Trials of Job: Trust in God, even in darkest hours
“I want to tell you what happened to me and how I learned to get through the most difficult times of my life,” composer, singer and music missionary John Angotti told a student-packed Divine Mercy Church in Kenner Sept. 22 while performing his original musical, “JOB, the Now Testament.”
With more than 30 original songs, Angotti, cast members from Memphis and several local adults and students from St. Mary’s Dominican, Jesuit, St. Luke, Divine Mercy, St. Rita, Our Lady of Divine Providence, Christian Brothers School and St. Catherine of Siena showed that the answer to suffering in today’s world is reliance on God.
“The one thing that I’ve found that we all have in common is everybody has to deal with suffering,” Angotti said, “whether it’s being bullied as a kid, loss of a parent or child, relationships. ... Where is God in the middle of all of that? This story reveals how to see God through a different lens.”
The musical is a “work in progress” that Angotti has been polishing for 15 years, touring in Los Angeles, Memphis and Chicago. He re-worked the Old Testament tale of Job to be relevant to today’s audience by asking: Where is God when the innocent die? When someone has cancer or is lonely or addicted or feels different than everyone else?
As a Catholic youth and musical minister, Angotti said he’s learned there are two things in life that can’t be proven in a court of law: the existence of God and the existence of love. A line in the musical’s song “In My World” says, “Having faith in a guy I can’t see is confusing to me.”
“What’s most important is a intangible item you can’t even prove, but you can feel it,” Angotti said about faith. “You can’t just tell people come to church and you believe this. People have to feel like they belong, that our faith is relevant today. And, it truly is. It just has to be renewed, revised and reworked so it becomes real and relevant in people’s lives today.”
Angotti portrays dual characters of Aaron and Job. Aaron is an upright and prosperous man with a family who loses his job, a child, his possessions and learns he is stricken with an illness. He asks God why he has abandoned him and falls asleep only to dream a similar story of the biblical character of Job. With Job’s unceasing belief in God as an example, Aaron and his family and friends find joy and hope by seeing through the Lord’s eyes of love.
In the song “Co-Create Creation,” they sing to the audience to “dig deep within your heart to find what’s true.” Job’s people dream for joy in the world, equality and finding a true love. Job cautions to be careful for what they dream and says to dream as if tomorrow were their last day. When Job loses his health, his wealth and his children, he learns that hope is what’s left “when you are drowning in sorrow. Hope is what you need in your darkest hour. After all we’ve been through, the only thing we hold on to is the hope in God.”
God is love
Angotti said the story of Job pursued him after several personal family losses in his life. Even though mankind comes from different cultures, views and walks of life, the one thing that unites us is the suffering of another, especially the innocent, he said.
“When we embrace our sufferings and gather together in them, we can bring hope and healing to another,” he said. “It is in these moments of unity, when we see through the eyes of love … through which we become aware of the truth that God doesn’t cause our suffering. … Even when life doesn’t make sense, we can trust that God is here.”
As a faith leader, Angotti sees a faith crisis in the world today, with only approximately 25 percent of registered Catholics in a parish participating weekly in Mass. He asks the question, “Why?”
“They don’t believe what’s happening is relevant,” Angotti said. “If you don’t have faith, the only other choice is despair. If you say there is no faith, what’s the hope? If you don’t have hope, success is only defined by your income, where you live and how much stuff you accumulate.
“We live in a society that defines success. But, we live a lie. What defines success is who you love and how you make a difference. As a church minister, we ask: Is the world better, have we changed hearts? According to Matthew 25, we will be judged for all those corporal works of mercy we do. How have we done that when we leave the world?”
He hopes that “Job, the Now Testament” demonstrates that God is present in the darkest hours and nurtures faith to grow, even if it starts only the size of a mustard seed.
“I think that will change how we see each other and rid us of hatred, pride and suffering,” Angotti said.