Is it strange to somehow find comfort in the thought that God isn’t obligated to bless me?
Stay with me here, because I need to explain what I mean by that, and because I believe it brings up a lot of theological questions:
When bad things happen, we struggle with uncertainty. It’s uncomfortable when a job, relationship, health…anything is on the line. What do we do? We may fret, worry, and pray. We wonder, perhaps, “why me”? Maybe we run to God with the expectation that he will answer our prayers in the way we want him to. In the meantime, we wait for that answer and may either struggle with the “what ifs” or spin emotional energy to somehow “believe” and “claim” something we want to happen. When God’s favor doesn’t seem to be upon us, there may be various responses. “It’s because you don’t have enough faith”, some may say…just “believe in your breakthrough”.
I have no doubt that God can and does answer prayers, even long-awaited ones. He wants us to persevere in prayer, he wants us to go to him with every care and every need. I do, however, believe that he responds according to his will. Please hear me out, beloved. May the words I say here never negate the power of your prayer for the healing you desperately need. I am on my knees with you in all earnest request before him. Keep praying for it, and keep trusting God for healing. He hears our prayers.
Having said that, when trials come our way, I can’t help but think of a guy named Job in the bible. He lost it all – his family, his livelihood, and his health. What else could be more devastating than what happened in his life? His “friends” were no help. They only discouraged him with bad advice. He cried out to God, asking why this would happen to him. Wasn’t he a godly person? Didn’t he obey and fear God?
“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38:2-7)
In other words, Job, the things of God are incomprehensible, and if I were to explain them to you, it would be pointless because you wouldn’t understand. And yet, God was there, having a conversation with Job, a very small (yet loved) part of his creation. The conversation continues in this manner for the next four chapters, each one expounding upon the greatness of God’s creative power, omnipotence and knowledge. God gave him a holy talking-to. Actually, he puts Job in his place. Paraphrased, “I am the maker of the Universe, Job, and yet I stoop to talk to you. I reveal to you to the extent that you need to know, nothing more and nothing less”.
That may sound harsh, but we often think of God in the one dimension of his loving-kindness, his comfort, his all-encompassing, soothing presence…and he IS that. He is our rescuer, our ever-present comfort in times of need (Psalm 46:1). Thank God for this truth!
Yet, it is interesting that God would remind us of his omnipotent, great, unfathomable nature in the middle of a story about great human suffering. God spoke to Job in a tone of authority and perhaps not as much of the nurturer you would expect in this circumstance. You would think that Job’s response would be discouragement, despondency, despair.
How does he respond? He shuts his mouth in humility:
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5)
He praises God in all the unknowns, and proclaims the one thing he does know:
“I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)
Job learned that God is God, and we are not. Not in anguish, but in what I believe to be a holy cleansing away of pride. He repented of his own efforts to understand or try to control his circumstance.
It is a strange comfort to come to terms with God’s greatness, and I think that when we embrace a high view of God, we are more able to find ourselves in humble and peaceful submission. Who is man that he should be mindful of him? Who am I? This mindset cuts away the fight and anguish of the “why me’s” and any concept of entitlement.
Knowing that, here’s the clincher. This great God who owes us nothing gave everything in his Son already. He gave us salvation from a hell-fire endless anguish without him. He gave us the glories of his righteousness in the next life, and he gave us his fellowship, his promise to give us peace to face even the darkest days. We may not know his purpose, but I am convinced that all the mysteries will be made clear when we do see him in glory…
I’m also sure that we will STILL bow in awe of him.