Suffering and comfort

The Rev. Dr. Charles McGathy, “Chuck” to most who know him, takes a look at an audio book that tackles one of the most difficult books in the Bible – and some of the most difficult questions for struggling human beings.

By Charles McGathy

THE BOOK OF JOB: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person. By Harold S. Kushner. Random House Audio. 6 hours; 5 CDs. $30.

Unlike with many audio books, the author Rabbi Harold Kushner reads his own unabridged commentary on the Book of Job. His soothing, pastoral voice lends comfort to this work, a work that is, after all, about suffering. And perhaps no other voice is as well respected as Kushner’s because of his own story of suffering (he had a son die of a rare disease) as well as his best-selling When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

What he does in The Book of Job is provide commentary (in Hebrew, midrash) on the Biblical Book of Job. Using the best sources available plus his own observations and interpretations, Kushner examines Job from beginning to end to try to make theological sense of this beautiful and sometimes puzzling piece of literature. The final result is that one cannot help but feel uplifted about both the nature of God and humankind as the rabbi explores a plausible and optimistic interpretation of Job.

This book is for everyone because everyone will suffer. And if in that suffering the question, “Why, God?” is ever asked, then understanding and embracing the God of love will make all the difference. Harold Kushner believes in and points to that kind of God. But, and perhaps most important, Kushner provides a challenge to suffering humanity as well. Job is, after all a book about us.

“Who will we be; how shall we act when suffering besets us?” That is Kushner’s way of moving the listener into a consideration of how in our suffering, and especially in our alleviation of the suffering of others, we find our humanity. Because of Kushner’s insight and comforting presence, this is an audio book worth listening to again and again.

  • Chuck McGathy, a retired Navy chaplain, is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Madison, N.C.

 

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