I’m intrigued by tardigrades. They are eight-legged microscopic animals that look almost like bears when they move, earning them the alternate name water bears. They can be found anywhere on earth, surviving the most extreme temperatures and pressures. Apparently it is no big deal for them to have no air, water, or food for a while. They can dehydrate in a water shortage and sit dormant for decades until more water comes along, and then rehydrate and continue their life as if nothing happened. They can even survive exposure to outer space unshielded from dangerous radiation. They have a resilience of almost mythical proportions.
Consider Behemoth (Job 40:15-24). He seems pretty solid. He makes me think of an elephant, hippo, or in the Harry Potter universe, an erumpent. Who knows what he is anyway? All I know is that I’d rather not cross paths with one. The most a tardigrade could do to me is crawl on me, and I wouldn’t notice it. Encountering a black bear could be scary, but they’d likely run away, especially if we are in a group. They don’t want to run into you any more than you want to run into them. But Behemoth doesn’t care. He’d trample you.
“Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened; it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth. Can one take it with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare?” (Job 40: 23-24)
Like the tardigrade, Behemoth is resilient. You or I would be swept away by the current, but not Behemoth. He makes his way through the turbulent Jordan and doesn’t lose his confidence. He knows the struggle is real, and the waters may even slow him down, but this is not the end of Behemoth. Not even close.
We’re of “small account” just like Job (40:4). We all have our struggles, our raging Jordans, that we are trying to make our way through. During the process, it’s fair to want to know why we have to struggle and suffer, and where all of it comes from. Is it from a broken world paying forward the hurt? Is it the natural consequence of our poor decisions? Does it come from God, like the author of Psalm 88 might suggest? Is it from evil forces trying to discourage us? Is it just general suffering we’re guaranteed to experience? Is it some combination of all of them?
But do you think Behemoth or the tardigrade worry about why they suffer? Probably not. They just try to get through it. Maybe while you are suffering, the “why” questions aren’t going to be the most important thing. You may only have the energy or capacity to react to the crisis and pick up the pieces later. Figuring out the deeper questions might be something you only worry about on the other side of suffering.
The ability to think about suffering is both a blessing and curse. If you think about your situation and realize that you are at least partly responsible for your suffering or the suffering of others, you have the ability to learn from your mistakes and avoid making them again. In that way, being able to avoid unnecessary suffering is a blessing. But it can seem like a curse to keep thinking about the purpose of your suffering when it comes from something completely beyond your control. This is the carousel of painful thoughts Job was on.
In that situation, it is fair to want to challenge God, like Job did. Where is his supposed justice? Go ahead and challenge God and have the wrestling match (Gen 32). He can handle it. Just be prepared to be challenged back. Be prepared for the possibility of injury. Be prepared to grow and receive a new name. Be prepared to be more resilient, more Behemoth or tardigrade-like.
To quote someone who voluntarily took on suffering for our benefit and was resilient through death itself: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Job 39-40 and Psalm 87-88