Bill and I have many a debate at the dinner table usually around history, the Bible, or politics. Sometimes those debates can get to be a little heated as neither one of us likes to admit that we are wrong and will go way out of our way to prove the other person wrong. Inevitably, it ends with one of us going to get our phones to ask Google our question. This got me to thinking about how we find the answers to our questions and how this has changed over time.
When I was a growing up, we didn’t have Google. So we turned to our encyclopedia collection and that was not as easy as just asking the book a question. We had to know the defining topic and to look that up alphabetically. Then there were pages and pages of reading searching for our answers. Others would go to libraries and sometimes you just accepted that an answer was not going to be easily attainable. All this instant access to information got me speculating and wondering about what would happen if I asked Google about the meaning of life. So I picked up my phone and said, “Ok Google, what is the meaning of life?”
I bet you’re as curious as I was about the answer this device would give to such a powerful question. Google said to me, “Better minds than mine are working on that”. This has been the question that unites all peoples no matter their cultural backgrounds or their station in life. We all wonder about the meaning of life sometimes, especially in those darker times of life. Job’s search came from the struggles he suffered. His children were killed. His physical health was taken from him. His friends were judgmental. But in all of his anger he did not turn to sages, magicians, or doctors. He did not turn to the writings that did exist in the polytheistic culture that he lived in. He was angry; he was frustrated; he was outright distraught with God. But he still turned to God with his questions that ran much deeper than what human observation and logic could explain away.
Job was living what Paul Tillich wrote about, “Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of a meaning of our life”. True faith and true religion is about the questions and our search for answers. It is about the search and the concern that arises out of the uncertainty of the meaning of life. There are no answers within human understanding and grasp. But in our search we will periodically come to a place of enough understanding for us to journey deeper into our relationship with the Holy.
Though terrible things happened to Job, because of a bet between God and the devil around Job’s piety, Job never lost his faith in the existence of God. He may have gotten angry; he may have demanded answers in later chapters but he was still going to God. He was still seeking God for some understanding in his life. Did he do something wrong to deserve this fate? Why had God turned his countenance from him? Why did God appear to remain silent to his suffering? Job did not hold back his questions even in the midst of the judgments of his friends who came to him not with words of comfort, or a helping hand, but with words of condemnation and advice requiring Job to confess to sins of which he had no knowledge. Instead, Job had the courage to ask his questions, to let himself be angry.
The interlude we heard today is just that and it was intended not for Job and certainly not in response to the so called friends of his. But it is intended for you and me, the reader or the individual listening to the plight of Job and these words speak about the unknow-ability of wisdom. It asks the question that we might all too often be afraid to ask. These scriptures say, “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living. … God understands the way to it, and he knows its place”. So if we seek God in our times of trouble, then in our searching and in our questions we might grasp some strands of that knowledge that we so desire.
I think in our society, we yearn for easy quick access to the questions in our lives. We are used to having information at our finger tips. All we have to do is just ask our phones and several different sources will appear on our phone or on our computers with the information we yearn for. Knowledge is so easily attainable in our lives. We no longer are required to work for it or to refine our questions to get to the heart of what we truly want to know. So when we come across questions that Google cannot answer, we give up too easily and don’t know where to look next.
God wants us to ask our questions. He wants us to seek out knowledge even though we may never find the answers to all of our questions. He does not want us to give up our search. He will help us find a resting place with our questions just like he did with Job.
So do not fear to approach God with the tough and frustrating questions of life. Bring to your prayers and questions the emotion that resides in the depths of your souls. Bring your anger, fear, tears, and those questions to shake your very being because God is the only resource we have that will shed light on our pain. But when you bring your prayers before God be sure to ask for your eyes to be opened, for your ears to hear the answers that he will quietly put into your lives to lead us gently to him and his comfort. And remember to have the confidence of the Psalmist from today’s passage and hold onto the hope that “On the day I called, you (God) answered me, you increased my strength of soul”. The answers we all receive will be unique to our questions and may not come in a verbal conversation or specific answers but God will give us what we need to build us up in him. So seek, ask, and look to God and not to humanly devices, and find guidance, comfort, and love that promise to bring a personal growth that far surpasses any simple answer attained from Google.
 Paul Tillich, German American Existentialist Philosopher and Theologian, 20th century.
 Job 28: 12-13, 23, NRSV.
 Psalm 138: 3, NRSV.
(based on Psalm 138 and Job 28)