Monday, May 10, 2010

When Bad Things Happen

The Biblical story of Job is one that gets pulled out whenever people are experiencing difficulties. Some of us sing songs like “Blessed Be Your Name” which originated from the book of Job. In Christian circles, we tend to always look at our situation in comparison to what Job went through. “At least I didn’t have it as bad as Job,” we might say. “Job lost everything.” Yet, the reason that Job experienced what he experienced, according to the biblical account, is because God allowed it to happen. James wrote, “The testing of your faith develops perseverance.” What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

The book of Job is among the longer books of the Old Testament and yet we generally only see snapshots of it when we look at it in sermons. Job calls God to question and wonders why he experiences what he experiences. After all, the wicked are the ones who are supposed to be going through difficulty, right? Job’s friends are hardly encouraging to him as they call him into question and beg him to confess whatever unconfessed sin he might be harboring inside.

God’s dialogue with Job borders on sarcastic at times, if it’s possible to read it that way. In Job 38, after 37 chapters of listening to Job and his friends speculate the cause of Job’s demise, the Lord finally speaks. He says to Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” God made it pretty clear who was responsible for creation and also that he knew what he was doing.

One problem that I see with our typical reading of the book of Job is that when things occur in our lives, we automatically go to that place of “what have I done to deserve this, Lord?” or “I must be being obedient since the Lord has blessed me.” Both of those options can lead us to some fairly slippery slopes, quickly.

I have been in a place like this recently in my life. I haven’t lost everything like Job, but there has been enough emotional and mental stress for me that it has gotten me to a point where everything that happens seems to be some sort of divine judgment or reward. The computer breaks. The car runs out of oil. These things can’t be my doing, right? I can’t be held responsible for all of these bad things in my life. It must be God, right?

We live in a culture that promotes the idea of entitlement. We all deserve the best and when we don’t get it, we have a tendency to whine like children. Of course, if you work with children, you can see this played out at a grander scale. If something doesn’t happen in the journey from childhood to adulthood, we end up with a lot of adults who whine and complain because they didn’t get the opportunity that was due them.

It’s a very unbiblical approach towards life. If we read the creation account in Scripture, the only thing that any of us deserves is punishment for our disobedience to God. We don’t deserve grace. That’s why it’s called grace, because we don’t earn it. It’s given to us freely, but at a high cost.

This same mentality has pervaded the church as well. People come to church and ask, “what am I going to get out of it?” If their needs aren’t being met every minute of every day, then they take “their toys” and go find another sandbox to “play in.” Funny, seems to me that Jesus said that the Son of Man, the One who had the right to have a sense of entitlement, came not to be served, but to serve. Philippians 2:6-11 says:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Back to Job. Sometimes, things just happen. It doesn’t mean that God intervened to make our lives miserable. It also doesn’t mean that we’re sitting at the right hand of Jesus just because the sun is shining. The whole world was upset by Adam and Eve’s sin. The world and everything in it is faulty and broken, sometimes we get a clearer glimpse of that than other times.

After Job had been chastised for some of his speculations, he spoke to the Lord and said, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Job realized that he was above his pay grade, he didn’t have the capacity to understand the mind of God. Neither do we.

When bad things happen in our lives, we always want answers. We want to know why things are the way that they are because we think that we can fix it. Fact of the matter is, the only one who can fix it is Jesus. The reason that he came, the reason that he died and rose again was because things are broken and he was the only one with the capacity to fix it.

Sometimes the car breaks down just because it’s old. We get speeding tickets because we were speeding. We can't find a parking space because we got here too late and the place is busy. People act like jerks to us because they’re sinners, just like us. These things, and so much more, don’t happen just because God has the crosshairs of His divine gun pointed squarely at our lives. As much as we want answers that can satisfy us, there are some times when they just can’t be found and we need to be like Job and say, “this is above my pay grade, Lord, but I trust you.”

Our Western, individualistic approach towards Christianity has a tendency to skew our perspective. It’s not that God doesn’t care about the little things in our lives, it’s that we are part of a bigger picture, a greater body. There are others who are struggling as mightily, if not more, than we are. I don’t say this to promote the old adage that “misery loves company” but instead to promote the idea that we reach out in the midst of our difficult situations. Instead of sitting in the corner and asking, “why me, God?” we need to turn and look around, realize that others are hurting too, and say, “why any of us?” Despite popular belief, it’s not all about me….or you, for that matter.

Next time you start thinking that Someone has their sights on you, remember that we are all in this together. Reach out to someone else, after all, two are better than one. And when you figure this all out, come give me some helpful hints, because right now, I’m preaching more to myself than I am to anyone else!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Jon. I have struggled with issues like this for so long, and Job comes to mind often. It is easy to think things like this: Why do I have a child with an extra chromosome? Why did my mother-in-law have to die of a devastating disease? But then I look to Psalm 73, as I have over the years when things are tough. No matter what, it is good to be near God, to tell of all his good works.

    Keep the faith -- and keep writing!