I envy people who state they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I envy people who believe they talk with God. Such encounters I’m sure are life-changing.
Have I had encounters with God? Indeed I have but they are probably not the kind of encounters spoken of in traditional religions. For me, encounters with God have occurred outside churches and religions.
As I observed in earlier posts, some of my encounters have occurred in the presence of great art. Yes, I ran into God at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey or when contemplating Dali’s Last Supper or Hopper’s Nighthawks. And I have heard God’s voice in the midst Holst’s “Jupiter” from The Planets.
At other times, I have met God in nature. I have met Him/Her along the Tejas Trail in the Guadalupes and on an isolated beach in the Skelligs.
Thanks to a recent book by Rabbi Harold Kushner, I have come to see that some of my regular encounters with God occur in the midst of my many arguments with Him/Her. Kushner has written a thoughtful study of the Book of Job, one of my personal favorite books of the Bible. Kushner observes that God never really answers Job’s outcry of “Why?” yet Job is apparently content. How so? Because, through his outcry, Job encounters God.
This for me is a profound thought and a comforting one because indeed as I have struggled to make sense of suffering it is in those moments that I have a sense of God’s presence. My question “why” ironically brings me closer to God! How can this be?
This wrestling with God requires me to discern just how big a role God plays in my life. My struggle with the question of how a loving God permits tragedy points me toward the presence of that God amidst tragedy. It helps me to a place where I may not believe in an all-powerful God but certainly can embrace the idea of an all-loving God. I find a comfort I would not find without the struggle.
So perhaps the Book of Job stands as an invitation to some of us. Perhaps we are invited not to be ashamed of our outcry but, like Job, to embrace it and thereby to have a genuine encounter with God.
Reflection: In what ways have you/do you encounter the God of your understanding?
Further Reading: Harold Kushner The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person