Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Psalm 17

Job 1:1-22

Luke 21:34—22:6

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,

    naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.

God gives, God takes.

    God’s name be ever blessed.

Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.

[Job 1:21-22 The Message]

Why do bad things happen to good people?

It’s a question that we’ve all asked ourselves at least once in our lifetime and for which we will never come up with a plausible answer.

While we’re at it, let’s list a couple of variations of the same question.

Why does God allow evil and suffering in the world?

If God is love, why is there so much hatred?

Over the course of history myriads of novelists, playwrights, essayists and poets have struggled to answer these questions.

Pain C.S. LewisA couple of my favorites include C. S. Lewis, who wrote The Problem of Pain, from which I gleaned one of my all-time favorite quotes: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

KushnerThe other is Rabbi Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People, written as a response to the death of his 14-year-old son from a degenerative disease.

To try to explain the book of Job – our focus reading for today – in a brief meditation such as this is an exercise in futility. Yet to avoid wrestling with the question of sin, evil, and suffering is to avoid the reality of life.

You and I live rather confidently most of the time.  We can hold down jobs, complete our chores or school work satisfactorily, and care for people in our intimate families with some degree of kindliness.  Occasionally, however, things fall apart.  

Sometimes they fall apart physically.  Our health fails; a job loss keeps money from going into the bank account, or an appliance breaks or pipes in the house burst and the cost to fix it is far more than we have in savings.

Sometimes, things fall apart emotionally and spiritually.  A spouse or a parent dies and no words can be said to comfort the grief.

Sometimes, things fall apart in relationships. Divorce happens. Things are said and done in anger which need to be set right, but we are reluctant to take the first step toward reconciliation.  We are left feeling alone, betrayed, excluded, humiliated.

It is human nature to take the credit when things are going well, but to blame God when things go poorly. “Why me, Lord?” are the first words out of our mouths.

Even Job, as iconic as legend has made him out to be, was driven to the brink and lashed out against God, earning Job a stiff rebuke in return.

Life does not come wrapped up in a neat little package wrapped in a pretty pink ribbon. Life can be messy.

20150428_111259 - Copy
Pastor Jeff Goggins

But the good news is that God is with us through the mess. He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us [Romans 8:32], knows what it is like to go through the agonies of life. We are not alone in our suffering.

About two weeks ago, a young pastor in our synod lost his wife to cancer. Pastor Jeff Goggins of St. John Lutheran Church in Canal Fulton, took to the blogosphere and allowed us all to walk alongside him through the journey of his wife’s last days on earth. He calls his blog, “Finding God in All Things.” You can read his reflections by clicking HERE. I encourage you to take the time. I promise you it will be time well spent. Your faith will be bolstered by the witness of this pastor and his three daughters. Nothing that I have written can compare to this marvelous testament of faith.

God gives, God takes.

    God’s name be ever blessed.


Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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