I’d guess you probably read the title of this one and think, “Ugh. Do I really want to read this?” It’s like a drag before it even gets out of the gate. I understand. And thanks for reading anyway.
We began a new series today in our student ministry and its simply entitled “Life Stinks.” I’m not crazy about the title, but I’ve got to admit–it rings true for so many teens today. Under the fascade of a carefree teenage existence, many teens today are stuck in private pain. Pain that is medicated with a wide variety of elixirs–seeking for acceptance, grades, popularity, sports, delinquency, sexual promiscuity, criminal activity, drinking, drugs, and even suicide. All these things (and more) are the medications of choice to try and dull the pain they feel. The pain that to them, is all too real.
As an adult, the temptation is to be dismissive; call it a phase we all have to go through, give them the proverbial pat on the head, and the oft belittling, “It’ll be okay.”
But will it? Fortunately for most, it indeed will all work out. But getting past the pain isn’t nearly as valuable in the long run as getting through the pain.
When pain of any kind arises in our lives, a very common response is to look for something/someone to blame. To so many, since God is the biggest thing they can think of, He’s the easiest target to hit. A very often asked question is something to the tune of “If God is so loving and powerful, why is there such suffering in the world?” I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that I’ve thought the same question. But blaming God doesn’t make the most sense and it’s certainly not the most constructive route to take.
Do you know what the most repeated question in the Bible is? It’s “How long, O Lord?” It’s question that cries out to God from anguish and pain, asking the Almighty how long He is going to inflict whatever dire circumstance we are in. It’s a question that aches when asked. It’s a question that puts God on the receiving end of a pointed finger of blame.
Now, I’m going to slip into what I consider personally to be a “gray area” of God; that is, one of those things about God that I just don’t get. I don’t understand it. But I’ll be quick to point out that “getting” God isn’t possible anyway. In fact, not “getting” God is at the core of genuine, heart-felt worship of God, if you really consider it.
And the part (or one of them) about God that I don’t understand is found in the book of Job. Job was a man who loved God dearly and did what was right. The Bible calls Job “righteous”. And it seems to me that God not only noticed Job’s righteousness, but even had an occasion to show him off during a conversation with the devil. Read the whole conversation in Job chapter 1. It’s fascinating, troubling, confounding, and utterly intriguing.
The short version of it is that the devil came before God along with some other angels. God asked “where have you been?” The devil said, “Roaming back and forth through the earth.” God said, “Have you considered my servant Job?”
Now, hold on a minute there God! Why are you throwing Job under the bus like that? What gives?!? God goes on to tout Job’s character when He calls Job “upright and blameless” (1:8). Apparently Satan was looking for someone to test and mess with, and it seems that God sold Job right up the river. But don’t be fooled. God has a plan here. It’s subtle and slight at this point in the story, but if you read it through you’ll see some key truths.
In the interest of brevity, here are some tidbits of application from the story of Job:
1. God remains in ultimate control, even when things seem out of control. (1:12)
2. Terrible, unspeakable things DO happen to Godly, wonderful, “upright” people. (1:13-19) (Re-read #1)
3. The choice of response to terrible things happening remains ours. While #1 will always be true, and #2 will be true until the return of Christ, #3 will likewise always be true. (1:20-21)
If you go on to read the following chapters of this incredible story, you’ll follow Job through the pains and triumphs of his wrestle with the good and bad of his own life. He had those who encouraged and supported him, and then there was his wife who’s advice was to “curse God and die.” What a sweetie.
And if you want to get a glimpse into Job’s pain, read chapter 3. And then 4. And then 5. And 6. And 7. In fact, read all the way through chapter 37 and you will begin to understand the tormenting pain Job was in. Here he begins, continues, and ends spilling out his anguished heart to God.
But in chapter 38, it’s God’s turn to speak. And I challenge you that if you ever have a life pain that you don’t know what to do with or don’t know how to address, go read Job chapters 38-41. God gives Job a blasting reminder of his place before a holy God.
We’re surrounded by pain in our world today. Most of it is glossed over with a thin smile and a hurried pace. But make no mistake about it; as humans we are a people in pain.
But the fact remains that from God comes both that which we welcome eagerly and that which if given the choice, we would pass on. The choice remains: Do we shake our fist at God because He’s the easiest to blame, or do we praise God in the pain, allowing us to praise Him through it?