“Our sorrows are all, like ourselves, mortal. There are no immortal sorrows for immortal souls. They come, but blessed be God, they also go. Like birds of the air, they fly over our heads. But they cannot make their abode in our souls.”
This past week, America faced, yet, another tragic mass school shooting. 17 people, both children and adults, died and at least 14 were critically injured. This was undoubtedly a shocking and terrible act. Many people are looking for answers and solutions to keep such an act from ever happening again. Some are suggesting ideas such as armed guards at school entrances in order to deter any potential shooters with the threat of their own death. Others are suggesting ideas such as stricter gun control laws so that possible shooters cannot have access to weapons. However, no matter what ideas are being brought forth, agreement on a solution seems to be far away.
Though I have my own opinion on the matter, this is a theology blog not a blog about politics. Therefore, I shall refrain from any political rantings. I’d rather focus on a bigger issue, injustice. The shooting in Florida was a huge injustice. This world is full of injustices just like this one. Whether it is a tyrant purposelessly killing his citizens, a child committing suicide because of bullying, or a close friend dying in a car accident with a drunk driver, tragedy is a part of this world. Unfortunately, we all have faced, or will face miserable events in our lives that force us to ask the question “what did I do to deserve this?” As Christians, when we face such injustices and miseries, we are told that we are supposed to look to God for our justice. Yet, when we do this it seems as though all that comes of this are more questions such as “where is our God,” “why did He allow this to happen,” and “what is He going to do about it.” God is supposed to be the answer to our misery, but when we look to Him in our misery we receive more questions rather than answers. Let me be perfectly clear, God is perfect justice. Through the eyes of pain we may not see Him as just, God is always just. Yet, if God is always just, why does He let tragedies happen? The typical Christian answer is that tragedies are not God’s fault but man’s fault because we live in a world of sin. Yet, as one who has seen tragedy strike, I can tell you that this answer is not sufficient for one who is in pain. Therefore, I think it is important to find the answers we are looking for from someone who understands tragedy at its most extreme level.
In the Bible, we find a man named Job. He was a man who had lost everything, all of his possessions, his family, and even his health. He questioned God’s justice and why God was nowhere to be found in his great loss. He was told that his tragic experiences were because of sin, but this was not a satisfactory answer for him. He was told to look towards God but, much like ourselves, this gave him more questions than answers. His friends gave him many reasons for his loss. However, as with the shooting in Florida, no one had the right answers. Most of us who have experienced tragedy can relate very strongly with Job. It seems that most Christians tend to avoid this book because it seems depressing, long, or unimportant. Yet, I have found this book extremely comforting in my own times of need or doubt in God. I love the book of Job. I have mentioned several times my love for this book in previous posts. When I am in pain or experiencing suffering, I need to talk to someone who understands tragedy as Job does. I encourage all who are struggling with pain and tragedy to find comfort as I did in this ancient book, especially the final 5 chapters (Job 38-42). This week I would like to look over a couple of verses found in these chapters and help bring some understanding and insight into the justice of God.
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
“Who is this who darkens counsel
with words without knowledge?
Get ready for a difficult task like a man;
I will question you
and you will inform me!””
I love how Job chapter 38 begins. At this point in the book, Job has spent almost 33 chapters listening to his friends and wife giving their opinions on who God is, why He has allowed Job to experience misery and what they feel Job should do in order to win back the favor of God. Yet, after listening to all these speeches, God appears to Job as a voice coming from a tornado-like storm. Not only does He appear in such a chaotic way, but His first words to Job are not words of comfort or sympathy, they are words of challenge and correction. Now, let me be clear, God is a God of comfort. He often shows sympathy to His people and He treats His people with great care when they are in distress. So God is not a malevolent and uncaring being who watches our pain and finds joy in it like most of the ancient god’s did. Rather, the point I am trying to make with this verse is that God is present as we hurt. God showed up in the middle of the chaos of Job’s misery and made sure that Job understood that He not only knew what was happening with Job, but, also, that He was present through it all. Job’s friends were wrong. God had not deserted Job because of Job’s sin. Instead, God was right there, keeping an eye on Job from the very beginning.
“Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you possess understanding!
Who set its measurements—if you know—
or who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its bases set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
when the morning stars sang in chorus,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Who shut up the sea with doors
when it burst forth, coming out of the womb,
when I made the storm clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
when I prescribed its limits,
and set in place its bolts and doors,
when I said, ‘To here you may come
and no farther,
here your proud waves will be confined’?”
For almost 4 chapters God questions Job’s understanding of God, Himself; just like He does in these 9 verses. Many people might see God’s speech to Job as heartless or even uncaring. I mean Job just lost everything and here God is telling him that Job not only understands nothing, but that compared to God, he is but a spec. However, I don’t look at this speech and see this. God was telling Job that He was in control of everything, that He created everything, He was all powerful, all-knowing and fully in control. This is encouraging to me, not disheartening. When I am going through something that I don’t understand or when I see something happen that just doesn’t make any justifiable sense, I want to know that there is someone in control, someone who is more powerful than my misery and more in control than I will ever be. This is comforting to me, this is the encouragement that I need. I don’t want someone to tell me that everything will be alright or that I will get through this. In my misery, I find those to be empty words that do not solve any of my current problems. Instead, I want someone to look me in the eyes and say “Trust me, I’ve got this.” And that is exactly what God was doing to Job through His correction. God wanted Job to realize that the misery that he was experiencing was not his fault because of sin, nor should Job judge God for allowing him to go through such misery because Job was not all-knowing or all-understanding like God. God wanted Job to see that if God can do all things like He says He can, will He not, also, bring restoration to Job in His perfect timing?
“So the Lord restored what Job had lost after he prayed for his friends, and the Lord doubled all that had belonged to Job.”
When I hear people mention the story of Job, I rarely hear them mention the end of the book; the restoration of Job’s wealth. After Job experienced great sorrow, pain and misery, and after God corrected Job’s perspective on his issues, He then restored all that Job had and doubled it. God’s justice is beyond fair. It is beyond what we expect. God’s justice is perfect. We must remember that solely through the perfect justice of God, we find restoration and recovery. This is the hope that one must keep in mind as they experience tragedy. God’s restoration of justice may come while we are on this earth or perhaps while we are in heaven. Tragedy will not exist forever. God’s faithfulness beyond the call of duty, His love for His people, and the hope that we find through God’s love for us will always exist, beyond this tragedy and the next one, on into eternity.
Pain, suffering, and tragedy can sometimes force one to question God. But as we see through the story of Job, God is just. We may ask where God is during our tragedy just as Job did. The answer is that God is with you even through your tragedy. Recognize His presence. We may ask why God allowed the tragedy that we experience just as Job did. The answer is that we must find peace in allowing God to be God, He’s got this, and He is in complete control. We may even ask what God is going to do about the tragedy that we experience just as Job did. The answer is that He is a God of perfect justice who will bring restoration to your life post-tragedy. The book of Job provides answers to the doubts that we have about the justice of God when we experience suffering and pain. It is a book of hope that has the ability to calm our doubts and encourages our hearts as we struggle with tragic events.
The events in Florida were tragic and I pray for those that are victims of this tragedy. To those that are using this as an opportunity to promote their own agenda, I ask you to take heed to the words God spoke to Job:
“Who is this who darkens counsel
with words without knowledge?”
I encourage those who are using this as an opportunity to promote your own political and ideological gain to respond to these words of the Lord your God as Job did:
“Then Job answered the Lord:
“Indeed, I am completely unworthy—how could I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth to silence myself.
I have spoken once, but I cannot answer;
twice, but I will say no more.””
Recognize that this situation is not about you or your agenda. Be silent for a moment and recognize your own insignificance.
Now, to those who are victims of this horrendous and extremely evil act, I want to encourage you. Though you may struggle to see Him through the shroud of misery, I promise you that God is with you in your pain. He sees your struggle. He sees your pain and He is there by your side through it all. You may be wondering what He is going to do about your pain. This, I do not know and I will not pretend that I do. However, I can tell you that God is in control. He was in control at the beginning of time. He is in control now and He will be in control at the end of time. Job lost everything, but God brought restoration to his life and He will do the same for you. God is in control of everything and God will bring you justice, If not in this life, it will be in the next one. This world is full of injustice but we must remember that God is God and we are not. Tragedy will not last forever, but God’s faithfulness to His people and love for His creation will last beyond the end of time. I pray, at some point, you find peace and hope in God’s everlasting love for you.