Friday, September 6, 2019

Job, the Problem of Evil, and Gleaning

Sometimes I think about Job. His life is a difficult one to process. It’s hard to imagine being in the middle of a divine tug-of-war. I don’t know what it all means or really how the Church in Her great wisdom has chosen to come to terms with it or explain it to Her children. This is strange given that I should. I think about him often enough that I really should have looked this up. But I haven’t. So I just think about him in an abstract way. No matter what I have lost, he lost more, and he deserved it less than me or pretty much anyone else. He still lost it. I still lose. It’s not a matter of being a good person or loving God enough. We still lose.

We lose all manner of things. We lose our tempers, our keys, socks, storage container lids, jobs, and even love. The tiny things can feel enormously burdensome because they seem to pile up on top of the greater things. In the end, the sense of loss can be pervasive. We both want to wallow in the loss but are also ashamed of that desire.

I can be nearly despondent over misplacing one of my shoes and even be reduced to tears. Then I find myself thinking of an acquaintance whose son drowned some years back. I both want to embrace my loss and hide from it at the same time because the loss of others is greater. I don’t know how to think about my loss, either the great or the small. I actually grit my teeth when people talk about smaller losses when they find out about my greatest. I struggle to forgive them because I am petty.

Maybe the answer lies in not what we have lost but what remains and what God gives back over to us. I have to think that is why we know that Job received so much back from God. What was taken and what was given had nothing to do with Job and his worthiness nor did it have anything to do with the worthiness of others. It was always a gift that was freely given. Gifts should be received with gratitude. I don’t know about anyone else but I am seldom as grateful as I should be.

Gratitude is what I need more of and it is what I see in the story of Job. I can be grateful for the other shoes I have so that losing one is not actually a problem. I can be grateful for the gift that is my children without insinuating anything about the woman who lost hers. I can even be grateful for her witness of profound love for her child. Her child is worth grieving over and over and again and again. We should all be so loved that we are so missed. I can be grateful that others trust their grief to me instead of being small and petty.

In being grateful and gracious, we are supposed to leave some of the produce in the fields for the poor. It is not our generosity but the generosity of God that gives these things over to others; we merely respect this. Or at least, we should. Often we do not even do this. We soak up all the goodness and horde it, weeping for what is lost when our cup runneth over. My inability to be grateful for what God has left for me is the same stoniness that causes me to harvest my blessings too carefully.

Sometimes I think about Job. I think about how he teaches me both to glean and to leave something for the gleaners.


  1. So many great thoughts in the small space of this post. I can particularly relate to the power of the missing shoe (substitute any other small thing here) to trash a good day, derail the spiritual compass, and drain the emotional resiliency we all need to deal with such things.
    Your thoughts on the gleaners dovetail with something I read last night in Abouna Moses' essay about harvesting ramps, and the necessity of leaving some to seed next year's crop. Too often many of us take everything we can, without regard to the needs of others. Better to remind ourselves that Job's faith and patience did pay off, and that God will continue to bless us with what we truly need.
    Thank you for the wise words.

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