I’m not much of a camper. Wait, let me be perfectly clear… I loathe camping. It’s not just the bugs or the sleeping on the rock hard ground, or even the middle-of-the-night expedition to find the nearest porta-potty (or, heaven forbid – nature!). Or eating hot dogs that are burnt on the outside and cold on the inside. Or the layer of dew coating my sleeping bag, my hair, my eyelashes in the frozen chill of the morning (wait, what time is it? The sun’s up, so it must be somewhere between 5am and noon – I guess).
No, actually for me one of the most chilling aspects of camping is something others have found awe-inspiring and inspirational. Not me. I find it terrifying. It’s the moment I look up at the stars toward a sky that is not polluted with light. I see the vastness of the galaxy and imagine just how incredibly immense God’s creation truly is. And I feel very, very small. Tiny. Miniscule. I feel like an amoeba in the ocean.
In his suffering Job saw the irrelevance of humanity compared with the enormity of God. And he felt very, very small. Tiny. Miniscule. Like an amoeba in the ocean. In his smallness Job wondered if it was even possible for a God that immense to care for a filthy, flawed, frail humanity. In his grief Job didn’t believe so.
We will have to wait many more chapters for Job to learn differently. Just like we have to wait many years to be invited to comprehend the whole of reality. In the meantime, I shall rest easy in my soft bed under warm blankets beneath a sturdy roof and pretend I am not as small as I am.
Then Job answered: “Indeed I know that this is so; but how can a mortal be just before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength—who has resisted him, and succeeded?— he who removes mountains, and they do not know it, when he overturns them in his anger; who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the Sea; who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south; who does great things beyond understanding, and marvelous things without number. Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him; he moves on, but I do not perceive him. He snatches away; who can stop him? Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
“God will not turn back his anger; the helpers of Rahab bowed beneath him. How then can I answer him, choosing my words with him? Though I am innocent, I cannot answer him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser. If I summoned him and he answered me, I do not believe that he would listen to my voice. For he crushes me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds without cause; he will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness. If it is a contest of strength, he is the strong one! If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him? Though I am innocent, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse. I am blameless; I do not know myself; I loathe my life.
“It is all one; therefore I say, he destroys both the blameless and the wicked. When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; he covers the eyes of its judges— if it is not he, who then is it?
“My days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good. They go by like skiffs of reed, like an eagle swooping on the prey. If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint; I will put off my sad countenance and be of good cheer,’ I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned; why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with soap and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into filth, and my own clothes will abhor me. For he is not a mortal, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand on us both. If he would take his rod away from me, and not let dread of him terrify me, then I would speak without fear of him, for I know I am not what I am thought to be.
“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the schemes of the wicked? Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as humans see? Are your days like the days of mortals, or your years like human years, that you seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although you know that I am not guilty, and there is no one to deliver out of your hand?
“Your hands fashioned and made me; and now you turn and destroy me. Remember that you fashioned me like clay; and will you turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose.
“If I sin, you watch me, and do not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am wicked, woe to me! If I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look upon my affliction. Bold as a lion you hunt me; you repeat your exploits against me. You renew your witnesses against me, and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me.
“Why did you bring me forth from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me, and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. Are not the days of my life few? Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort before I go, never to return, to the land of gloom and deep darkness, the land of gloom and chaos, where light is like darkness.”