Job is not alone when he thinks that God is absent just because he can’t sense God’s presence. Where is God? When we are at our lowest, it’s a profound question. Often it’s easy to feel God’s presence in our lives when things are going our way. But it takes a tremendous amount of faith to trust in God when we are in despair. Who knows whether God’s absence is felt because we are at our lowest, or if we are at our lowest because God’s absence is felt.
Maybe that is just why the community of faith is such a crucial element in our lives. We will all experience moments when our hearts feel desolate and our lips cannot utter prayer. But when we gather to worship, we can lean on those who have strength when we feel weak. We can let the community of faith hold us when we struggle to stand. They can pray when we cannot. Our communities can be God’s presence for us – the hands and feet of God – when we need God the most.
Then Job answered: “Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.
“If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.
“But he stands alone and who can dissuade him? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!
“Why are times not kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days? The wicked remove landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them. They drive away the donkey of the orphan; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge. They thrust the needy off the road; the poor of the earth all hide themselves. Like wild asses in the desert they go out to their toil, scavenging in the wasteland food for their young. They reap in a field not their own and they glean in the vineyard of the wicked. They lie all night naked, without clothing, and have no covering in the cold. They are wet with the rain of the mountains, and cling to the rock for want of shelter. “There are those who snatch the orphan child from the breast, and take as a pledge the infant of the poor. They go about naked, without clothing; though hungry, they carry the sheaves; between their terraces they press out oil; they tread the wine presses, but suffer thirst. From the city the dying groan, and the throat of the wounded cries for help; yet God pays no attention to their prayer.
“There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths. The murderer rises at dusk to kill the poor and needy, and in the night is like a thief. The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight, saying, ‘No eye will see me’; and he disguises his face. In the dark they dig through houses; by day they shut themselves up; they do not know the light. For deep darkness is morning to all of them; for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness.
“Swift are they on the face of the waters; their portion in the land is cursed; no treader turns toward their vineyards. Drought and heat snatch away the snow waters; so does Sheol those who have sinned. The womb forgets them; the worm finds them sweet; they are no longer remembered; so wickedness is broken like a tree.
“They harm the childless woman, and do no good to the widow. Yet God prolongs the life of the mighty by his power; they rise up when they despair of life. He gives them security, and they are supported; his eyes are upon their ways. They are exalted a little while, and then are gone; they wither and fade like the mallow; they are cut off like the heads of grain. If it is not so, who will prove me a liar, and show that there is nothing in what I say?”