Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come?” Psalm 121
The suffering of the young, the innocent, and the righteous has a long history of mystifying people of faith.
Where is God in my suffering? Does God care? If I play by the rules, put my trust in God, and my world still falls apart, what then? Who can I trust? What is God up to in the midst of a fallen world?
2,700 years ago, Job asked these very questions of God. I think that it is safe to say that every generation before Job and since has had similar concerns. We have little problem when people suffer from the consequences of their own sin. There is an order, a symmetry, to cause and effect suffering. A speeding ticket for a lead foot, a divorce for an adulterer, even lung cancer for a life long smoker. All are sad; all reflect broken choices and broken lives, but they are in the predictable range. If you break human trust, laws, or averages you are likely to suffer. That is the way that the world is ordered.
Random suffering is a threat to us and the assumed order of God’s creation. On the receiving end of an impaired driver is usually a totally innocent victim who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Children get cancer usually as a result of some environmental cause that had nothing to do with them. “Who sinned Jesus, that this man was born blind? Was it him or was it his parents?” We long for order, we long for cause and effect. We are threatened by random suffering; it seems that we have little control or protection.
Job was a righteous man who suffered mightily. He wanted to trust God, and he did in good times. But when everything in his life fell apart, he questioned God, and every belief he had ever held. Job lashed out at God, cursing the day he was born, unable to make sense of his suffering.
Mere humans are little more than dust and water. Our spans on earth are miniscule at best; our understanding of time, space, and the universe is nearly non-existent. God and God’s ways are beyond our knowing. We know that we were created as free beings, in the image of a free God. With that freedom comes unimaginable beauty, creativity, and cruelty.
God answers Job, “Where were you Job, when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! Or who stretched out the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?”
Much of our lives are shrouded in mystery. We would rather have knowledge, certainty, and a more just and predictable world. God does not call us to understand. God only asks that we have faith, trust in the one who gave us life, the one who shares this wonderful creation with us, and promises to take us home when our brief time here is complete.
The final word: we share our broken, vulnerable humanity, we are more alike than different, we are frail flesh and blood. Consequently, we need each other. We need to stay together for the common good and love even as we live into a mystery.
One day closer,