A reflection on Job 38
Scientists now know that we aren’t actually left or right brained—we all use all parts of our brain. This is good news! We may have preferences or different learning styles, but it doesn’t mean that we are only using one side of our brain, or even that we use one side disproportionate to the other.
Our culture hasn’t caught on to this, though. We still live in this dichotomy that puts logic and critical thinking and reasoning on one side, and intuition and creativity and emotions on the other. Science often gets put in one camp, and religion in the other. I hear things like, “the scientist in me can’t take religion seriously” or “I’m too logical to believe all that faith stuff.”
When I hear that, I hear an unspoken assumption that science is about facts, clear outlines, logic and proof. That this is the best way to approach all areas of life. It is the best filter—better than looking at things through an emotional or intuitive filter—and the only filter that we should use when we look at our world.
Enter the book of Job in the Old Testament. It’s the story of a man whose life, in chapter one, is exactly the life we would write for ourselves if we could—he’s got a loving family, he’s got a profitable farm, he has enough help to do what he wants to do. Job is a faithful guy who is a good and trustworthy neighbor. He can think deeply and constructively about difficult topics. He has dependable friends who are present in his life. It is a rich and meaningful life.
And then he loses almost all of it. His children die, his livestock dies, he himself is covered in excruciatingly painful sores. Everything you’ve ever worried about for no reason has happened to him. He is now forced to live through his worst nightmare.
For 37 chapters, he questions and accuses God, searching for some sort of rationale for why this happened. He wants a left-brained response—a rational, logical explanation. His friends all share their own perspectives on why, but none of them satisfy Job. He wants to hear from God directly.
Finally, after everyone else has had their chance to debate and theorize, after Job has questioned and demanded answers from God, God finally speaks.
But God doesn’t give Job answers. God gives Job more questions.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Have you commanded the morning since your days began?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
From whose womb did the ice come forth?
God reminds Job of the complexities of the world that don’t relate to his present situation:
The birth of deer, the tides of the ocean, the wings of the ostrich,
the snow and hail and light and darkness of the world,
the might of the horse, the nests of the eagles.
And after God shares all that, all Job can say is, I’ve spoken twice, but I won’t speak again.
My hand covers my mouth.
The only appropriate response from Job when faced with God’s work is one of awe and wonder. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is cover your mouth with amazement. Sometimes, the most faithful thing, the most intelligent thing you can do is say wow, and sit down.
Job thought he needed an answer. Job thought that to find meaning and purpose in his life again, God would need to explain to him exactly why all these things had happened to him.
As it turns out, Job didn’t need that.
God didn’t point him towards a logical answer. God didn’t give him a timeline of the way his life will work.
God pointed Job towards creation. God pointed Job towards awe and wonderment.
Science and faith both point us towards awe. Our faith encourages us to cultivate this sense of praise and wonder for all that God is doing, all that God has created, all that exists beyond our own understanding. Our Bible is filled with invitations to see the world with wonder and awe. There are close to 150 places in the bible that use the word “wonder.”
The Psalms say that God is great and does works full of wonder. The prophet Isaiah says, “the whole earth is full of God’s glory.”
May you come to treasure the value of awe and wonder.
May you practice turning off your need for clear answers and open yourself up to experiencing the questions and mysteries of life.
May you use both faith and science to point you towards a more grounded and extensive experience of what is holy and sacred, what is possible, what is beautiful, what is amazing.
May you come to understand that sometimes the most faithful and intelligent response you can give is simply to say wow, and sit down.
May this be so. Amen.