Is God more distant or more near when life is a struggle and hopes seem squashed at every turn?
This week arrives after a particularly onerous weekend that started with my brother Roger’s funeral on Friday. At 44, cancer struck him down after a 14-year battle.
As the rest of my family returns to their jobs to attempt resumption of normalcy, I return to job-hunting. Then again, job-hunting isn’t very normal.
He and I used to talk about our respective struggles like they were comparable somehow. He was battling to stay alive whereas I was merely struggling to make a living – Completely different challenges that neither of us were any good at.
Turning to the Bible for wisdom to lessen or soothe the ache of Roger’s situation and my own, I find a passage I ponder often.…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
God achieves his purpose in our lives regardless of how life seems to be working out. Even so, I struggle with the premise that I can at least try some things but what chance did Roger have? Or anyone facing something they were unable to avoid and less able to overcome?
Trial and doubt often leads me to the book of Job. Chapter 3 begins Job’s comments about the devastation that occurred in his once-sterling life – children killed, wealth gone, health ruined. But Job’s story doesn’t start in Chapter 3. It starts in Chapter 1 where the entire, alarming premise of the story is laid out.
Turns out, Job is not about suffering at all. It’s about faith
Job is selected to undergo a staggering ordeal in order to settle a debate between two supernatural heavyweights – God and Satan. God is betting that Job’s faith is not dependent on God’s goodness. Satan asserts the opposite. Remove blessing and faith fails, or at least is dealt a critical blow.
Author Philip Yancey takes up the story of Job in his book, “The Bible Jesus Read.”
“In a sense, Job must replay the original test of the garden of Eden, with the bar raised higher. Living in paradise, Adam and Eve faced a best-case scenario for trusting God who asked so little of them and showered down blessings. In a living hell, Job faces the worst-case scenario: God asks so much while curses rain down on him. (pg 51)
I was struck that the opportunity to “Do Over” the test of Eden still arises today – frequently. Do we trust and depend on God for guidance or rely on ourselves or others or cues in the world around us? Do we believe God’s promises or fall in with how things are in our world?
Recall that Adam and Eve chose against God when everything was going for them. Job’s test is to maintain trust in God when everything is going against him. Continues Yancey:
The contest between Satan and God is not trivial exercise. Satan’s accusation that Job loves God only because ‘you put a hedge around him,’ stands as an attack on God’s character. It implies that God is not worthy of love in himself, that people follow God only because they get something out of it or are ‘bribed’ to do so.” (pgs 51-52)
Elsewhere Yancey poses, “Can a person believe even when God appears … as an enemy? Or is faith like everything else, a product of environment and circumstances?” (pg 54).
In Job’s story, I appreciate how God shows up at the end of Job’s story. While talkative when debating with his friends, Job is suddenly at a loss for words before God. Fortunately, what he doesn’t say is all that needs to be said. God is enough.
God is enough for Roger even in death and he is certainly enough for me even if I never manage to make a living again.
Standing on “God is enough” is a great place for a “Do-Over” to end up.
Adam and Eve Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/96314925@N06/9985207064