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COVID, a modern-day Job story

The Book of Job in The Holy Bible takes place during the age of Abraham in The Book of Genesis, the first book, but it’s organized amongst the books of wisdom: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. The author is uncertain, but it has been speculated that either Moses, Solomon, or even Job himself could’ve written it. The Book of Job begins with a successful man named Job, who loves God and was greatly blessed in all areas of his life. He had a successful business, he was married and had many children, and he was comfortably wealthy. In all that he did, he would praise God for his blessings.

Now, God and Satan’s relationship in this book reminds me of Professor X and Magneto. There appears to be a healthy respect between the two. Much like most superhero/villain relationships, there is an element of codependency between the two, and as characters, they serve as foils for one another. Character foils highlight the opposite traits to the characters around them. In simplistic terms, Professor X’s empathy and concern for humans and mutants alike are highlighted by Magneto’s sinister desire to destroy humankind so mutants can live in peace without humans. Similarly, God and Satan appear to be taking a casual stroll after Satan “roamed throughout the earth, going back and forth on it” and to highlight man’s innate goodness, God says, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:7-8).

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:9-11).

I can’t explain why God, being innately good, would choose to punish Job over Satan’s challenge. It doesn’t seem characteristically good. Despite Job losing his wealth, his children, and after God’s subsequent conversation with Satan, his health, Job never wavers in his faith in God. What wavers during Job’s not-so-helpful conversations with his well-meaning friends is himself. He never curses God. He curses himself and he demands an explanation from God. Why? Why does this happen to him? Why did he lose all that he gained? Why did his children die senselessly? Where, when, and how did he sin, and if he didn’t sin, then why would he deserve such punishments? Questions like these litter the conversations between him and his friends when they try to cheer him up while imploring him to confess whatever sin he may have done to cause his troubles. Job denies any wrongdoing and pleads for an opportunity to plead his case with God.

COVID truly hit home in the United States during March of this year and not only is this crisis not averted, but it is also rising, complicated by the onset of cold and flu season. For many people, COVID restrictions are not just an inconvenience or simple isolation. Businesses have shuttered, many for good. Marriages have been strained. Families have lost sources of income and the number of tenants and homeowners that have lost their homes because of lost income is staggering. Although certain areas of the country have been hit harder than others, there are few places that have not faced negative impacts from COVID and related restrictions.

I’ve read posts from many people expressing widespread emotions about the situation. There’s denial about the seriousness of COVID, anger over economic impacts and mask mandates, bargaining, like if everyone wears their dang mask, maybe we can please keep the economy going, sadness over changes to everyday life, and, rarely, simple acceptance to COVID’s reality.

As I consider today’s COVID crisis, I am reminded of Job’s plight. To us, everyday Americans, COVID seemingly came out of nowhere and transformed nearly every aspect of everyday life. It hasn’t just been COVID, too. There have been natural disasters from hurricanes to wildfires to even an earthquake. There has been one of the most contentious and divisive elections in U.S. history. Emotionally speaking, stress and depression are widespread. For Job, his troubles seemed to have come without warning after a period of prosperity. Was that not the case for many of us as well?

When Job demanded to speak to God, his wish was granted. For most of us, our conversations with God are more subtle. Why did God grant Job an audience to air his grievances? My guess is because He knew Job was entirely innocent of his troubles. As a society, are we entirely innocent? Perhaps we didn’t cause natural disasters or COVID, but are there areas in our lives that we are not living up to God’s expectations of us?

I personally believe that God, for reasons unknown to me, makes everything happen. There is free will, but anything that is outside of the realm of man belongs to the realm of God and I don’t believe in accidents or coincidence. We could tear off our clothes and shake our fists to the heavens, but I don’t think that’s the response God’s looking for. Job confronts God, God scolds Job in a lengthy rebuke, but in the end, Job accepts God’s will because it is that: God’s will.

A footnote in my Bible for Job 42:1-6 says, “Job repents of his pride and rebellion and finds contentment in the knowledge that he has God’s fellowship. This is the great lesson of the book: If we know God, we do not need to know why He allows us to experience what we do. He is not only in control of the universe and all its facets but also of our lives, and He loves us. Though His ways are sometimes beyond our comprehension, we should not criticize Him for His dealings with us or with others. God is always in control of all things, even when He appears not to be.”

I don’t know what lessons God intends the COVID experience to teach us, but there’s something there for all of us. Perhaps it’s a lesson on pride and obedience. Perhaps it’s a lesson on attachments to material possessions. Perhaps it’s a lesson on a myriad of possible topics, but whatever it is, it’s not one lesson for us as a collective society. It’s our own lesson to learn as we examine our relationships with God. Perhaps, what God is telling us to do is slow down, take a couple of breaths, and recognize that God is in charge, not us.


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