One of the most obvious facts about life for many people is that life is not easy. Sometimes it is often quite difficult and sometimes for some people almost impossible. One such person is Job which we read about in the first reading of our Mass. When first he appears on the biblical page, he was a man of most fortunate circumstances – good health, great wealth, a loving family and the esteem of his friends and neighbours. Then one day the winds of fortune suddenly changed and Job’s circumstances underwent a drastic change. Marauders stole his animals and slaughtered most of his servants, a blinding storm killed all of his children, his health failed, as is often the case in times of distress. In the midst of all this, his wife in her despair suggested that the best thing he could do was “curse God and die”.
Most of us cannot match Job’s story of suffering. We have never known what it is to lose virtually everything to one swift stroke of cruel fate. Most of us have gone through days when a sense of hopelessness was our constant companion. The plain truth is that life is hard and sometimes gets us down. Job’s story is sometimes our story as well.
Part of his problem was financial. Poverty is a difficult thing especially for those who were once wealthy. Many people today find themselves in a similar circumstance to Job. Through no fault of their own they lose their jobs, the pay cheques stop and the bills keep coming. Every day has become a struggle for economic survival. Then there are those who have never known anything but poverty. They were born in it and have lived in it all their lives. To be poor is one of the most debilitating experiences that can befall on anyone.
Another part of Job’s problem was the loss of loved ones. All of his children had died in one storm. Death is always an occasion of sorrow and the only people who can comprehend that kind of pain are those who have known it. Life isn’t easy, it can sometimes crush a human heart under the sheer weight of sorrow. One other dimension of Job’s problems and perhaps the most difficult of all was broken relationships, which is quite possibly life’s most painful experience and difficult to overcome. Job experienced it all – the pain of poverty, the grief of death, the suffering of sickness and the agony of broken relationships. For similar reasons we find ourselves in the same situation.
What should we do when life gets us down? My suggestion would be that we never accept any feeling as final. Overwhelmed by his problems Job said “I shall not see happiness again”. We certainly understand how and why he would feel that way. Our feelings are in one respect like the weather – changeable. We must learn to wait. Time is a great healer. When the little voice comes telling you that you will never see happiness again, try not to listen because it isn’t telling you the truth. Don’t be convinced that your present mood is permanent, because it isn’t. My next suggestion is predictable but absolutely imperative – hold on to your faith in God. Job did that. That was all he had – an awareness of God. As it turned out that was all he needed. Life had him down but it could not keep him there because he held on to his faith. In days of discouragement and despair may we have the wisdom to do the same. If we hold on to our faith, life can never defeat us. It may get us down but it will never be able to keep us there. Fr John