Summary: Job struggles with his mortality. He blames God for his suffering, yet speaks of God's faithfulness.
Job 14:7-15, 19:23-27 “Hope in the Midst of Suffering”
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Paul is certainly correct. Life without love is not life. However, life without hope isn’t much better. Hope, like love, is a vital ingredient to an abundant life. Certainly Job discovered this in his grief and suffering.
When we read Job’s ponderings on hope, we have the opportunity to reflect how hope is a part of our lives and consider how hope might become a more powerful force in our lives.
Sometimes our hope is not hope at all, but rather wishful thinking.
When the lottery gets to be over $300 million, many of us purchase a ticket and hope that we will have the lucky numbers. With our hope we begin to imagine what we would do if we actually won the lottery. I’m am appreciative and humbled by the number of people who have come up to be, at various times, and told me that if they win the lottery we’d have our worship community center on our land.
Wishful thinking is a weak imitation of hope. It is usually self-centered and focused on security, wealth, fame or excitement.
HAVE IT OUR WAY
The author of Hebrews writes that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). Most Biblical commentators agree that this is faith/trust in God’s steadfast love and overwhelming grace. Such a hopeful faith molds our lives as disciples of Jesus.
Often we use this verse to validate our desire to have God do what we want God to do. We might not have the job we want, so we pray that God will give us the job of our dreams. We tell ourselves and others that though we don’t have our dream job yet, we have the hope and faith that God will give it to us. Perhaps we have a loved one who is critically ill. We pray that God will heal that person and bring him or her back to health and wholeness.
God welcomes our prayers on behalf of others and ourselves. Certainly, it is good to hope that God will answer our prayers, too. This type of hope, though, tends to limit God. If God doesn’t do what we hope God will do, we begin to think that God has failed. There is another type of hope.
Job proclaims his hope after the onslaught of accusations by his friends. Defiantly Job says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 199:25-26).
This verse in Job has been linked to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus by Christians for centuries. It is one of the major parts of Handel’s “Messiah,” and a part of our Easter liturgy and our funeral liturgy. It is doubtful, though, that Job had Jesus in mind when he uttered these words hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth. Still it is a great proclamation of hope.