I hope your weekend was absolutely awesome. Mine was incredible and busy. This weekend I drove about 500 miles, took in the sights and sounds of Richmond Folk Festival, taught a lesson at church, played for our church choir's anniversary service and filmed a music video. Can you say exhausted!?
As I was buzzing around this weekend I found myself thinking about Job. Most of us know this guy's story. Christian folks point to this story as prime illustration of stalwart faith. Atheist use the narrative as a basis for their unbelief. Job's story is complicated. It isn't easy to digest. It isn't just about faith. It also reveals a great deal about the nature of God.
I think one of the reasons why we have such struggle with the story of Job is our culture. In the West, we have a greatly diminished perspective of God. We under appreciate his vastness. We under estimate his power and and authority. That's one of the major themes we see in the book of Job. In this book, we are reminded of the stark reality of God in all of his sovereignty.
I find it interesting that God points to Job as a prime candidate for Satan's attacks precisely because of his faith. The Bible says that Job was an exemplary man. The scripture says that even when Satan began to act with God's permission Job did not sin - a pretty marvelous fete if you think about it. Most of us would look at Job and say this guy's faith was super strong.
As strong as Job's faith was, it is also very clear in this narrative that he didn't a great understanding of God. It wasn't until everything that Job valued was gone that God was fully seen by Job. It wasn't until he was brought to his lowest point that Job came know God. He says:
"I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." - Job 42:2-5
As painful as Job's losses were, they were a means to God's end. This is a point that atheists consistently miss in this story. God's permitting Satan's action was not an empty flex of God's omnipotence. Through Job's suffering God revealed himself. He revealed his sovereignty; true. However, that's not the only thing God revealed to Job through his suffering. God also revealed his grace.
In our lives we often find ourselves in situations where we - like Job - wrestle with our circumstance. Our understandings of God are challenged in these space. We find ourselves asking "why God?". We find ourselves asking "why me? why now?". In many of these challenges we face, God's answer to our questioning is the same as it was for Job: I AM GOD!
It is important for us to know and understand that God doesn't offer himself to us flippantly when he asserts his sovereignty this way. God's revelation of himself in these circumstances is a blessing. Out of our struggles comes a richer understanding of who he is. Flowing out from our struggles is an opportunity for deepening enjoyment of God, deepening peace, deepening dependency on him.
The uncomfortable truth is that God ordains that our relationships with him is sometimes painful. That pain is a causeway to knowing him more. God's deepest desire for us is to enjoy fellowship with him. That fellowship requires us to know him. We do well to realize this. We have to remember what Jesus said would be required of us:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:26
The same uncomfortable truth is corroborated in Job's story and Jesus' own words. In order for us to truly understand God and fully enjoy fellowship with him we must be willing to give it all away. That's a tough pill to swallow but it is the truth. God's desire for us is that we value him above everything and everyone. This isn't an unreasonable expectation of a narcissistic and harsh deity. God's requirement is actually an exercise of his unfathomable love.
Everything in our lives will pass away at some point - except God. Since only he is eternal, only he is can be our hope for eternal satisfaction. This is why he insists, when it come to the people, places and thing in our lives we must posture our hearts give it all away. In order to position ourselves to know him more fully we need to get comfortable with the idea that our sovereign God may just require that everything must go!
I've got questions!
- What do I cling to?
- How do I react in times of loss and pain? Do I run more toward God or do I withdraw from him?
- If God required me to give up the person, place or thing I value most in order to know him more, would I be willing to trust him?