Most of you have no idea what tragedies, terrors, torments, and turmoils are going on in my life. I count it all joy! Here’s why:
One of the greatest lessons of Job is that his friends tried to help him. Man, were they wrong! Job tried to answer them. Man, was he wrong! The focus of many sermons is a focus on man. Man, is that wrong! It is always true that “I am not good because I am a Christian. I am a Christian because I know I am not good.” It makes no difference who or what I am, and all the difference who and what God is. I love to boast.
“If you are a fool, you can expect a fool’s reward.” I do. I have spent most of my life as a fool, making foolish decisions. But if Jesus overcomes death, foolishness no longer has any spiritual power. (That’s not precisely accurate, but I’ll defer trying to explain that premise.)
Job announced, “Destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.” That’s a pre-salvation, pre-Jewish, pre-Christian thought that endures through every iota of Judeo-Christian thinking and philosophy. “What did I do to deserve this?”
I did the same thing Job did. I chose to love God, and him only. OF COURSE with abject failure, slipping and sliding, willful disobedience, stupidity and foolishness, and classic “simply dumb,” but it is still my 30 year choice and dedication. That’s why I’m entirely okay with the very NOT OKAY circumstances. I get to read Job and understand because it is revealed to me in Job. My counselors and Satan can deliver no message of how to “correct” my life. I see destruction as a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I DO endure.
There is more. God said to Satan, “Do anything you want to Job, but don’t kill him.” That is enough to rest my case.
But I can’t because my righteousness is not my own. I am a very screwed up person, just like you I expect, and I am only fully and absolutely and completely justified by another — namely Christ Jesus. Nothing in me can claim worthiness of behavior, good choices, healthy attitudes or even moral decency. Except, now and then, more or less, by accident. I can “only” claim Christ.
It is the most hideous and pervasive flaw in man: #what.did.I.do.to.deserve.this? You get what you get and you deal with it. We all do. God still demands what he demanded of Job, “Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.”
Aren’t I tough and lovely? Look what I can do. heh.
There is goodness. It is good! As Job said at the end of his “lessons,” “I have heard of you with my ear: but now I see him with my eye!” It happened to me, when I lay in a hospital in Umpqua, Oregon, lying alone, my stomach full of blood, body full of infection, IVs, stomach pump, acute pancreatitis, wildly out of control diabetes, no friend at hand and far from family and my life partner, expecting to die, and being overwhelmed with hope and peace.
In the words of Ricky Ricardo, “‘Splain dat, Lucy!”
No one could give me any advice at that moment BUT Job, and he said, in essence, “If you really knew me, you’d know what a joke it was when God called ME righteous. He was righteous through me. Mostly, they love my story and get it all wrong.”
Sometimes even I misunderstand my “suffering.” Even with Job’s understanding. It is a tremendous gift, because past every pain, misery, financial burden, depression, loss, and horror, there is only mercy and grace. It has always and inescapably been true of the financial. I just can’t worry about it. It strongly appears that God says, “I own the cattle on a thousand hills” . . . You’d almost think there’s a Bible verse about that or something.
Wealth? Nope, not for me. Not in one single relative sense. Except the bounty of Christ. Health? Nope, not for me. Not in one single relative sense. Except the beauty of Christ. Life? In Christ. Liberty? In Christ. Happiness? Oh yes, right up there with suffering! (Not to be confused with masochism.)
The ENTIRE story of Job, the whole message, and mine, too, is simply this: “For I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
I see and not another. None of this is because of me. My sin is no longer my reward. It is forgiven. Nor is it remembered.
In spite of me.