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Dare We Ask for An Apology from God? April 3, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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The story of Job came to mind yesterday. Certain people have read the book of Job with a less than “religious” devotion, and their take is that God is kind of a prankster who plays with lives like they were toys to amuse himself with, or break, on a whim. I’m sorry if this makes me sacrilegious, but I saw a video on YouTube that played to that perspective and I thought it was hilarious.

Assuming the story of Job is true, and for the record, I do, God allowed Satan to test Job as a test of his character. Temptation is a curious beast. In the New Testament there are all manner of warnings about approaching temptation and our attitude toward God about it. Consider I Corinthians 10. The list of things is perhaps obvious: pursuit of evil things, idolatry, fornication, and murmuring. I get that. Don’t run after things you know are bad. There’s only one true God. Avoid extramarital (that is, anything outside of marriage), um, extracurricular activities. And don’t murmur. Apparently Job’s soliloquies between the awkward jabs from his “friends” were not considered murmuring. But the complaining Israelites in the wilderness “murmured,” which God didn’t like.

I even understand this one. Think, despite their traveling uncertainties, how posh the Israelites had it in the wilderness: fire by night to guide, guard and warm; cloud by day to shelter from the sun and guide; manna, quail, flocks, water coming out of a rock sufficient to sustain EVERYONE, AND, for 40 years their shoes and clothes never wore out. If I were God and I were doing all that for like a million people, and they still complained, I’d be unhappy with them too.

But back to temptation. If I Corinthians 10 is clear, there’s supposed to be a means of escape, to make the temptation bearable, or maybe even avoidable. Despite the story of Job, “when tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me,'” since God doesn’t tempt anyone, he just allows Satan to dangle temptation in front of us (James 1:13). God, on the contrary, only brings “good and perfect gift[s] (James 1:16)” our way. According to the story of Job, and a cross-translational reading and a slightly skewed perspective of Matthew 6:34, God limits the amount of evil that is allowed on any given day. I picture God’s hand on the door of Hell, keeping it almost closed to avoid having “all hell break loose” at once, as the saying goes.

A joke that asserts “Hell is Exothermic” comes to mind. You can read it here: http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/joke/exoendo.htm , and follow, for your amusement, the random linkages of my brain.

Surely Job was tempted to follow his wife’s suggestion to just get it over with. (Job 2:9) But no, the book went on for an additional 40 chapters, and through it all Job weathered the storm and came out on top. Well, second to God of course. And Satan lost the challenge. If there’s anything that can be learned from Job’s example I suppose it is that my challenges are not as severe as Job’s and he did well, so therefore, I should strive to do as well under mine. If my trials are light and momentary” (II Corinthians 4:17) I should just grin and bear it, as “it came to pass.” Not to stay.

But wait. Job’s trials were explicitly allowed by God. By extension, our trials are allowed by God, who releases just a little bit of hell on earth every day. Earthquakes, tidal waves, nuclear plant pollution, hurricanes, tidal waves, feet of snow, floods of rain, work stress, home stress, traffic jams, “traffic accidents,” and car-b-que-s, crime, the daily news, stuff breaking, marriage difficulties, bills, plumbers, electrical technicians… “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…” Which makes me wonder.

When things are stressful and things break, and relationships get into realms where “it’s complicated,” and all manner of hell seems to be breaking loose all over people, it’s not JUST that we have failed, it’s not JUST that Satan and his minions are wreaking the havoc over our lives, it’s that God has ALLOWED it. In the secular realm they have the rainfall just like in the sacred (Matthew 5:45). I’m saying it doesn’t matter if you’re a Christ follower or not, you’re still going to have issues. The secular world says “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I say yes, but it still leaves scars.

Job didn’t exactly have anywhere to go or any means to escape. Tidal wave victims the same way. And us. “The rain,” that’s kind of a poetic understatement for how bad life just plain sucks sometimes. When I was a kid I kind of blocked out the crap from my childhood illness that affected me like a stroke, and much of the aftermath in the wake of that tidal wave in my life. I didn’t complain about my “special shoes” (think Forrest Gump). And when I was crying after a painful operation in my childhood, the on-duty nurse’s bed-snide manner inspired her to tell me to keep quiet, since I “[didn’t] hurt any more than anyone else in the recovery room.” A gem of a nurse. But it sounds Biblical in a Job-trauma kind of sense. Stuff your feelings. Don’t cry. You’re no worse off than anyone else. It could be worse. It’s your fault it happened, you just brought it on yourself. You ought to be thankful and praise God through the storm. I hate it when people say stuff like that. It’s so unloving. And frightening. I don’t want to think about, if it could be worse, how bad it could be.

When you have no means of escaping whatever life serves up, one possible coping mechanism is, you do stuff your feelings and learn to suppress. I have so much missing childhood, that other people remember vividly. Perhaps that’s God’s mercy for me? But what I remember wasn’t all rose-colored.

When Job went to heaven, and I presume such a heroic figure would ultimately end up there, did God apologize for allowing all that, along with commending Job’s stellar endurance under pressure? And what about us?

The question is, if through our throwing ourselves on God’s mercy and Jesus’ sacrifice for forgiveness of our sins we obtain heaven through the means of our faith, does God ever ask, and expect, us to forgive HIM for allowing our suffering and temptation that there ISN’T a way of escape from? I really don’t have an answer for that.

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Comments»

1. Larry Megazzi - April 7, 2014

Nice analysis. I would be lying if I said I understood the Job, or for that matter, what happened to the Prodigal Son, and the Cain and Able story. Bad things do happened to good people and that is both
shameful and not understandable.


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