Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Shall We Accept God from God, and Not Trouble?
Somewhere, in the bleakness of this early December morning, with my crab apple tree stripped and naked, with the cold drizzle leaking from a monotone gray sky, with a heart broken and yet unhealed by a calamity of November’s past, a question hangs in the a shadowy corner of my consciousness.
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:10
Here is that cosmic dilemma once again. Here again, that question that has ripped from good men their fragile, emerging faith. Here is that question that we who love God play tennis with all the time, hitting the ball back into the other court, hoping to avoid its insistent clamor, only to find it returning again to be considered by our limited perspective, by our shallow understanding.
In the pediatric icu, the question hangs heavy as a mom and dad wait for their brain injured son, hurt in a car accident, to die as his brain stem shuts down. In the apartment of Burman refugees, wrapping toothpaste in aluminum foil for Christmas, the question hovers. It is there too in the midst of an ugly divorce, and wears like a cloak on the parent waiting for the prodigal to return. Everywhere there is suffering, the theological debate rages invisibly on… Where does the free will of man, often resulting in evil, and the sovereignty of God intersect? Does He indeed bring trouble to those He most vehemently claims to love “with an everlasting love.”
As I wade through my own losses, digging ever deeper (despite my lack of spiritual skill) into the mine of God’s word I find some consolation. I turn this thing around a thousand times in my head…the car accident, the fallout, the pain and suffering that continue down unfamiliar roads I didn’t see coming…and it is this word that remains: Emmanuel. God with us.
Job writhed in anguish of body and soul. He railed, he complained and he suffered profoundly. He volleyed that ball back and forth with his God many times. Read his account, so very human…one moment faithfully hanging on, the next wanting to die, the next madder than a wet hen. All the while The Great One stays with Job. Like the faithful friend at the bedside of the feverish, He will not let Job go on alone, even though Job can’t see him there in his misery.
God replies to Job’s sufferings with Himself. In that famous speech from the pulpit of heaven, the Ancient of Days points out to the poor man in a myriad of metaphors just how limited human perspective can be. In the end, Job finds the “God with him”. He finds Emanuel. But it’s messy business. Not a neat tidy story. And lest you forget, Job never got those dead children back. He would have to continue on accepting not only good from God, but trouble also.
There is so much more to say. As I write these words I think of the value the word of God places on suffering to bring great good. I think of the deliverance and joy that are also splashed across the painting of a life bearing the smudges of evil and grief. And I see a Savior born in a smelly barn, asking a similar question in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” ‘If it is possible, could this cup possibly pass me by?”
Thankfully, He accepted trouble to bring us good. Sins forgiven. Sorrows consoled. Death defeated. Emanuel. God with us. Hold on in your suffering. Before we know it, it will be Christmas and Easter every day. We will see all the spiritual cancer the Surgeon’s knife cut loose in our pain. And like Job, we will simply stand awestruck, and the question will no longer matter.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,