Friday, December 10, 2021

Trouble from God

 "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Job asked his wife after her advice to, "curse God and die." No doubt, she was speaking from her own extreme grief and distress after her and Job had suffered the sudden, catastrophic loss of all their livestock, servants and children. Her words came during the second wave of God-sanctioned testing that covered her husband's entire body in painful sores after he had already fallen to the ground in worship with his robe torn and head shaved in response to the first wave of trouble. And all this began not with Satan pursuing Job but rather with God directing Satan's attention to "the most blameless and upright" man on earth.

Trouble from God? It's a provocative question. We tend to read the book of Job as an account of great faith when our own lives are troubled. We also tend to land back in the mentality that trouble does not come from God. "I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has", God reprimanded those who had defended his character in much the same way some do today - unless you've offended him, God is the source of good, not trouble. We may feel the need to point out that it was Satan who actually administered the trouble. Job had no such need as he spoke the truth, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."

When Satan later set his eyes on the apostles and requested to sift them as wheat, Christ again allowed the test to happen but, knowing they would fall away, he made Peter the point man for restoring them. Shortly after his restoration by the risen Christ, what Peter had learned was shown through a prayer in response to persecution. His request was to be enabled to speak the word of God with great boldness, not to be spared the trouble of persecution. Later he spelled out that all the trials of life "have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." Likewise, Paul recognized his "messenger of Satan, to torment me" as a gift from God to perfect God's power in his life.

If we can stand to be honest about it, we base our faith on a book full of temporary trouble and evil spirits perfectly metered from God to make the most of our eternal life with him. Does your life include hardship you would rather not endure? Your high priest can sympathize. And even when his request was for the cup to be taken from him, he also acknowledged it as the Father's will, not a mere allowance to the will of the enemy. So even while we follow Christ's example to plead with the Father in our suffering, may we also follow his example to embrace our trials as useful tools in the Father's hands, not merely defects of a sinful world or even passively allowed troubles. They are his gift to perfect our faith and pave the way for our share in his perfect and eternal glory that he acquired through the same means. "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world", Christ encouraged us. So let us answer hardship as Job answered his wife. We are not those who curse God and die. Let us rather be those who praise God and live.

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