The Center of Awareness
Yesterday, I had a good experience in Gospel Doctrine class. The subject was the book of Job. I had many opportunities during the hour to reflect on the role of suffering and opposition in my life. There came a moment when the teacher asked for someone to read Job 19:25–27. I raised my hand and quoted it. This scripture has meant so much to me in my life and I’ve had it committed to memory for a long time.
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
By the last verse, my eyes were moist and my voice choked with emotion.
My testimony of the reality of the Savior and the resurrection is firm and this scripture touches my heart on exactly those certainties. I am also certain that one day I shall see God in my flesh in person, whether in this life or after the resurrection.
The part of the verses I have merely memorized and quoted without really searching for a meaning is the phrase, “Though my reins be consumed within me.”
I had assumed that “reins” referred to my musculature or my skin. Today, I looked it up. The LDS Edition Bible Dictionary says, “The kidneys, but always used figuratively to signify the center of feeling, awareness, such as joy or pain, much as current English uses heart.”
I searched for context in Job for his qualification of his testimony. I pondered what he must have meant to say that he had a testimony of the Savior and that testimony was firm even if his reins, or heart, were consumed within him.
In this chapter, Job was pleading with the friends who had accused him to have mercy on him. He recounts the things that have befallen him, having lost his home, much of his family, his wealth, and his zeal for life. Then, upon bearing his testimony, he says that even if the very center of his feeling were to be consumed, he would still know for himself that his Savior lived.
Though I have not nearly suffered as Job did, I have had a lot of suffering in my life. Sometimes, I feel abandoned by God like Job did, and like Joseph Smith did, whom God rebuked with, “Thou art not yet as Job (D&C 121:10).”
In the book of Job, we see that Job has lost even his feeling for life. He wishes he had not been born. He is numb. He wants only to die, but his integrity will not allow him to denounce the God who made him.
I have been pondering especially how I would react if even my feelings were lost. As evidenced by the tears I shed as I quoted the verses from Job, I still have my feelings. I have not been hurt so badly that I have abandoned them to protect myself, though there have been eras in my life where I did. Yet, at those times, I also abandoned my testimony.
Still, my testimony even then was not far from me. No matter how I tried to behave, the mere thought of Jesus filled me with joy and a desire to improve. Like Joseph Smith, I am not yet as Job.
And so, I wonder if there are calamities that could befall me that would cause me to lose my desire to live and not even care if I gained eternal life. I am not prone to depression, but when depressing things happen, I can feel it just like anyone else.
What if I couldn’t? I think of even being depressed as having a heart. It may be a heart that is so low I have no joy, but it is still a feeling. What if that were burnt up and consumed too?
During the years of being abused as a child, I was tenderhearted, except during the moments of the abuse. I turned off my feelings at those times. It was the only way to survive it. When the trouble was over, I was always eventually able to feel again.
As I read Job, I believe that he was not past all feeling either. What he asserts is that even if he were, he would still know that his Redeemer lived and that he would one day be with Him. I don’t know if I’m that strong. I hope I don’t have to be tested on that point.
Tested or not, like Job, I know that my Redeemer lives and that I will see Him when he comes again. May we all hold out faithful in spite of all trials until that day.