February 08, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

We see from two very different perspectives in the readings today. It is important to our understanding of them, and our ability to reconcile them, that we grasp the difference.

In the Old Testament reading (Job 7:1-4, 6-7), from "Literature 101" favorite Job, we get just a snippet of Job's complaints against God. On reading more of the book, we can see that God isn't involved in this conversation at all (which, actually, is a big part of Job's problem). The discussion is between Job and his three well-meaning buddies. He believes he "shall not see happiness again" because of his pain and suffering, but we've not heard God's side of the story yet.

In contrast, we see things from Jesus' perspective in the Gospel reading (Mark 1:29-39). We don't get inside the head of Simon's mother-in-law. We have no idea what she has thought or said prior to the moment Jesus arrives. We have no idea how she feels.

It is not unlikely that she's had the same thoughts that Job vocalized to his friends. Christ Himself felt abandoned during His suffering on the cross, and we are all joined to that, ourselves, when we suffer. It is easy and all to common to be angry at God when we suffer, so perhaps Simon's mother-in-law felt angry too. Perhaps Simon and the rest of the family felt angry. Perhaps they said things much like Job did: "my days ... come to an end without hope". (Job 7:6)

We don't get to see that perspective. What we see, instead, is God's reaction to our pain and need. We see Jesus arrive and act, after all the arguments and complaints and threats are done and we reach out for help. We see God's response when we reach out a hand and call to Him.
"He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up." (Mark 1:31)

These are some of my favorite words from Scripture. These few words tell us so much more - and more useful - than all the platitudes from Job's friends. Note that it does not say that Jesus solved all her problems. She didn't get a face-lift, a trust fund, and an extra spring in her step. She did not get healed of all worries and ailments. She was helped up to her feet. Jesus picked her up when she needed it, when she reached out for help.

I'm reminded of the final lines of Footprints in the Sand: "The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you." Jesus does not carry us at every moment of our lives. God does not solve all our problems now, on earth. We still hurt. We still feel pain and lonliness and doubt. When we need it, when we call out for help - humbly, needfully reach out to our Father - He picks us up. He carries us until we can stand on our own again.

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