Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come? Why is life given to a person whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. Job 3:20-26
Those are the words of the patron saint of tragedy and loss – Job.
Those are also the feelings of untold numbers of sufferers throughout history. And maybe the person sitting beside you.
Pain, loss, and suffering – this is the common language of the human soul. We all have or all will, at some point, come face to face with tragedy, misfortune, and anguish.
Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. Job 5:7 (Eliphaz)
And when trouble comes we are desperate for answers and explanations…
- how can I fix this thing?
- where’s the magic potion to relieve the pain?
- what’s the point of all this – what’s the reason for it?
…and maybe the biggest question…Where’s God in all of it?..Where’s God when there’s no happy ending?
That’s the question we will address over the next four weeks.
· Where are you God? Why did you let this happen? Why won’t you fix this?
· Starting next week we’ll directly try to address the main question “Where’s God when there’s no happy ending…
But today in preparation I want to address some of the common beliefs we cling to during times of pain and loss and tragedy…some myths that can keep us from healing or redemption and locked in our pain.
To help us explore these misconceptions we are fortunate to have the story of Job.
You may be familiar but let’s get a quick refresher…
Background: Job was a wealthy, successful and devout man
6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." 9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." 12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:6-12
· Through a series of calamities Job loses ALL of his possessions AND his entire family except for his wife
2:1 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." 3 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." 4 "Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face." 6 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life." 7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Job 2:1-7
· this time Satan afflicts Job’s health…but not so much to kill him.
· Amazingly… In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. Job 1:22 …and…In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Job 2:10
So, that’s the background of the story to which we’ll return…a man who experiences the worst of tragedies for no apparent reason
4 common myths about suffering
Myth #1 – My pain, loss or tragedy is the result of my sin.
I did something wrong and now I’m paying the price.This was the assumption of Job’s friends who showed up to grieve with him and try to fix him.
Job 4:6-8 (Eliphaz) Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? 7 "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? 8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.
Job 8:3-4 (Bildad) Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? 4 When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
In essence they are saying…This is a simple case of cause and effect – do something wrong and God pounces.
· IL – Friend of mine in our first church ministry with ALS/ Lou Gherig’s who was told she was sick because her husband worked in a grocery store that sold liquor.
· That’s ridiculous, maddening and cruel. And the entire story of Job sets that myth on its head.
Now we have to be honest…the point could be made that all pain and tragedy in some way does have its origins in sin or willful transgressions of human beings.
· 9/11, Korean Ferry accident
· DWI accident that leads to an accidental death
· Family being destroyed by an adulterous relationship of a parent
· Life being devastated by molestation
Even natural disasters (tornados and hurricanes) trace their origins back to the sinfulness of mankind that led to what Paul calls… We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Romans 8:22
But it is not necessarily true that your suffering is some kind of punishment because you did something to displease the Almighty God.
Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. John 9:1-3
Which leads to the second myth…
Myth #2 - Pain, loss and tragedy are all caused by God.
Fascinatingly Job seems to think so…
Job 16:9-14 God assails me and tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me; my opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes. 10 ….12 All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target; 13 his archers surround me. Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground. 14 Again and again he bursts upon me; he rushes at me like a warrior.
Other scripture seems to concur:
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. Isaiah 45:7
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Lamentations 3:38
So… it is abundantly clear that indeed some pain is actually by the hand of God. But is all of it?
Scripture is equally clear that sometimes things happen because; well, because they just do…
"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 1 Peter 1:24
You know quite well that we were destined for trials. 1 Thessalonians 3:3
· Pain and tragedy are all part of living on this planet. But God is not necessarily the author of it all suffering, the story of Job, once again makes that clear.
· But wait…so God didn’t actually make Job suffer…but he allowed it didn’t he? Absolutely. He certainly did. When any kind of pain or tragedy happens, God, at least, allows it.
· To NOT believe that is to have a serious flaw in out theology.
o We would have to be deists
o …or we would have to diminish the omnipotence of God – he would be a littler God.
· So, no, God does not directly cause all suffering…but he certainly allows it. And in some cases halts it, or changes it…which leads us to the pertinent question…Where is God when there’ no happy ending?
Myth #3 - Pain, loss and tragedy are all caused by Satan.
Yes, indeed some suffering is by the hand of Satan…we know that from this story.
We also have this… To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2 Corinthians 12:7
· Again…some suffering indeed comes from our enemy who seeks to devour us…but all of it? No. And apparently even when Satan does cause it – it is by God’s permission.
Myth #4 - Pain, loss and tragedy all have a reason behind them.
This is the most common myth. One I hear frequently invoked at funeral after funeral and in hospital room after hospital room…”I know there’s some reason for this…God has a bigger plan…”!
· IL – the worst illustration of this was at a funeral I attended of a friend whose child drowned – their pastor suggested it happened so that someone might get saved! That’s cruel and wrong to assume.
What I find fascinating about the Job story is how God completely ignores that question – why did this happen?
Job 38:1-7 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
· what follows is a litany of such questions God directs forcefully toward Job and his friends…
· Note Vs. 3 – He doesn’t say – thanks for being patient – I’m now going to answer you…I’ll tell you this all happened.
· On the contrary he asks in essence - who the heck do you think you are?
o who do you think I am?
o why do you keep trying to explain this thing away?
And never once does God offer the reason behind Job’s suffering…never once.
· Don’t play God…don’t try to figure me out…I’m way beyond your understanding.
· And in essence don’t try to fit everything in your life into a category that makes sense.
· I am going to leave you all with the conundrum with no reason…I am God and you are going to have to just trust me.
Maybe Paul was trying to get at this when he wrote…
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
· fascinating – the way we read this normally – God causes all things to work for our good. All pain, suffering and tragedy has a reason.
But that is NOT what this says…
· the phrase God works lit. means God cooperates with…works in synergy with.
Here’s an accurate translation: “When things happen God cooperates with it and us to do something good”
· there may not have been a reason for it but there can be a result from it.
So, rather than agonizing over the purpose…let’s start looking for what redemption can come out of it.
Stop asking “why?” Start asking “what now?”
And a completely legitimate question we are allowed to ask of God and should ask of him…if you promise to cooperate with me in my suffering…where are you?
Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? Psalm 13:1
That’s the question we will address the next 3 weeks….
Where’s God when there’s no happy ending.