A Different World – Week 5
But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. ‘He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
I have been reading my bible and looking at the characters who found themselves, for whatever reasons, in a difficult place. I wanted to know how they felt, what did they do to stand firm and also what words of hope came to give them strength. The words above are spoken by Elihu, who is a friend of Job, and they brought me some hope today. The story of Job isn’t a straight forward story to understand and there is much in it I have been unable to grasp. But as I read it and find I meet aspects of God that I never knew, it is in this discovering that I am finding hope.
I thought that Jobs closest three friends; Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, where actually a bit of a thorn in his side and didn’t really bring him much consolation. Then as I read chapters 32-42 of Job I found myself meeting a fourth, I believe much younger friend, Elihu, and he is someone who makes a lot of sense and almost attempts to undo all the mess that has gone on before. Elihu is one of those people who help us look up, who lifts our eyes, hearts and spirits, by not only speaking sense but also enabling us to see a bigger view of God and who He is. Elihu is unafraid and unashamed, these are rare people and they can scare us a little but as I have spent time in the company of Elihu I have realised we need more people like Elihu.
I would like Elihu to be my new best friend!
Each of us is probably working through a different element of what is happening at the moment. Maybe the lockdown is difficult for you, maybe you are missing people, maybe you are grieving a loss, are you struggling with the repeating routine, is homeschooling really, really hard, for you and your kids?
I wonder whether in these strange times we feel a little surrounded a bit like Job was surrounded by the paralysing situation he found himself in as well as three friends who weren’t always helpful. Did Job need to change his view, his perspective? As we approach week 6 of the lockdown I find myself a little weary and I think I need a change of perspective. For me it feels like I am stuck listening to the voices of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar , as well as my own, and maybe I need a fresh voice and fresh insight. Here is where I need to seek out my Elihu voice. When Elihu arrives on the scene in chapter 32 things change, it is almost like darkness retreats and a light starts to enter the conversation. Elihu, in my opinion, is a young person, much younger that everyone else in this story, and what a huge amount of wisdom he brings to the table. Maybe you can see where I am going here but as a youthworker I continue to want the voices of young people to be heard, listened to and their insights utilised. Not just because it is a good thing to do and makes us older Christians feel good about ourselves. No, we need these Elihu voices because occasionally we get the ‘echo chamber’ situation where the same “older” voices just go round and round and don’t really help things change.
Job needed the voice of Elihu, I need the voice of Elihu, I believe the church, the world, everyone needs a new voice. Maybe just maybe at this time where everything is changing we have an opportunity to listen to a new voice. I have seen in my son, who is 9, a stunning resilience, boldness, imagination and passion to cause change. If we can create spaces and promote these voices then as we exit this current season maybe we will, like Job, leave a dark place with a brighter, wider, more significant view of God, our neighbour, our communities and the world.
So my plan this week is to find an Elihu voice and allow that voice to bring light and help me change perspective.
In chapter 36 verses 15 – 16 Elihu invites us into a beautiful new perspective: let us imagine a ‘spacious place’ and ‘a table laden with choice food’, it is a great symbol of hope and hope is a force that not only sustains us now but can carry us through and into a new time and into what God has for us next.
‘Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.
To “stop and consider God’s wonders” was a really helpful line for me. Job had lost his way a little, he had become a little consumed with his own situation and couldn’t see beyond it (sounds familiar!). The challenge from Elihu, and then God’s response from chapter 38 onwards, opens our eyes wide and allows us to see God and hope and endless possibilities.
Like Job, I believe we can find ourselves not judged for our inwardness but gifted by God with a display and exhibition of the might, wonder, majesty and the completeness of God. To have this image of God at a time when he thought all was lost took Job into a better place, it almost shook him out of his selfish slump. What happens at the end of Job isn’t a nice neat answer to why Job found himself in this difficult situation, but a new, beautiful, wide-angled, majestic view of God.
Every time I get to the end of the book of Job I wonder how Job worked through balancing his emotions; he had lost so much but gained even more. I write about hope not because it makes everything OK or indeed makes me feel better every day, I write about hope because it is a direction I want to face, actually I need to face. Without hope the darkness is even darker, but with hope there is always a bit of light that I can face and move towards. So I choose to face that glimmer of light.
Personally, I think I need to be ‘shaken out of my slump’ a little, maybe what will shake me is to face the light, embrace hope and take some time to just “stop and consider God’s wonders!”
Because I am someone who loves a plan, I am going to seek out the ‘Elihu voices’ in my world. I’m going to seek them out because at this time I need to hear them but more than that I want others to hear them. Something inside all of us stirs when we hear an Elihu voice, it causes us to stop, look up and listen. I wonder whether those who heard Martin Luther King say “I have a dream” actually heard an Elihu voice, is Greta Thunberg an Elihu voice? Do you have an Elihu voice, do you know someone who has? They NEED to be heard, more than ever.
There is a fire in an Elihu voice, listen to what Greta says: “right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
Listen to what Elihu says: “So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said: ‘I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, “Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.” But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.”
My prayer is that we will listen to the voices with fire in them, passion in them, with “the breath of the Almighty” in them. In my opinion many young people possess these voices, we just need to allow them to be heard and if possible we must help amplify them so the world may hear.
Hope is hard but never lost!