The Maxfields

The Maxfields

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Example of Job

I've been thinking about suffering lately.  Partly because it is hard to think about Sacred Road without thinking about the suffering of those on the Reservation.  Partly because as we've thought about Sacred Road it was hard not to think about how little we have suffered.

I've been reading an essay by Joseph P Lehmann titled "Believing in Hope: A Meditation on Hope, Expectations, and the Nature of Faith."  You can go here to purchase the article.  It's worth the $1.49.

The author brings up an interesting question.  In our modern American church "we are taught to expect only good from the hand of God; we have been told that in the times of our deepest troubles, God will tenderly carry us as a father carries his child or a shepherd tends to his lambs.  But sooner or later in all too many lives, these expectations are shattered by experience.  We find ourselves, like Job, asked by God to accept trouble from His hand."

Those of us that are Reformed in our theology are used to talking about the sovereignty of God and that He is in control of our circumstances.  But practically and daily, we focus on the promises we have in Scripture regarding our eternal reward and make our faith dependent on our expectations and how we expect God to deal with us temporally, in the here and now.

We live prosperous lives, we are technologically advanced, we've sanitized our life to a large degree to not have to deal with sorrow, death and pain.  We think that if God loves us we will live a life free of sorrow, death and pain.

"And so when tragedy strikes, when disappointment camps at our door, we are woefully unprepared. . . . In such situations, faith can wither as quickly as the hope on which it was built."  What happens when God doesn't answer our prayer?   What happens when he leaves us in despair, in pain, in depression?  Do we walk away from God saying that He must not exist?  Do we doubt that He is a loving God?

The author asks "why does God so seldom choose to act in the ways we expect Him to?" His answer is "while He often does grant us the desires of our hearts, and in ways far greater than we could ever have imagined, he regularly does so in ways which destroy (or at least seriously jeopardize) our hope that He will ever act."  What do we do when God is silent?  Not absent, just silent?

We have pastors on TV that tell us that we just need to have more faith and God will make us healthy, wealthy and wise.  Isn't that what Job's three friends told him?  You've sinned, you haven't tried hard enough, you need to do more, otherwise why would God do this to you?

When we try to fit God into our little bottle and expect Him to act like a magic genie granting all our wishes, we can expect God to answer like he answered Job:  "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. . . . Will you even put me in the wrong?  Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?"  Job 38:2-3, 40:8.

We can only answer as Job did:  "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."  Job 42:2, 3b

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