Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why Would God...?

How many times have we heard friends ask “Why would God…?" I recently heard a very effective sermon on the situation of Old Testament character Job and its application for us. The upside of asking such a question is the tacit admission that God is sovereign and He is in control, always a difficult truth to perceive. People often attempt to construct a God of their own liking. We like to make pronouncements on what God should or should not do.

There are many things in our world which evoke strong emotions apart from the gift of beloved family or friends. Our sense of health and well-being, the emotional attachments we have, even fascination for the mystical charm and grandeur of the world of nature--these can all be disrupted by injury, disease, death, or a violent weather episode. There is no rational way to persuade anyone of the ultimate good of any of these events. Job’s loss of virtually everything he held dear caused him to consider the meaning of multiple tragic events. Job, his friends, and finally God Himself helped clarify his perspective.

From the human point of view, no one would be more justified than Job in questioning God’s goodness, His care, or even His ultimate wisdom. His children died, his possessions were destroyed, and disease wracked his body. Acute pain and self-loathing were real. But in the face of all of this he said, “May the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:20) and he “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing" (Job 1:22). The traditional cliché "the patience of Job" seems inadequate to summarize the spectrum of lessons he learned.

Later, after discussions with his friends, he realized anew, as stated by Elihu, that “If it were his (God's) intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust (Job 34:14-15). Finally, in the book’s last direct quote from Job’s mouth, he said “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

What about recent cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, and other disasters? Our efforts to explain such tragedies are woefully inadequate. We often miss the big picture. In our weakness and ignorance, we may request a world with no pain, no discomfort, no sorrow. That would focus on the narrow picture. We may simply need to express, as did Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5 NIV).