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  • Writer's pictureJohn Coleman

Why (not Dry) January

Updated: Jan 25

Job 38:1–7 (RSVCE): Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?


Dry January is all the rage. Everyone who participates dosn't drink alcohol for the entire month. It is a more significant challenge for some than others, and with Bama's recent loss of Nick Saban as head coach, it was doomed from the start for many of my friends. I heard someone say that she is doing Why January instead of Dry January. It's where she stands "in the middle of the street" and screams, "WHY GOD WHY!"


The Book of Job feels a little like Why January. The story is well known. Job is a successful man with a loving family, food, and wealth. The God runs into Satan and points to Job as an exemplar saying, "There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man" (Job 1:8). Satan says that Job is only blameless and upright because God has blessed him with fortune and family. Satan poses that if God removed Job's blessings, he might sing a different tune. One that doesn't glorify God's quote so much.


In a shocking an inexplicable turn of events, God allows Satan to tempt Job. I could posit several guesses on why this happened, but none would satisfy you or me. It is a mystery that I will not have an answer for until I see God face to face. But, one thing to consider is that Satan was still under the thumb of God.


Job loses his property, reputation, and even his children. He is forlorn and begins to curse the day of his birth and engage in general complaining (who wouldn't). Job doesn't directly curse God, but by cursing his birth, he curses his creation and, indirectly, the Creator. His three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zohar, are no real consolation. They feign caring but ultimately insinuate that Job must have done something to merit the calamity visited upon him.


Job gripes and moans a lot, with a few "why me's" thrown in to boot, but he never lost faith in God. One of my favorite verses in the Book of Job and an oft-read anthem at Episcopal funerals-"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (Job 9:25-27).


Job did, however, question God's justice. It seems appropriate with our modern sensibility to cry out at what seems to be an injustice. We always ask what we deserve and what we merit. We get bent out of shape if someone else gets something they have yet to earn, especially when it is at our expense! Although we know the world doesn't always work according to a merit system (when I do good I am blessed and when I don't I'm cursed or at least not blessed), and bad things can happen to the good and evil alike, we still hold this "misfortune is earned" as truth.


We are the judge and "God is in the dock." At least, that is what C.S. Lewis says about how our sense of human justice warps our relationship with God. The roles get reversed. The reversals, pain and struggles in our lives cause us to shrink. We begin to blame God because we want God to do something about it, and we blame ourselves because, down deep, we believe just maybe we did something to deserve it. We shrink to the size and ability of ourselves. This limits our hope. Somehow when it happens to us we begin to doubt God's presence and redemption, but when it happens to someone else we pray. We want someone to pay and we certainly don't want it to be us to we interrogate God.


One of the problems is we see God in competition with the things of the world. Alcohol takes away my pain but God hasn't shown up yet. Why bother-and we shrink more. Bishop Baron says, "God is not a competitive being among many. God is the sheer act of 'to be' itself." He points to the Russian cosmonaut who radioed from space that they were in the heavens but had yet to find God. This assumes that God will act or manifest in the ways we expect and according to the rules we establish.


Our personal circumstances do not reflect how God feels about us. We see that most clearly in what God does for us through Jesus Christ. This is the proof of how God feels about us, not what is happening at work, school or the other places on earth we go. Our faith and salvation does not hinge on what God has done for us lately.


I love the verses above where God answers Job's passive-aggressive and sometimes aggressive griping. "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" (Job 38:2). Job has stopped seeking wisdom. He thinks his wisdom and knowledge of fairness is somehow the measuring stick as if God grades on a curve. His understanding is limited to himself and not the larger life of God. God reminds Job of this in a dramatic way through the whirlwind. It's a reminder that Jobs life is part of something larger and what Job can see is not all there is.


This, for me, is the meaning of Job. There are things in this life we cannot explain. We'll pass through times of great challenge that is guaranteed. At times this will seem or be unfair. We must remember that God is most present where God seems least present. God is most at work where God seems least at work. God brings about life from death with the most perfect example being the Resurrection of Jesus. But let's remember the daily resurrection moments in our lives.


We recall this by reflecting on life and the moments when God's hand broke into our world. We do it each week in the Holy Eucharist where we participate in the life giving of Jesus. Let's never doubt God's concern or love for God's creation power to blend what seems like wasted time into life, love, and a future infused with hope.


Dry January is all the rage. Everyone who participates dosn't drink alcohol for the entire month. It is a more significant challenge for some than others, and with Bama's recent loss of Nick Saban as head coach, it was doomed from the start for many of my friends. I heard someone say that she is doing Why January instead of Dry January. It's where she stands "in the middle of the street" and screams, "WHY GOD WHY!"


The Book of Job feels a little like Why January. The story is well known. Job is a successful man with a loving family, food, and wealth. The God runs into Satan and points to Job as an exemplar saying, "There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man" (Job 1:8). Satan says that Job is only blameless and upright because God has blessed him with fortune and family. Satan poses that if God removed Job's blessings, he might sing a different tune. One that doesn't glorify God's quote so much.


In a shocking an inexplicable turn of events, God allows Satan to tempt Job. I could posit several guesses on why this happened, but none would satisfy you or me. It is a mystery that I will not have an answer for until I see God face to face. But, one thing to consider is that Satan was still under the thumb of God.


Job loses his property, reputation, and even his children. He is forlorn and begins to curse the day of his birth and engage in general complaining (who wouldn't). Job doesn't directly curse God, but by cursing his birth, he curses his creation and, indirectly, the Creator. His three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zohar, are no real consolation. They feign caring but ultimately insinuate that Job must have done something to merit the calamity visited upon him.


Job gripes and moans a lot, with a few "why me's" thrown in to boot, but he never lost faith in God. One of my favorite verses in the Book of Job and an oft-read anthem at Episcopal funerals-"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (Job 9:25-27).


Job did, however, question God's justice. It seems appropriate with our modern sensibility to cry out at what seems to be an injustice. We always ask what we deserve and what we merit. We get bent out of shape if someone else gets something they have yet to earn, especially when it is at our expense! Although we know the world doesn't always work according to a merit system (when I do good I am blessed and when I don't I'm cursed or at least not blessed), and bad things can happen to the good and evil alike, we still hold this "misfortune is earned" as truth.


We are the judge and "God is in the dock." At least, that is what C.S. Lewis says about how our sense of human justice warps our relationship with God. The roles get reversed. The reversals, pain and struggles in our lives cause us to shrink. We begin to blame God because we want God to do something about it, and we blame ourselves because, down deep, we believe just maybe we did something to deserve it. We shrink to the size and ability of ourselves. This limits our hope. Somehow when it happens to us we begin to doubt God's presence and redemption, but when it happens to someone else we pray. We want someone to pay and we certainly don't want it to be us to we interrogate God.


One of the problems is we see God in competition with the things of the world. Alcohol takes away my pain but God hasn't shown up yet. Why bother-and we shrink more. Bishop Baron says, "God is not a competitive being among many. God is the sheer act of 'to be' itself." He points to the Russian cosmonaut who radioed from space that they were in the heavens but had yet to find God. This assumes that God will act or manifest in the ways we expect and according to the rules we establish.


Our personal circumstances do not reflect how God feels about us. We see that most clearly in what God does for us through Jesus Christ. This is the proof of how God feels about us, not what is happening at work, school or the other places on earth we go. Our faith and salvation does not hinge on what God has done for us lately.


I love the verses above where God answers Job's passive-aggressive and sometimes aggressive griping. "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" (Job 38:2). Job has stopped seeking wisdom. He thinks his wisdom and knowledge of fairness is somehow the measuring stick as if God grades on a curve. His understanding is limited to himself and not the larger life of God. God reminds Job of this in a dramatic way through the whirlwind. It's a reminder that Jobs life is part of something larger and what Job can see is not all there is.


This, for me, is the meaning of Job. There are things in this life we cannot explain. We'll pass through times of great challenge that is guaranteed. At times this will seem or be unfair. We must remember that God is most present where God seems least present. God is most at work where God seems least at work. God brings about life from death with the most perfect example being the Resurrection of Jesus. But let's remember the daily resurrection moments in our lives.


We recall this by reflecting on life and the moments when God's hand broke into our world. We do it each week in the Holy Eucharist where we participate in the life giving of Jesus. Let's never doubt God's concern or love for God's creation power to blend what seems like wasted time into life, love, and a future infused with hope.


Oh an one more thing to add...Job is a good example of why we should choose our friends and those on whom rely very carefully. If a friend doesn't point us toward the love and character of God, we need to find one who does.




  • (This year, I am intentionally working my way systematically (again) through Holy Scripture. As a part of that I am writing short rough notes as I journey through Scripture. These are random, fluid thoughts. These are not formal essays or written sermons. There are no citations and I often convey the thoughts of others that I have read or encountered. These have become a part of my own theology and clearly I stand on the shoulders of others to see more clearly.)





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