Reflections from the Ash Heap
As Job sits in his Ash Heap, he describes himself as covered in worms and dirt. He can't eat. He can't sleep. He feels hopeless. He has no strength. He feels despair. He wants to die. And in the midst of his suffering, Job engages in this magnificent dialectic with those who came as his friends. Each one takes his turn in speaking truths or semi-truths around the subject of suffering, particularly Job's suffering.
Job wants his suffering validated. His suffering has made him acutely aware of his own mortality and the misery that haunts humanity and the reality that God is silent through most of it. Job knows that God is watching, seeing, and Job wants God to leave him alone so he can die. Desiring death is the deepest of depression and despair. Job believes that God is involved with what is going on and that God can do something about it.
Bildad believes the same thing, and he takes his turn in the argument. But Bildad is not suffering, so he defends God in much the same way as his buddy, Eliphaz. First, Bildad tactlessly accuses Job's children of sin and deserving of death. Then he tells Job that all he has to do is ask for mercy, and God will restore him to greatness. For Job, that is exactly what he has been doing.
To put an end to suffering would be merciful. This is what Job wants God to do for him; let him die; end his suffering. The dialectic lies in the reasons for desiring mercy. For Job, mercy is vindication for the suffering of the righteous. When Bildad speaks, it is clear that his understanding of mercy is that God prospers those who are righteous; therefore if one is suffering, God is not being merciful and that must mean that one is not righteous. Or in other words, one is getting what one deserves.
Job will have little of that. While he concedes to some of what Bildad says, he adds to it a fabulous statement: God "destroys both the blameless and the wicked . . . the earth is given into the hand of the wicked; if it is not he, who then is it?" (9:22-24) Great question.
In my opinion, this needs answering. So I, along with suffering multitudes, sit in the Ash Heap with Job and wonder and question and sometimes feel the pain of hopelessness and despair. And we give our argument in the continuing dialectic on what it means to sit in the Ash Heap with God.