Monday, February 16, 2015

The Purpose of God

The Book of Job, Chapters 31-42

Why have bad things happened to me?

Job has been asking this question. His friends said Job brought these things on himself and God was punishing him. However Job does not agree.

a bad thing that happened to me
in October 2012
Look, I will sign my name to my defense.
Let the Almighty answer me.
Let my accuser write out the charges against me.
I would face my accusation proudly
I would wear it like a crown.
For I would tell him exactly what I have done.
I would come before him like a prince. (Job 31:24-37)

Then an amazing thing happened. God responded to Job, but not with reasons. Instead, God presented Job with questions of His own:

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
Where is the home of the east wind?
Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?
Who laid out the path for the lightening?
Who provides food for the ravens when their young cry out to God and wander about in hunger?
Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar and spread its wing toward the south?

For four chapters God continued His questions to Job, making His point: you are without the knowledge required to question My ways and My motives. In the end Job agrees:

I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me...
I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said and sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.

In summary: God knows best. We cannot accurately discern His purposes. We need to trust that He is good and faithful.

Does this answer satisfy you?

Me neither.

One of the questions I had when we started looking at Job was why it took 42 chapters to get to this simple point. I concluded it is because grief is a journey and we must walk it, not rush it. God speaks up in chapter 38 but He could have answered anywhere in this process. He was not required to answer at all because, as He pointed out so eloquently at the end, He is God and will do as He sees fit. Job needed to ask the questions and go through the gambit of feelings to be able to accept the truth at the end.

God did not rush Job through the process in order for it to be over sooner. As a mom, I am sure watching Job suffer was painful for God as well. Only a parent knows the truth of "this will hurt me more than it does you" intimately. God was angered by the lies told by Job friends and how those who should have consoled Job made it more painful for him. But God did not push to resolution before the time was right.

We can learn by God's example. We can't rush ourselves or others through the process of recovering from pain. The stages of grief: denial, anger, blaming and bargaining are all valid, necessary, and cannot be set aside. We cannot quicken the process by giving a pat answer, even the right one. We must walk the entire journey. Regardless of our feelings, God is there with us each step. God is already there on the other side where we emerge with acceptance and prepared to receive His peace.

We have also seen something very important: the process of grief, when we go through it with faith, provides an insight to God we never would have had otherwise. Job declares, I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes. For Job, this insight into God made all the difference.

Who knows the purposes of God? Perhaps part of the reason for Job's suffering was so we can see the workings of God and be encouraged and comforted.

Beloved, we see Your answer, but it is not one we should give to others too soon. Truth without empathy is not kindness. It is not Your way. Even though You restored Job's health, doubled his wealth, and gave him more children, even this is not enough for a broken heart. A broken heart needs time to mend. Thank You for Your patience with us. Help us show each other patience. Help us to have patience with ourselves. Help us to reach for You as Job did. You did not punish Job for questioning Your ways. You rewarded him with Your presence. You are a rewarder of those who diligently see You.

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