Gratitude in the Midst of Trial

Job answered the LORD and said:

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.
I have dealt with great things that I do not understand;
things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.
I had heard of you by word of mouth,
but now my eye has seen you.
Therefore I disown what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes.

Thus the LORD blessed the latter days of Job
more than his earlier ones.
For he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels,
a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses.
And he had seven sons and three daughters,
of whom he called the first Jemimah,
the second Keziah, and the third Kerenhappuch.
In all the land no other women were as beautiful
as the daughters of Job;
and their father gave them an inheritance
along with their brothers.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years;
and he saw his children, his grandchildren,
and even his great-grandchildren.
Then Job died, old and full of years.
(Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17)   

Scripture Study

The prose epilogue describes Job’s remarkable rehabilitation. He is indeed appreciated as a wise man, for he spoke rightly, and as a good person, who will successfully intercede on behalf of his opponents. This passage, almost certainly, must (like the prologue) have been part of the original text; prologue and epilogue are closely interconnected and have literary features in common. Some commentators have suggested that this happy ending does not fit in well with the message in the book, because it seems to confirm the idea that good people enjoy success and wrongdoers do not. But that is not really the point. The epilogue displays the mercy of God who, as supreme judge, desires that all should be saved; Job, in his case, has found salvation through suffering.

A number of small details help us to see why the book is given this ending: it contains no mention of Satan, perhaps because his presence was irrelevant to the question posed in the book. Eliphaz and his friends, who thought that they were speaking on God’s side, now have to admit they were wrong: they have not “spoken what is right” (vv. 7–8); they must turn to the Lord; that is the only way to discover the truth. Finally, Job is comforted and accepted by all his relatives and friends (vv. 10–11), and is blessed by God with children, wealth and a long life (vv. 12–17). So, God does not conform to the way human beings see things; they, rather, must respect what he does and conform to his wishes.[1]

Reflection

“Trouble is not the only thing that teaches us to pray”

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

“A surge of the heart”—that is how St. Thérèse, whom the Holy Father presented to us as a Doctor of the Church on October 19, 1997, describes the “source of prayer”: the heart. “In naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times).… It is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain” (CCC 2562).

How does the heart manage to “surge”? A folk saying puts it this way: “Trouble teaches us to pray.” And so it often does. How many prayers—in our churches, at places of pilgrimage, or wherever—ascend to God from the depths of distress! “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps 130:1–2).

But trouble alone does not necessarily teach us to pray. It can also lead to a hardening of the heart. Only that trouble which helps us to recognize and accept the fact that we need God leads us to prayer. Once we recognize, or at least begin to suspect, that we are beggars before God (CCC 2559), that in and of ourselves we are feeble and helpless, then our heart becomes open to prayer. As long as we think that we “don’t need God” and have everything under control, our heart is closed.

Does that mean that God wants to make us as small as possible, so as to be the great God himself? Is God pleased to see us in misery? Does God want to see us as slaves, oppressed and powerless?

God does not want to “take us down a peg”; in fact, he wants to give us everything, especially himself. He knocks on our door and asks to be admitted (cf. Rev 3:20). Just as Jesus asked the woman at Jacob’s well, “Give me a drink” (Jn 4:7), so too he asks us for our heart. He knocks at the door of every human being; he asks each one to let him in. Often it takes the experience of some trouble in order for us to hear God knocking. Does God therefore want us to be in trouble? Should we not rather say: He allows it but does not abandon us to it? Yes, this is what many have experienced: Trouble taught them to pray (again). In their trouble they found God (again). Thus trouble became a blessing. And gratitude rises up in the midst of trial and in the midst of joy.[2]

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Michael Adams, tran., Wisdom Books, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishing, 2004), 153.

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2d ed., revised in accordance with the official Latin text (1997)

[2] Christoph Schönborn, Living the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Paths of Prayer, trans. Michael J. Miller, vol. 4 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 15–17.