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Life Issues

It's easy to trust God when the sun is shining and all is well with the world. But when adversity strikes and it feels like God has turned against us or simply lost interest in us, that's another story! When those "plans to give us a hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29/11) seem like a promise of hollow words that have no substance, how do we respond so far as our attitude towards  God is concerned?

Mr. & Mrs. Job faced such a dilemma. If you want to talk about adversity, you will soon be talking about this couple! The opening chapters of the book of Job tell of the repeated disasters that befell their family. No wonder this man's name has become synonymous with catastrophic disaster.

Adversity has the capacity to make us better or bitter. In the presence of their unimaginable grief, Job hung on desperately to his faith in God and he became an even better man. Being true  to his God, he became better. Not so with Mrs. Job. Her response to her husband was this: "Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die!" That was her response to what had happened to her family. She became bitter. Not that I can really blame her. I don't think I would relish the idea of making a pastoral call on her the week after her great loss!!  

If I did make that call, what would I say? How could I explain (let alone  justify) the Divine rationale behind the events recorded in the first 2 chapters?  Was this some kind of cosmic joke? What possible reason could there be that warranted God allowing such treatment against one whom He Himself described as the "finest man in all the world" (Job 1/8 TLB).

There is such a reason. Our problem is that God isn't telling us what it is.

To maintain our integrity, we must seek answers to the human condition regardless of what we eventually may discover.  Now that's a commitment Mrs. Job was not prepared to make. But like countless others over the subsequent generations, it seems she walked away into an unknown future. Assuming she was revealing her own intentions when she spoke to her husband, she would prefer to curse God and die rather than struggle with the physical, emotional and spiritual contradictions, pain and confusion.

Again, I can't say I blame her. There is much in our world today that challenges the very idea of God, let alone a loving God. There are times in everyone's life when the circumstances as such appear to put the lie to our God being loving, merciful, kind, gracious and forgiving. When the waves of adversity seem determined to sweep us off our feet and crush us, our God appears to be vengeful, vindictive, heartless and careless.

I suspect that you know people who once were heavily involved in the work of God's Kingdom but who, today, have no place for God (if there is such a being) in their lives. Once they were ardent evangelists for the gospel now they remain silent or, if they have to talk, their position is diametrically opposed to what they once believed.

Some of those folk just drifted away into some little backwater of life where they are willing to stay forever. There has been no apparent tragedy or disaster that would explain their withdrawal from the Kingdom life.

However, many of those who depart do so deliberately because of the what they see to be the irreconcilable  differences between what they had  believed about God in their hearts and what they had experienced about God in real life.

Again, I can't say that I blame them!  I have seen individuals and families who appear to have gone through life with little or no acquaintance with adversity. But I also have seen the inequality of the experience of others who seem to attract adversity like a magnet. They lurch from one disaster to another, so much h so that family and friends are convinced that they must have done something incredibly evil in another life!

In our own case (with me being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and my wife now diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease), the most common response from friends and family has been, "It's not fair!!" While I don't believe that I am approaching  some kind of faith crisis, I do find myself better understanding the heart cry, "It's not fair!!"

Enter again Mr. and Mrs. Job.

Curse God or trust God? Mrs. Job has made her position clear. "Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die!

Integrity for Job means a willingness to wrestle with the contradictions of life, to seek reconciliation between what he believes in his heart about God and what he experiences in his life. His wife believes he is wasting his time pursuing that goal.

Although the KJV translation stands somewhat apart from other versions (in that they use the word "hope" rather than trust), it does capture the essence of Job's attitude of hope. Job 13/15 reads, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."  Incredible!! Amazing!! I hear Job saying, "It doesn't matter how bad things get, I will continue to trust Him. Even if He should take my life in the worst of circumstances, I will trust Him".

I like the way the New Living Translation records Job's situation in Job 13/14,15: "Yes I will take my life in my hands and say what I really think. God might kill me but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with Him".

I like this man! He is not going to turn away from God because he has no other hope, no other option.

[This reminds me of the time when many supposed followers of Jesus turned and walked with Him no longer. Jesus turned and said to the Twelve, "Are you also going to leave?" Peter replied on behalf of all of them, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life". (John 6/67,68)]

Integrity of spirit demands that we stay and wrestle the issue through and if we cannot find some resolution to the dilemma, then we commit ourselves to live with that tension.

May I get personal for a moment?

Given the respective health scenarios of Bev and myself, it is evident that there are some tough times ahead. What we now know about our respective diseases and what their last stages might look like doesn't exactly fill us with excitement! Every so often we catch a glimpse of God's fingerprints on our lives. Most of the time we simply focus on today and enjoy each other's company within the context of God's grace for the immediacy of each day.

As I've written elsewhere on this site, God gives grace for the day. This grace (the empowering presence of God in our lives) is like the manna in the wilderness. It was only for that day. There was none left over from yesterday. You could not take an advance on tomorrow. It was just for today.

 God's grace is sufficient for this day (His enabling presence in our lives) is just for today. There is none left over from yesterday. We\ can't get an advance on tomorrow's grace. Maybe that's why Jesus said' "So don't worry about tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today" (Matthew 6/34).

Tomorrow's grace will not be sufficient for today's needs - even it came today.

Trust - now there's a mind-stretching concept !  The scriptures say "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do rely on your own understanding" (Proverbs.6/6).  The Apostle Paul found that, even facing the tough days was made possible by the grace of God - even when he was victimised by the relentless Jewish leaders who pursued Paul and the Twelve uphill and down dale.

Even in the midst of what are apparently irreconcilable differences, you and I are called upon to trust the God who has called us into His presence and purpose.

 

 

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