You have the patience of Job. That is something I say to Bill several times a week, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Don’t get me wrong. In many ways he truly does. When he’s working on a DIY project, he has incredible patience. If he drops a screw, he picks it up. If he drops it again, he picks it up again. I swear, he doesn’t even swear! That’s just WRONG. But in other ways – particularly when it comes to driving – he lacks patience. He can’t follow someone. He wouldn’t dream of getting behind a car at a light if the other lane is empty – even if his next turn is coming right up. “Turbo, don’t fail me now,” he says as he roars past the car when the light turns green.
I thought about Job at Mass yesterday because the first reading was from the Book of Job. Job, of course, is the Bible book that everyone cites when believers and nonbelievers alike say, “Why does God do bad things to good people.” They point to that because Job experienced trial after trial after trial, and despite his difficulties, still praised God. Still knew that God loved him.
The Book of Job, I fear, provides faint comfort to someone who is going through a difficult period. Still, what I started thinking about during our priest’s homily (because I’m afraid I can’t understand a word he says because of his strong accent) is that it is easy to believe in God when everything is going your way. It is much more difficult to believe in God when your life starts heading south.
Some years back, a friend went through a very difficult time. She is a cradle Catholic, but she began to doubt even the existence of God because she couldn’t understand why she – undeniably a good person – had to bear these particular burdens.
I’m afraid I wasn’t much help. I tried the whole Book of Job thing, but it didn’t really give her much consolation. At the end of the day, it’s hard to understand why we have to face difficult trials. But here’s what I believe. God puts us on earth, and then earth stuff happens. Chemicals cause disease. Smoking causes cancer. Cars are involved in accidents. Here’s what else I believe. God does not sit up in his golden throne and decide that this person will be blessed with riches and this person will suffer from Parkinson’s disease. But he will be there with us when we suffer.
We will never know or understand God’s plan while on this earth. Sometimes after going through a difficult time, you look back and see that if you hadn’t had those experiences, you wouldn’t be where you are today. It goes without saying that is little or no consolation to someone who loses a child to cancer. But you have to believe that God has a reason for even that, though we don’t understand it today. The mysteries of God.
Speaking of God’s mysteries, I’ve been hooked on the television series A.D.: The Bible Continues. I laughed out loud at one scene when Peter sat down with Paul after Paul’s conversion in order to be convinced that his loyalty to the Christians was genuine. After some animated discussion, Paul manages to convince Peter that he is genuine, and points out to Peter that Jesus’ main message was love and forgiveness. Therefore, professes Paul, you should love and forgive me. Peter finally admits to the truth of what Paul is saying, though he does it through gritted teeth. After Paul leaves, Peter says to his buddy John something like, “I guess what he says is true and I have to trust that Jesus sent him to deliver His message to nonbelievers.” And then Peter looks up to the sky and says, “But why him?”
Another mystery of God.
My brother told me recently that when he prays, he rarely asks for a specific thing. Instead he asks God to give him (or the person for whom he is praying) patience and knowledge and courage to accept God’s will. There’s that whole God’s will thing again with which I’ve yet to come to grips.
But I keep trying, just like Job.