Woe Is Me…

I’ve just returned from running errands that brought me to five different stores within ninety minutes. I’m usually invigorated by productive mornings like this, but not today. As I emptied the bags I carried in from the car, I considered this crisp sunny day, my drive and my interactions with the various persons I’d met along the way. All had gone very well in spite of the Saturday morning traffic and the abundance of shoppers. At one store, the clerk shared that she’d lost her wallet and that a man had returned it to her home this morning. It happened to be this young woman’s birthday. She considered receiving her wallet with its contents intact her best gift ever. I congratulated her on her good fortune and offered a prayer for the good soul who’d gone to such trouble for her. Still, though this fine day began on many very positive notes, I find myself with a heavy heart.

I smiled -ever so slightly- when I read this Sunday’s first reading (Job 7:1-4, 6-7) because I’ve been feeling as though I’m in Job’s company these days. Our Old Testament friend finds himself the unfortunate victim of Satan’s folly. As the story goes, after much taunting, God allows Satan to test Job’s faith. In spite of the fact that Job is a good and just man, Satan conjures up every sort of suffering for him. Job loses his family, his home and his wealth. To make matters worse, Job finds no consolation in his friends. They blame his misfortune on some sin that Job or his forefathers must have committed. As his life worsens with every breath, poor Job makes no secret of his misery. Eventually, Job rues the day that he was born. Job has done all of the right things, and he doesn’t understand why he suffers as he does.

As I consider my sister’s current battle with cancer, I find many reasons for her to add to Job’s woeful litany. Everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. In spite of many people’s best efforts, the missteps of a few others have deterred her progress. Every time Cecele finds reason to smile, another complication elicits tears. Cecele feels as though she’s done the right things, too, and she wonders why everything is suddenly going so very wrong for her. The truth is that, like Job, her children and the rest of us wonder the same thing. Still, as I consider Job’s story in full, I can’t ignore Job’s joy in the end. God responded to Job after all and things ended well for our suffering friend. Job lived what remained of his life at peace with himself and at peace with God. This is precisely what I wish for my sister. She simply hasn’t yet tasted Job’s joy in this regard.

I attribute my heavy heart to my inability to make things right for my sister. I attribute my sister’s tears to her inability to make things right for herself. It occurs to me as I write that Cecele and I are expending a good deal of energy on things that are out of our control. Poor Job couldn’t win for losing and neither can we. Only when Job turned over everything to God, even his very life, could God respond and make things right. Only when we turn over the unknown and the uncontrollable to God can God do the same for us.

God knew very well that Job had much to learn about the ways of the Divine, and God revealed heaven’s goodness and love to Job when Job needed them most. God did the same for the rest of us when he sent Jesus to walk among us –to touch us, to heal us, to teach us, to forgive us and to welcome us into God’s loving embrace. We need only to browse through the gospels to find instance after instance of Jesus’ loving response to the neediest souls among us. Still, we need only to browse through these same writings to find that Jesus’ most beloved family and friends, including his own mother, didn’t understand what Jesus was up to much of the time. They faired best when they simply placed their trust in Jesus. My sister and I have no choice but to place our trust just as wisely.

Yes, God is everywhere when we’re in need… right beside us when the coughing is at its worst; down the hallway when we’re feeling alone; at our side in the car as we doze off on the way to another treatment. God lingers nearby, offering compassion, mercy and love. Sometimes God comes in the presence and support of those around us and sometimes God comes in person. Either way, God takes care of everything.

©2012 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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