Friday, March 19, 2010

The Crown of Suffering

As many have pointed out, suffering has a way of stripping away the extra things, the non-essentials. But it is the suffering, the pain, the loss that defines what those extra things are: family, cars, clothing, health, even food and drink become extras in so far as we endure their absence. The loss of them and pain have a way of narrowing priorities, clearing and clarifying the mind, values, relationships.

But Christian suffering does not reject the world. It does not refuse material possessions. Righteous suffering does not come to resent the extras. On the contrary, the extras become what they always were: grace. They are gifts, undeserved gifts. And they are glories. The child of God who emerges from the fray, emerges by grace, in grace, upheld and sustained by grace. The believer emerges with his or her face glowing. And who cares what Moses was wearing?

Like a warrior emerging bruised and bleeding from the chaos and horror of battle, he somehow doesn't need his armor, doesn't need his weapons. The horror strips away the armor, strips away the decorations, but it doesn't strip them away permanently. They come to rest on him like a mantle, they rest on him like a crown.

The restoration of Job reads like this. He receives everything back in all its fairytale glory. And it really is glory. God isn't winking or crossing his fingers. The author isn't sneering. But the 'return' isn't exactly a mirror image of the introduction. The 'return' is resurrection, it's life-again, but it's life-again in a powerful, glorified way. And the possessions and children and gifts rest upon Job like crowns. But we (the readers) see Job's scars. His hands have holes in them from the nails, and there is a hole where the spear was thrust into his side.

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