Friday, May 31, 2013

Empty Nothings

Posted by Michael

The oldest book of those collected in the Bible tells the story of a man named Job. Job was successful and had a large family that he adored. Job, we are told, was also a just and upright man.  It was said that he was “blameless”, and that he turned away from evil whenever it reared its head. The story goes on to recount horrible trauma that Job endured during which he lost all of his wealth. His children were tragically killed in a bizarre accident, and his own health broke down leaving his body was covered with sores. Friends traveled to see him and followed the Jewish tradition of “sitting shiva” with him in his grief, which was the process of sitting for seven days and nights with him without ever leaving his side. The grief was so intense that no one dared to even speak a least for a while.

As the days moved forward the friends began to talk to Job and offer their advice. Their explanation was a simple yet toxic one: if you wouldn’t have messed up, God wouldn’t have let this happen to you, and if you would only apologize and do good things, God will be good to you. Job tried to defend himself, but his friends refused to listen. The only possibly explanation they could imagine for Job’s suffering was that he had messed up somewhere. Job called their words “empty nothings”.

It’s true that our own mistakes and poor decisions cause a lot of the pain that we have to endure in life. At other times, however, misery creeps in, and we haven’t done a thing to invite it there. Job was stuck in just such a position. Not only was he miserable, he was being accused of creating his misery. In a last ditch effort to defend himself, Job pointed out that evil people often live long, healthy lives with a ton of kids and wealth to enjoy. Bad people don’t always suffer, and good people don’t always win. In the midst of his darkness and suffering, Job had discovered a profound truth: there’s more to life than what you can see.  

Centuries later, the early Christian leader, Paul, picked up on this idea in a letter he wrote to encourage Jewish Christians. Paul recounted stories of amazing people from the past that God had worked through in mighty ways. He began each person’s story with two simple words: by faith.  Faith is what happens when you finally admit that there is more to life than what you can see with your eyes or make sense of with your brain. God is bigger than our brains can comprehend, and justice is often more complex than our eyes can discern. So, if today finds you in pain and misery, there is forgiveness for your mistakes and mercy for your confusion. The God whom we can’t always understand and His rescue that we don’t always see coming is more real than you can imagine, and His love for you is more relentless than you have ever hoped. 

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