I understand (I really do) people’s heart and desire to preach the gospel in light of the tragedy at Newtown. However, please be careful and sensitive in the presentation–saying that it all happened because God has been taken out of schools sounds an awful lot like Job’s friends telling him that God was punishing him for his sins.
We are not obligated nor commanded to explain why it happened (since honestly, we don’t know). But we can say with certainty, Jesus loves with unfailing love. Jesus forgives with everlasting forgiveness. And His promise is eternal life, where there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more suffering.
In this world, no matter what, you will have tribulation. But take heart, Jesus has overcome the world. We have a hope that, in the midst of unexplainable, unthinkable suffering, is an anchor for our soul. That anchor is ready and available for any and for all who call on His name.
Today I told the story of Job to my Sunday School class of precious 5 year olds. One of the things I love about teaching kids is that I always seem to discover new and exciting truths in old familiar stories. They are not new truths, of course, just things I hadn’t recognized before.
Job had everything any person could ever want; he had a big family, he had perfect health, and he was the richest man in the world. He was even commended by God as being righteous. When Satan accused Job before God, God gave Satan permission to take away everything Job had. When Satan took away Job’s livelihood, family, and health, Job did not blame God for his troubles but worshiped Him instead. Job proved Satan wrong. Satan had told God that Job only worshiped Him because He had blessed him. But throughout the book of Job we find that Job worshiped God even when things went bad for him. The two most well known verses from Job sum it up nicely:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21)
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15)
I have always filed this story in the “we ought to worship God at all times” category. That is completely true. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” But today while telling the story of Job I learned these three things afresh:
Number 1: It is Satan’s hand that harmed Job, not God’s. It seems obvious, but it was the wording of the verses in chapter 1 that caught my attention. Satan incites God: “Stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” But God answers, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand.” (Job 1:11-12, emphasis added.) Satan is good at spinning his own evil to God’s credit. It comes out in common phrases like, “If God is good, why do bad things happen?”–thus pinning the blame on God with the implication that all bad things are His fault. The question would be better phrased, “Since God is good, for what reason does He allow the devil to continue doing evil?” Thus God is not the enemy, the devil is. And that question, deserving of much more time than will be given to it in this post, is answered all over the bible….
Number 2: God’s love for us is independent of our circumstances. When things do not go well for us, we do not need to doubt God’s love. Before we started the story, I asked the kids about their Christmas’. They enthusiastically told me about all their favorite presents. As a segue into Job, I asked, “So, how do we know God loves us? Is it because we all got awesome presents for Christmas!?” I was so proud when the class resounded: “NO!” So I asked them to raise their hand and tell me how we know for certain that God loves us. One little boy (who normally doesn’t answer questions) shot up his hand and said, “Because Jesus died for our sins!”
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God’s love is not found in the blessings he gives us. God does not show His love for us in that we have good health and prosperous lives. It is God who blesses us with those things, but it is not the demonstration of His love. Furthermore, God’s love is not depreciated when blessings are scarce. We know God loves us because He became sin on our behalf to make us the righteousness of God in Him. No matter what the condition of our lives, we always know He loves us because He died on the cross for us.
Number 3: Just because things are bad does not mean God thinks that we are. When things do not go well for us, we don’t have to assume it is because we’ve done something wrong. Job was commended by God Himself as being a righteous man, and yet he had troubles. God’s love for us is not measured by circumstances, nor is our righteous standing before Him.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
This peace we have with God exists even when peace in our life does not. We lay hold of God’s love through faith, and it is through that faith in Him that we are made to be completely righteous. Present circumstances neither confirm nor deny our standing, it is promised to us in God’s word–period.
I did not expect these truths to be pointed out to me through Job. But they strengthen me so that, at some point, when Satan tries to incite God’s hand against me, I can rest in the knowledge that it will not be God’s loving, nail-pierced hand that reaches out to hurt me, but it will be His hand that holds me tight as I walk through the fire with Him.