Today is the first day of the Lenten season; a time when Christians are called to reflect on the state of their own sinfulness… It is a time to remember our part in the cross of Jesus. During this year’s Lenten season, FPC Lakeland has distributed a reading plan to help in this practice, and I thought I might, as often as I can, offer some brief reflection on the Scripture.
Job 42:1-6 (ESV)
Then Job answered the Lord and said:
2 “I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
The book of Job is one of the most difficult for people to read much less understand, yet it is vital to really wrestling with the question: why do bad things happen to good people?*** Throughout the book, which begins with a series of tragic events befalling the righteous, titular character, Job cries out in agony at his plight by questioning the rationality of God, who he knows is in control of all things. At no point, though, does he “curse God and die” – in this way we are told he does not sin in the face of his trial.
God responds toward the end of the book, but it can best be summed up with the phrase, “Job, are you God? Who are you to question me?” That may seem harsh, but amazingly Job understands and thus the words from the above Scripture ring with a faithfulness and humility that few of us possess.
When things don’t go our way or tragedy strikes we are tempted to believe we know what is best for our lives. We feel we have the best vantage point, and therefore we know better than God – the Creator of the universe, the giver of the very breath in our lungs, the mover of all history… That’s a natural response to a crisis: the grief, the anger, the grasping for control and understanding. That’s how Job responds initially, but when he is faced-to-face with the Almighty his tone changes, and he simply prays, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know… you make it known to me.” Job admits that he doesn’t know what is best, for himself or for the cosmic play in which he is an actor.
What does it take for us to humble ourselves and ask of God: “Lord, what are you trying to do in me and in the world through this situation?” Jesus Christ understood pain and the anxiety of tragedy. When he knew the pain of the cross was at hand, and when the burden seemed too heavy, he pleaded with the Father that he wouldn’t have to endure it… but with the caveat, “Not my will, but your will be done.” The cross and all the pain that it held, was necessary so that we could have a relationship with God in which ultimately all pain, suffering and heartache will cease.
The pain of life is necessary. But it’s up to us to be humble enough to accept the answer to the question… why.