible hypotheses but it is not until the end when God speaks to Job that we get some hint to what the true meaning of suffering is....
And the answer?
That there is no intrinsic meaning in it.
There are no whys to be answered in the sense that I spent so long asking- "Why me? Why Julia? Why Tom?" Now before, when I believed, I did have my answer from God and it was "Trust" but now God has gone, I think my answer has to be the annoying one I like to give four year olds who continually ask why.
Suffering happens because life happens. It is just part of it, not to be avoided, but that exists.
In a way, that knowledge brings more peace than the "Trust!" answer did- a peace that religion cannot bring. Religion brings with it questions about judgement and punishment that I could never be fully at peace with. A world without a capricious judging fickle creator somehow allows a more peaceful co-existance with the rest of it, at least for me.
Maybe I'm odd, but even yesterday, as I sat and listened to the sermon about how peace cannot be given by the world, I felt more at peace now than I did that two years ago when I wrote that first entry...
Even as I venture further into unknown territory.
Maybe just the calm before the storm.
We shall see.....