Romans 8:22-23 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
“What is God up to”? That seems like a reasonable question these days –even among faithful believers. There are tons of memes, jokes, and sarcastic comments about the year 2020 which seems to be getting worse rather than better with each passing day. I mean, the problems are stacking up fast, correct? If it feels like the world is against us, one has to take only a small step to think that God is against us as well.
The very first Scripture reading we read in our Confirmation class this trimester was from the Book of Job. Truth be told, none of the kids had even heard his name (or at least they could not remember it). So I gave them a quick run-down of Job’s story, this upright man who loves God and turns away from evil. Too good to be a true believer in Satan’s mind, Satan challenges God to agree to a deal that allows Satan to cause Job great suffering – short of taking his very life. And indeed, Satan does his task well. Job suffers as greatly as any one person could. Still, he clings to his God even when everyone tries to convince him that such is useless and dumb and that Job probably ‘had it coming’ and must have done something that really ticked God off. When Job finally complains to God about his miserable situation, God comes down hard on him, basically asking him what he was thinking – “where were you when I created the universe, set the moon and the stars and gave borders to the sea” is about what God says in response. Who are you to question me? (We read that passage in class because we are discussing creation.)
I think most people are struck by Job’s story not as it progresses per se but right away at the very beginning. Why would God allow Satan to test, hurt and just about destroy Job? Is that why we blame God for our hardships? Why did God not intervene earlier – Job lost his family, his possession, his health…? Job indeed, after all was said and done, remained faithful. Had God been willing to bet on Job’s faithfulness? Was God convinced that Job “could take it? “ So, then, is God confident that we “can take it?”
I am surely not going to proclaim the blame for the pandemic, the riots, the economic downturn, the election chaos and all of our personal sufferings on God! But, is God willing ‘to bet’ on us that we will prevail like Job – Job’s (and our!) eventual questions, displeasure and accusations aside? Are we confident that we will remain faithful? Because, there is no question that God will remain faithful to us and continue to love us and somehow see us through this thicket of the disaster we call 2020. That is not the question! Job himself was tempted greatly to just chalk up this entire “God-deal” to a bad experience, a trust misplaced, time wasted. How can we be sure that we do not give in to similar fears and opinions?
Yet, in the end Job had only one desire: to cling in confidence to his God in spite of the endless tragedies God had mysteriously allowed Satan to shower upon him. In the end Job knows who actually had the power over life and death and could ultimately be trusted.
Perhaps the question for us today is not “What is God up to” but rather “What am I up to?” Do I strive to be faithful? Do I witness to my surroundings to the ultimate sovereignty of the Triune God in whose name I was baptized and who sustains me in the midst of the troubles I am facing? If God made a pact with Satan regarding yours truly, could God have confidence that I would not falter? Will I cling to God no matter what? I would love to think so…