The Voice of Job

O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.

— Job 14: 13-15

Even if Job could not at first follow his argument, God settled everything for him when, by answering him out of the whirlwind, he showed him that he had not forsaken him. It is true that nothing but a far closer divine presence can ever make life a thing fit for a son of man—for while he has it not in him, his conscious self is but a mask, a spiritual emptiness; but for the present,  Job, yielding to God, was satisfied. Perhaps he came at length to see that, if anything God could do to him would trouble him so as to make him doubt God, then it was time that he should be so troubled, that his lack of faith should be revealed to him. To know that our faith is weak is the first step towards its strengthening; to be capable of distrusting is death; to know that we are, and cry out, is to begin to live—to begin to be made such that we cannot distrust, such that God may do anything with us and we shall never doubt him. Until doubt is impossible, we are lacking in the true, the childlike knowledge of God; for either God is such that one may distrust him, or he is such that to distrust him is the greatest injustice of which a man can be guilty. If we are able to distrust him, either we know God imperfectly, or we do not know him. Perhaps Job learned something like this; anyhow, the result of what Job had to endure was a greater nearness to God. But all that he was required to receive at the moment was the argument of God’s loving wisdom in his power, to his loving wisdom in everything else.  In a very deep sense, power and goodness are one. In the deepest fact they are one. 

Commentary

Comfort From A Whirlwind
by Stephen Carney

“...by answering him out of the whirlwind, he showed him that he had not forsaken him.”  This, perhaps, is one of the more incredible statements that MacDonald has ever made.  The Macmillan Dictionary describes whirlwind this way: A very powerful, dangerous wind, that spins extremely fast, carrying away anything in its path.  A major whirlwind can be a tornado. The whirlwind sounds like a metaphor of Job's life.  Everything in Job's life was taken from him, so it seems fitting that God would speak to him out of the whirlwind. From disaster itself, God speaks to Job to remind him that God abides, not in some far off place, but in the very storm or trial that he is facing.  C.S. Lewis said, in The Problem of Pain, that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

This is where our generation fails to understand suffering and what it adds to our life.  Yes, often it takes from us much, or in Job's case, everything, but it doesn't leave us empty handed, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  Or even earlier in 2 Corinthians 4, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.”  We can carry about the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Christ is revealed in us.  In other words, God leaves himself to be manifested in our lives.  You may lose a lot of things in this world, but if you pay attention to the whirlwind, you will hear the voice of God and he will pour himself into your life that you “might abide in him and he in you.” 

This is of course no easy feat for us, as suffering makes us want to run and hide.  We fear the storms, unlike Sir Gibbie, one of MacDonald's most compelling characters, who runs out to meet the thunderstorms and takes joy in the lightning.  I can remember many years ago hiking by myself up a small mountain trail.  When I reached the top, rain began to fall and lightning struck a few of the trees around me, my mind flashed back to Gibbie, and, knowing that I could be struck down any second,  I chose to embrace the storm.  (I almost had no other choice, as there was no shelter anywhere from the storm.) I must say that an elation filled me, for I knew my life rested firmly in the hands of God.  I havenever felt more alive, and the presence of God filled my heart.  Having said this let me add this disclaimer: I am not recommending you to climb mountains in thunderstorms to get close to God, as you may wind up meeting him face to face.  But, I think it comes close to what MacDonald is saying here, that God speaking from whirlwind allowed Job to know that he was not forsaken.  I have ever since felt close to God in the midst of storms, whether they be the physical or any other type of storm. 

God is calling to us from the storm, the whirlwind, and the impending disaster.  He is saying, I know it is hard, but I am here and I will see you safely through.  God has our back, he is taking the good and bad things that happen to us and is weaving them together toward a greater good. He takes both the light and dark threads to create a tapestry of our life that from this side looks all knotted and jumbled.  But that is because we are looking at the back side of the tapestry.  One day we will stand on the other side of it and look back see what it was that God was up to and we will have only one word to say: “beautiful!”  Then it will make sense, but for now we sit in Job's seat trying to make sense of the knotted tapestry, wondering, questioning and waiting for God to speak to us out of the whirlwind.