Spring has begun. While the calendar year begins in January, there is a different sort of cycle in our culture that ends about this time of year, which I can only describe as the school year. Whatever your year brings, it seems that something changes around May as the academic year ends and summer begins. Whether you return to Wisconsin for the summer, begin planning vacations and trips, plant a garden, get a job, or actually finish a school year, there is a shift in the routine that signals something ending and something else beginning.
At Hope Lutheran Church, the Lives as Lutherans Adult Education Class takes a summer break as well. We will end our sessions for this “school year” on April 27, with a discussion on the Book of Job. This might seem like a strange way to close the year, but it came directly from the discussions and questions of previous sessions.
Job is not necessarily the most upbeat book of the Bible. A quick synopsis would be that Satan bets God that Job wouldn’t be faithful without all his stuff, family, and health, so all of that stuff gets taken away, and Job tries to stay faithful until he crumbles; Job’s friends go through varying degrees of helpfulness, and God and Job eventually talk about it.
That, of course, is an extremely simplistic and overly shallow surface-of-a-nutshell synopsis. The Book of Job really serves to examine what happens to a person when all material and worldly comforts are taken away. It addresses the timeless questions of why bad things happen to good people and how the world God made could work this way sometimes.
How is this all tied to the end of the school year and the beginning of summer? At the end of a school year, particularly a significant one, there is often an expected feeling of completion and achieved understanding. While that may be the case, there can also be a sense that we still don’t have all the answers we wanted by now.
Job reminds us that not everything is so simple asking a question and getting the answer. Some questions must be lived out and experienced. In this journey we call life, there will always be situations we cannot understand and questions we cannot explain away.
Faith isn’t about having all the answers neatly packaged.
It’s also not about ignoring the questions.
Faith is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit. It’s not something we can think ourselves into, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think. God is beyond our human ability to put into fully known terms, but God also gave us minds to be used, to seek understanding, to ask questions, and to live out the journey of possibilities.
Asking questions allows our faith to reach broader understandings and explore deeper levels. New experiences will cultivate new questions, and new questions can be asked. Some questions will lead to answers, some will lead to more questions, and some will lead to lifelong journeys of understanding. May we always be courageous enough to walk that road.