Are you afraid of the dark? I am. Silly, but it is true. I don’t like turning off the lights at night. My vision changes in the dark, and I often see things entirely differently and usually not in a good way. So, in my room, I have several electronics that keep me from being in total darkness. My alarm clock and my phone charger both give off enough light to keep me feeling ok.
Reading the scriptures about Job feels a lot like being in the dark. I am a bit afraid of his story. I have glanced through it, but not willing to look too hard. For this Sunday’s teaching though, I needed to look deeper. What I needed was to move into the darkness of it all to understand it better. Job was a man who was “Blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” Job 1:1. He lived a life of wealth and prosperity. And yet, God wages a bet with Satan regarding Job and suddenly he is found alone, wanting, and in poor health. For thirty-six chapters we witness the suffering of Job. Thirty-six chapters! His conversations with God, his friends, and family offering no relief. Why was his agony so long? Why was it so harsh? The God of my understanding does not play with our lives. Therefore I know he must have had a profound purpose.
In the Gospel of Mark we witness another kind of darkness. A man named Bartimaeus is blind and begging by the roadside. As Jesus and his disciples walk by, he calls out to Jesus. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Though the crowd tries to hush him, he cries out again, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” In the span of one paragraph, Jesus hears him and heals him saying “Go your faith has made you well.” This seems utterly unfair to me when read alongside Job’s story. And yet, once again, the God of my understanding would have a profound purpose for this man as well.
This truth for me is realized in the life of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He had a distressing youth. As a young boy, he suffered from polio. Then, at the age of 15, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He noticed that almost all of the patients who started to hemorrhage and cough up blood ended up being wheeled out to the morgue. When he began coughing up blood, he spoke to God and said. “God, if you want, if this is curtains for me, Then it’s okay.” He was surprised by the calm and peace that came over him. He turned 87 this month. In 2016 in The Book of Joy, he speaks of death, saying,
“Because God is God, because God is infinite, because none of us who are creatures will ever fathom the infinitude that is God, heaven is going to be forever a place of new discovery.” The Archbishop’s eyes were transfixed, his gaze distant. “I would say, ‘Oh, God, you’re so beautiful.’ And I will call, I will call, ‘Come, come and see,’ and this other one will say, ‘Have you seen just how beautiful God is?'” p. 162
Perhaps these stories bound together by dark times are also bound together by the prayers that they have offered and the light that they have shared. I can only imagine the prayers of intercession the Archbishop has offered on behalf of others in his lifetime. And how many times he would have shared his vision of the beauty of God.
Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, whose sight was restored in an instant, followed Christ and the apostles whose next destination was to Jerusalem where the progression toward the cross begins. Perhaps his eyes were opened so that he could see clearly as Christ offered himself for the sins of others. Maybe he went on to share with others what he saw.
And Job, well Job allowed his suffering to transform his faith. He spoke with God and agreed to listen better. As a result, he grew even closer to God. He saw people differently. He had compassion for the friends who had thrown accusations at him. And after offering prayers for his friends, his fortunes were restored and doubled. We know he saw the world differently when he broke social ground, by naming his daughters and giving them an inheritance along with their brothers.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you; Job 42:4-5 (NRSV)
Are you in the dark? Do you feel afraid?
Speak with God. He listens.
Allow Him to give you a new vision of things.
Perhaps you need to see a friend differently.
Perhaps you need a new vision for your future.
Perhaps you need to see God for the first time.
Speak, God listens. Listen, God speaks.