God speaks in our storms
Reconciliation and Restoration[Job 38]
WHAT’S THE POINT?
We have a God who promises to work all things for good.
Talk about last week’s message. Give a quick summary.
Chris will say something like
Over the past 3 weeks we have dove into the life of Job and some of the greatest questions we wrestle with: Why do bad things happen to good people? How can I make sense of suffering? Why are lamenting and grief healthy? And today we are finishing as we ask the age-old question of: Where is God when I hurt?
A summary of where we are at in the story:
Job loses everything, his servants & animals, property, income, ten children, and his health. His friends come to grieve and visit with him but it ends up leading to a really unhelpful conversation which gets to the point of insults and the modern-day equivalent of ‘your momma jokes.’
His wife speaks
His friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar speak
Later in the book of Job, a fourth friend Elihu come onto the scene and he speaks.
AND THEN GOD SPEAKS.
None of the questions that Job has from chapters 1 through 37 are answered:
– Job wants answers, God gives questions
– Job wants fairness, but God gives omnipotence
– Job wants clarity, but God gives a mystery
– Job wants reasons, but God gives him wisdom
Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
WHY DO I CARE?
READ Job 38: 1-13
Chapter 38 is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the moment where we think God will explain himself to Job and justify all the hurt and pain he has gone through. The moment when God will give answers to Job’s questions, and that Job’s world will be made right again. But God, in His wisdom does something different.
Healthy spirituality, healthy faith, and healthy Christians hold on to the tensions and mysteries of God. Tensions of lament and silence. Tensions of protest and trust. Tensions of petition and submission. Tensions of faith and mystery. What we learn from chapter 38 and the last couple chapters of Job is that we worship a God who is our comfort, friend, saviour, father, and helper. But he is also Lord, king, ruler, powerful and uncontrollable. These are some of the tensions in being a Christian. On one hand, we trust and believe that God is in control, but on the other, we know that God is entirely uncontrollable and his ways are so much higher and different from ours.
Healthy Christians, live in the tension. The tension of the known and the unknown.
So what does God do?
He asks Job lots of questions, about 50 questions, and they are about the creation and origin of the universe. And the questions themselves are simple questions:
– Where were you when I made this?
– Where were you when all this came into existence?
– When did you ever do what I’ve done?
– Who is the one who sustains everything?
– Can you do what I do, and make it look easy?
God doesn’t respond with answers but with questions. This sounds kind of depressing right? It doesn’t sound that comforting, it doesn’t seem as if it will bring Job the answers and peace he is looking for. But I actually believe that God’s response to Job is good. And there are 3 reasons why it is good and why it actually helps us.
1. God is wholly other.
This is a theological truth that if you want to be a follower of Jesus, if you want to be a Christian, you have to wrap your head around this and sit in the tension. This simply means that God is very different than us, and does things very differently to what we do.
Share a story of how God has worked in ways that don’t make sense to you: Chris will use WWJD Bracelets.
In the 1990s a young female Christian youth leader from Michigan called Janie Tinklenberg started a Christian movement that took the world by storm. Many of you would have no idea who Janie Tinklenberg is, but she created the WWJD bracelets (what would Jesus do). It was a movement of Christians who would wear this bracelet on their wrist so that in every situation they would be reminded to think, WWJD. This is a great question and is really important to put Jesus at the centre of our life in our big choices and our small decisions.
But there is a small problem with WWJD. The problem is, that throughout the gospels, those closest to Jesus, often had absolutely no idea what he was doing and why he was doing it! When you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John it’s so evident that Jesus was often confusing people. He did not follow the culture and trends of the day but often did things that made people ask questions. He gave grace to people that the world had no use for. He judged religious people who thought they were in. He touched people who had never been touched before because you would be seen as unclean and he had meals with religious fundamentalists. He then would go to the cross and die for our sin. There are so many times when I’m like… “I don’t know what Jesus would do!”
So when we read Job 38 we realize that God’s ways are so different from our ways. Jesus’ ways go against the grain and often our way of thinking. And the reason being is God is Wholly Other. He is distinct. He is unique. There is no one in all of creation whose ways are in the same playing field as God’s. When we understand this, when we realize this. It causes humility in us. That we are not God, that our brains don’t always think God’s thoughts. That humbly we come to God and trust that he knows better. He is wholly other.
2. God is the sustainer of the world.
Ch 38-40 God speaks, and tells Job that he is the sustainer of the world. That everything was created and everything is sustained by his power. These chapters seem incredibly puzzling because God’s words seem so disconnected from Job’s questions.
Job is asking “WHY AM I SUFFERING?!” And God responds with “Have you ever made a horse?” (Ch 39:19) What does Job’s suffering have to do with horses?! Well, I don’t think God is as quite disconnected as Job believes or we may think. I think what God is doing here is reminding Job that he is creator but that he is also sustainer. God is the one who made all things, but tends and cares for all things. I think God is reminding Job that as he sustains the universe, as he holds all things together, that he can also sustain Job.
In our suffering, trials, grief, and pain…. God is our sustainer, maintainer, and near. God is the one who can hold us together. If he can do it for the universe, he can do it for you.
3. Trust God’s wisdom and creative ways; even when you can’t figure it out.
What God is inviting us to his trust, not total understanding. This is not easy, but it’s the invitation.
We will not know all the workings of the universe, why everything happens, the reasons for every moment, because the universe is not centred around you and me. The world is centred around God. It is God who created, God who sustains, God (through Jesus) makes us right with him again. Everything is centred around God.
Through suffering, either in the moment, or even in hindsight, it can be so difficult to see or understand what God is doing or where he is. We often use the verse Romans 8:28 to comfort ourselves or others, but it’s often used wrong. When someone is hurting, you may hear someone say, “Don’t worry, all things will work together for good!” But often this can come across as detached emotionally and just becomes a mantra. But that’s not how this passage should be translated. The subject in this verse is not “all things” it’s actually God.
“God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
It’s not ‘all things’ it’s ‘God works’. This means there is never a moment when God is not working. Even though we might not understand his wisdom or his ways. God is always working. I don’t know your situation, I don’t know your suffering, I don’t know your pain, but I do know that God is working all things for good. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, conquering the grave, this gives us the assurance and promise that the ‘all things’ might not come on this side of eternity. We might not see the good today, tomorrow, or in our lifetime, but what this promise says and what Jesus does means that God will work all things for good even after we die.
God gives these words to Job in chapters 38-40 not to crush him, or belittle his opinion, but to offer him a new perspective, reminding him that he has not been abandoned. That God will sustain him. That God will work all things, even the worst things, for good.
So how did Job respond to God?
Job answered the Lord:
I know you can do anything;
no plan of yours can be opposed successfully.
You said, “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?”
I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand,
wonders beyond my comprehension.
You said, “Listen and I will speak;
I will question you and you will inform me.”
My ears had heard about you,
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore, I relent and find comfort
on dust and ashes.
Job responds to God by listening to him, by acknowledging that he doesn’t know everything, and by finding comfort in God as he puts his trust in him.
We know that God works all things for good. For Job some of the good came this side of heaven, the rest would be restored to him on the other side. To find out what that looked like, I want to encourage you to go read Job ch 42.
WHAT DO I DO?
As we end this series I hope you now understand that on this side of eternity, there will always be suffering. Like Job we too will experience moments in our life that hurts, that grieves us, that leaves us asking hard questions.
But I also hope that from the Book of Job you can grab onto some deep wisdom. Wisdom that doesn’t give you an answer to every single painful moment you have. But wisdom that doesn’t leave you always blaming yourself, blaming others, believing that you deserved it or that God is distant from you.
Rather, just as God responds to Job he responds to you in the same way. He is the creator of all things, he works in ways that you or I will never understand. He sustains and holds the universe together, he can sustain you too. He calls you and me to trust him when we don’t have every answer. He asks us to have faith even when times are hard. And that he promises to work all things for good, in this life or the next. That promise is for you.
We may never have the answers to all our suffering, but we have a God, who more than understands and has experienced deep suffering. A God who longs to be your comfort and hope. And whose arms are always open to embrace you. Sometimes like Job we have to call out in pain, to lament. Sometimes we have to worship. Other times we have to ask hard questions, and yet other times we have to sit in silence and allow God’s words and presence to be our comfort.
This is the tension of faith. Holding grief and God together.