The Problem Of God’s Control

In a day, everything he had was taken from him.

It started out like any other Sunday. His children were together, feasting and celebrating with joy. His flocks were well maintained by his ample and qualified servants. He had arisen early in the morning to offer an offering to God for his children. All was well.

Yet, now here he sat.

Devastated by innumerable tragedies. Living in the wilderness certainly had its dangers. Sabeans and Chaldeans sometimes went on raids, natural disasters were just a part of life.

But this?

This was like an overly dramatic sitcom you’d see in the mornings on NBC.

His mind was still reeling from the day’s events. Servant after servant came in to inform him of some destruction, some loss. First it was his oxen and donkeys getting stolen. Then lightning burning up his sheep. A massive lightning storm no doubt, since it plundered thousands of them. Next came the camels being stolen.

None of that compared with the last message though.

His children.

His precious children whom he prayed for and made sacrifices for to God.

They were dead.

Not just one of them.

All of them. In a freak accident brought about by a whirlwind.

He could only imagine what they went through. Joyous laughter and celebration quickly turning to screams of fear and then. . .

silence.

 

This story is found in the first chapter of the book of Job. Job was a righteous man in the eyes of God, someone who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1, 8). In a black and white world, he would be the man that we would assume would be continuously and perpetually blessed by God. Instead, Satan lays down the gauntlet: if all was stripped from Job, would he still praise the Lord? Or is his worship of God only because of God’s favor and blessings? God allows Satan to come after Job, and what happens is the utter destruction we read in the passage (vv. 13-19).

Now, Job finds himself in a place that we too find ourselves in after suffering strikes us.

He has a problem.

That problem is the control of God over all things.

His sovereignty.

Now, I’ll just tell you now, I’m not going to even attempt to philosophically argue through the “problem of evil”. That’s not what I’m trying to do. If you’re looking for writing of that depth and intelligence, look elsewhere.

What I am instead wanting to highlight is that for those of us who follow Jesus and believe in God, what happened to Job and what happens to us is harder to accept.

The following quote is long, but it is better than I could say it.

Desert brigands, lightning and cyclone are all part of man’s life in the East. Things like this happen to everyone, if not always on the same scale. The intense faith of job immediately sees the hand of God in every ‘natural’ event. There are no ‘accidents’ in a universe ruled by the one sovereign Lord. Hence Job’s problem. Such mishaps are not a problem for the polytheist, the dualist, the atheist, the naturalist, the fatalist, the materialist, the agnostic. An annoyance, a tragedy even, but not a problem. – Francis Anderson

There it is.

In the modern world, it is extremely sad that hurricanes, cancer, and gun violence take the lives of men and women, boys and girls. What’s even more sad is that these losses are seen as the dangers and realities of modern living. For the atheist in 2019, there is no real ‘problem’ to be wrestled with. When tragedy strikes, it’s just fate. It’s just an accident, just the luck of the draw.

But when tragedy like that strikes the life of a Christian, we know that God orchestrates all things. So we have a problem.

Job had a problem.

Job responded to his problem with amazing faith. Let’s read it together.

At this Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:20-22

Wow.

That is powerful stuff.

Job took the problem of God’s involvement in his suffering and used it as a means for worship. The section I highlighted is one of the most powerful morsels of Scripture. The Lord gives and takes away. But His Name should still be praised.

No, that’s not philosophically deep. It may not be a satisfactory answer for most.

There is certainly lots of wrestling ahead, as the majority of the book of Job is full of debates between Job and his friends about why he has fallen into this suffering.

Contrary to the Satan’s forecast, Job has the same good opinion of God’s blessedness, even when things go wrong. But this faith cannot survive without a terrible struggle. . . Job is hurled into a cauldron of doubt concerning the justice and equity of God’s ways with him. He must suffer and grow before he can see why this has happened. So far he has begun superbly. – Francis Andersen 

Still, Job’s immediate, knee-jerk reaction to the darkest day of his life is to worship.

Job points us forward to Jesus.

When I read the phrase “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”, I can’t help but think of Jesus proclaiming “not my will, but your will be done”.

They both unjustly suffered (obviously Jesus way more so since He was completely devoid of sin), and they both responded with worship.

The book of Job continues to be a soothing balm for my soul. It is dark and gritty, yes. In fact, in a lot of ways we’re just getting started.

But my prayer for you as you read is that you will be encouraged and reminded that God truly is in control. He may cause us some problems, but it also leads us to joyful dependence on Him when we get through the suffering to the other side.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Face Of Comfort

God has strengthened and comforted me lately. In the midst of tragedy and dark days, He has carried me like a father carries His son. He has shown me that when I am dependent upon Him, deliverance will come, in one way or another (The God Of All Comfort).

God is a comforter.

It’s not just something He does, it’s part of the essence of who He is.

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus – 2 Corinthians 7:6

God comforts the downcast.

God comforts me.

This comfort is not something that leads me into complacency. In fact, the comfort of God on my life is the very thing that drives me forward as a follower of Jesus. Or, according to 2 Corinthians, it should be.

Let’s look at the basis for this assertion real quick.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God comforts me and you in our affliction. That’s beautiful.

But there’s a call in this. We are comforted in affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction

In my 2 Corinthians journal (if you don’t have any of the ESV Scripture Journals, you’re missing out), I wrote to the side “God’s comfort of me should lead me to comfort others.” Now I’m probably not winning any awards for deep and poetic rhetoric, but that’s the unavoidable truth of this passage. It’s what has been in the back of my mind all week.

I live in a city that is full of people who are in need of comfort and strength, both inside and outside our churches.

The same is true for where you live.

If I’m receiving comfort of God while refusing to extend that same comfort to those around me, I’m missing the point.

When you look at 2 Corinthians 7:6, it’s cool to see that Titus got to be the face of comfort in the lives of Paul and Timothy. God comforted them via Titus.

God is the source of comfort, but you and I can be the face of it.

So, what types of people can we comfort?

Those Inside The Family of God Who Are In Trials 

I pull out my phone, start to type out a message, but then quickly put it away. This happens again and again. Circumstances are weighing heavy on my heart, but taking the plunge to ask for prayer is decidedly difficult, even with trusted friends in my faith community.

We live in a church culture that sometimes makes it difficult to simply say “I’m in need.” As followers of Jesus who have been comforted by God however, we should strive to make our faith community one where people can be real honest about the battles they are facing. One of the enemy’s greatest tricks is convincing our brothers and sisters in Christ that the church is where you should pretend to have it all together.

I have a friend who texts me every once in a while with a simple “How can I be praying for you and your family?”. That simple text reminds me that there are men and women praying for me and my family. The more we can do that for others, the better.

What can you do to extend comfort and strength to those in your church who need it?

And remember, Paul and Timothy felt at the point of death itself (1:8), so it’s not weakness to admit you need help too.

Those Inside The Family of God Who Are In Sin

This is probably the group of people where I struggle with this the most. I see things in black and white, not much grey. But there are innumerable people in our churches who need strength and comfort in the midst of battling sorrow for their sin.

For the unrepentant habitual lifestyle of sin, there are hard words that need to be spoken.

But for the struggling mother, father, husband, wife, worker, friend, or neighbor who acknowledges their sin and desires to change, what they need is not a reprimand, but a word of comfort and strength.

so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. – 2 Corinthians 2:7

Paul is here addressing someone in the church at Corinth who had sinned, causing pain to many. Although I don’t know all the details of this situation (I love that there’s always more to study in the Bible), I find it interesting that Paul commands them to comfort him.

Our churches are full of sinners.

Sinners who see their sin but don’t see grace need to be strengthened and comforted.

Those Outside The Family of God Who Need Hope 

Lastly, we should be comforters of those outside our walls that need hope to keep moving forward. Our world offers innumerable distractions and false gods to occupy the hopeless mind, but ultimately what every person needs is Jesus.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing – 2 Corinthians 2:15

What a weird term.

I am the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing (without hope).

So the extremely weird question we gotta ask is do people smell Christ when they’re around us?

I’ve sat in so many budget meetings and committee meetings and staff meetings in my short life, and while there is a place for them, arguments about money and preferences and plans fall short when it comes to spreading hope.

Side note: this verse doesn’t say that your pastor or your church or your men’s ministry is the aroma of Christ for your lost neighbors.

Nope.

It’s supposed to be you!

In the wake of so many tragic situations in my city, I can’t help but ask myself regularly how I can continue imperfectly bringing hope to a world that needs it.

God can comfort and strengthen you.

He does that so that you can comfort and strengthen others.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach