#24 in series for September 25, 2018
There’s much devastation in our world and has been in every age.
There continue to be wars and rumors of wars, starvation, unemployment and many other problems.
“Is there a way to life? Is there a way to joy, peace, wholeness, health, direction, purpose?… God tells us [in the Bible] what we need to know for successful living…” (The Way, a Living Bible version for young people, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1972. iii).
Have you ever agonized over questions about life and death, purpose and meaning, or truth?
The Bible says Job asked, “Why didn’t I die at birth?…Why is a man allowed to be born if God is only going to give him a hopeless life of uselessness and frustration?” (Job 3:11, 23, Living Bible). Later he sounds like he wouldn’t mind being alive, even suffering, if he could only enjoy a relationship with God: “Oh, that I knew where to find God—that I could go to his throne and talk with him there….and understand what he wants,”(23:3-5).
Although he doesn’t hear answers to his questions right away, Job does still believe in God. Job finds it comforting, in spite of his unanswered questions and sufferings, that God knows what’s going on. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold,” (Job 23:10, NIV).
After Job’s three friends fail to give him any reasonable answers to his questions, a young man named Elihu speaks, led by God’s Spirit. He serves as a mediator in the argument between Job and God. He says it is wrong for Job to claim to be sinless and complain that God is not treating him right—to accuse God of not being fair, (Job 33:8-13). Later God speaks to Job, who repents and sees God more clearly. God then restores to him what Satan has taken.
King David also had questions. He agonized, saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…why do you refuse to help me?” He concludes, “God will answer me and rescue me.” He decides he will praise the Lord (when he comes out at the other end of the trouble, I assume) and tell of the wonderful things God has done, (Psalms 22:1, 21b, 22-30).
In another Psalm, David asks, in his frustration, “Lord, how long will you stand there, doing nothing?” (35:17 LB). However, he must believe God will grant his request, because he says he will thank and praise God when that happens. (35:18 & 28).
In Psalm 73, it sounds like a Psalmist is going through a dark night of the soul: “I came so close to the edge of the cliff! My feet were slipping….Does God realize what is going on?… Have I been wasting my time?” (vv. 2, 11, 13 LB.) Envy is the reason for his questions. The wicked seem more prosperous than those who follow God. However, when he goes into God’s sanctuary (17-20), he realizes that they will perish in the end.
Then, repentance fills his heart. He sees himself as stupid and ignorant. Yet, “even so, you love me! You are holding my right hand! You will keep on guiding me…” (Ps. 73:21-24, LB).
He plans “to get as close to God as I can! I have chosen him and I will tell everyone about the wonderful ways he rescues me,” (v.28)
When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you really the one we are waiting for, or shall we keep on looking?”(Mt.11:3). Jesus reassured him.
People continue to ask God their heart-rending questions.
In despair in 1982, after falling into Satan’s trap, I felt I’d never be of use to God again. Then I wrote the poem, Prayer of Confusion. (see blog #4 in this series, https://judithvanderwege.com/2018/07/questions-and-confusion). When I got to the point where I could honestly say, “O Lord, take control,” Jesus began to lead me out of the valley of despair and confusion.
Since that time so many years ago, the Triune God has restored me and brought me into a more intimate, loving relationship with himself. God convinced me he truly does love me and care about my happiness. His purpose in judging and disciplining was to rescue me and draw me into a closer relationship with Himself.
The Lord is the answer to my deepest needs so, as I trust his love, I don’t need to understand why things happen as they do, but only how to obey him. The whole purpose of our existence is to be in a covenant relationship with Almighty God. If we refuse to be in that covenant relationship, if we don’t fit into his plans, why should he allow us to continue to exist?
In the midst of devastation and suffering, God is our hope, the answer to our problems. Since God is the answer, no other answers are essential.
Judith Vander Wege