Lies we mistake for Truth: “If bad things are happening to you, you must have deserved it.” – October 14

Storm recoveryOne of the hardest parts of being a pastor, or just a Christian in general, is when we encounter suffering. In high school, within two months of each other, two young women died. One of them had taken her life in the heart of a tumultuous time in her life and the other was a classmate of mine who died of cancer after going through treatments for the past 2 years. The question that always arises is “why?” Both of these girls attended church, had an active faith, and were loved deeply by their friends. When words fail and no answers are given from the pulpit, we search for our own answer from others and are led to believe the lie that we mistake as truth, “If bad things are happening to you, you must have deserved it.” Perhaps no lie is more destructive to our understanding of God than this conclusion.

The entire Book of Job is devoted to the topic. It centers on the life of a man who is upright, prays regularly, is good to his family and workers, and praises God for His goodness. A discussion begins as “ha satan” (in Hebrew, “devil’s advocate”) asks God if there are any of His people who are actually obedient and upright. God asks if he has considered His servant, Job. Ha satan refutes God’s argument that Job is upright and good like Lucy insisting that Charlie Brown’s own dog, Snoopy, doesn’t really like him, but only pretends to like him because he gets fed. He claims that Job only praises Him because He puts a hedge of protection around him, so he has no reason to not praise Him.

Twice God allows for Job to be attacked in order to prove God’s faith in Job is well placed. Job is first assailed by having his children, his servants, and his livestock all wiped out, except for the few servants who report back to tell him of the news. Job is then tested by inflicting him with illness and sores all over his body. Job remains steadfast in his praise of God, even when his wife asks why he does not just curse God and die.

The lie is spread to Job when his friends come to mourn with him. They sit with him for a week. Great friends! Then they speak… “what did you do to deserve this?” They each go through their flawed logic that the solution to Job’s problems is to confess whatever he did to make God mad and everything will be better. Job continually maintains his innocence, which is then met with more “friendly insight” that God will punish him more for not repenting, expressing anger, and questioning why all of this has happened. Job knows that everybody suffers and God is not accountable to anyone because He is God. For 30 Chapters, Job is forced to defend himself, ward off bad advice and insights one after the next. Only one of Job’s friends, Elihu, approaches with wisdom despite his youth. He rebukes Job for seeking to justify himself rather than justifying God’s right to do what He chooses, but then chastises his elders for continuing to harass Job with their claims even though they had no basis for their arguments. Perhaps the saddest part of this lie today is that we do not know The Word well enough to know what the truth is and avoid spewing the lie on others. While there are always consequences for poor choices, suffering happens because it is able to happen to anyone. God does not guarantee us a risk-free life when we worship Him, but he does not forsake us regardless of what we do or refuse to do.

So what is the truth? Job 2:3 speaks the truth about suffering… God Himself says it is “without reason”. Ha satan sought to cause harm upon Job in order to prove Job was not truly righteous without any reason for it. We suffer because we are human, not because God is not good, doesn’t love us, or that we messed up in some way shape or form. God is the bringer of all good things, not the bad. He brings comfort, blessings, and life. Secondly, in Job 9:22, Job points out that both the “blameless and the wicked” suffer. In the depth of suffering, Job recognized that his praise is inauthentic and meaningless if we only praise Him in the good times “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” The Word encourages us to give thanks in all circumstances in Philippians 4:6 because, regardless of our day to day life, God is good and gracious and able to hear us whenever we call. We are blessed whether we suffer or are free of pain because we worship the God who hears our cries and praise alike, and answers.

In the end of the Book of Job, God speaks. While what He says seems harsh and defensive, the underlying tone is that God does not owe an answer to one person because He is sovereign. God is in control, not as a heavy handed dictator, but as a loving Father who wants what is best for His children… all of His children. The moon and stars are in place because He is in control. The land and the sea are where they were placed because He is in control. And we are the reason all of this exists as it does, because God did not desire to be alone and wanted to share Life with us. Job responds appropriately, “I didn’t know what I was talking about”. When we acknowledge that God knows far more about our life and circumstances than we could ever fathom, we can then be open to the truth God will share.

In the end, God blesses Job with more livestock, more children, and better health, not to “compensate” Job for what he lost, but is instead continuing to bless him because of his deep love for Job. The truth is, God promises us an eternity of good despite temporary suffering today. We suffer because we are finite. We live because God is Infinitely good!

Do I praise God only in the sunshine, or in the storm as well?

Do I worship God to avoid pain, or because He is with me in the middle of it?

I was sure by now, God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away,
Stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
That it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear your whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away
And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone how can I carry on
If I can’t find you
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear you whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away
And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
Songwriters: John Mark Hall / Bernie Herms
Praise You In This Storm lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group
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