Despair Looks Around, Hope Looks Up

Despair Looks Around, Hope Looks Up

by Deacon Christine Maddux

 

Last time I wrote about following God’s command to “Count it all joy when we face trials of all kinds” (James 1:2) while our questions abound: “Why did you let this happen, Lord?”, “Why don’t you fix it?”, “Why….?”

We don’t follow Jesus blindly, so we can freely take our questions to Him.  As theologian N.T. Wright wrote, “Run off to meet Jesus. Tell him the problem.  Ask him why he didn’t come sooner, why he allowed that awful thing to happen.  And then be prepared for a surprising response” (John for Everyone).

The Bible is full of sincere questions and surprising answers.  In the New Testament, Mary asked God’s messenger how she could bear a child when she was a virgin (Luke 1:34).  A rich young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18).  Nicodemus asked Jesus how a man could be born again when he is old (John 3:4).

In the Old Testament, Job asked God a lot of questions when he suffered horrific personal catastrophe (Job 10), and met a barrage of questions from God in return (Job 38-39).  God’s response did not answer any of Job’s “why?” questions, but it taught him something far more profound.  Likewise, many times God does not answer our “why?” questions, but we can avail ourselves of the same peace that satisfied Job by letting go of the “why?” and focusing on the “Who?”

In the first verse of the book of Job, he is described as “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”  He was blessed with 10 children and great prosperity, and “was the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:2-3).  But unbeknownst to him, he became a target of Satan’s challenge to God.  God confidently proclaimed Job’s godliness; Satan said, “Let’s see how godly he is when his life falls apart.”

By the end of the chapter, Job’s livestock was plundered, his servants had been murdered, and his 10 children had all died in a fire.  When all that didn’t break Job’s faith in God (Job 1:21-22), Satan bet God that physical affliction would do so.  Yet even when Satan afflicted Job “with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head”, Job was still faithful to God (Job 2:7-10).  But boy, did he have questions for Him!

Instead of answering them directly, God used questions of his own to lift Job’s eyes from his suffering to his almighty, incomparable God.  By the end of the story, Job understood that his Lord was supremely sovereign, unfailingly good and the sole keeper of the whole picture.  He humbly said to God, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:3, 5, emphasis mine).

As with Job, our circumstances can prompt an honest wrestling match with God, and through it we can learn to “see” God in a new and blessed way. Unshakable joy then prevails under any circumstances, because we see our loving Companion in the midst of it all and trust Him, come what may (Proverbs 3:5-6).

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face,

and the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

in the light of his glory and grace.”

(Hymn chorus, Helen Howarth Lemmel, 1918)

 

Christine Maddux is a Deacon at Christ Anglican Church, Cashiers. Contact her at aclmaddux@mac.com.

Originally published in the Crossroads Chronicle, September 2018.