Earlier this month we began looking at The Book of Job…
We started by talking about what it means to seek God when we are in pain…
That feeling of “Why me?’ that sometimes overwhelms us…
Then we saw how we can encounter God only when we recognize that
we are not the center of Creation – God is…
We heard the story of Job as one of transformation; a story of relationship with God who does not abandon us even when we abandon God…
Today we begin to understand what it means to be truly thankful to God, no matter what is going on in our lives…
Let us pray:
Loving God, I thank you for the blessing of those who have taught me how to worship, trust, and be grateful. Help us, even when we are hurting or have lost everything, help us to hold on to the deep mystery of your love. Prepare our hearts now to hear your words. Amen.
Throughout the story of Job, conventional theology has called for Job to repent of the sins that caused him to be punished by God…
But, as we have discussed previously in this series, the story of Job challenges this Divine Retribution view of God…The idea that God rewards the faithful and punishes the wicked is blown apart in this story….
We know too many instances where the good suffer and the wicked prosper….
By the end of the story, Job does indeed repent…
The thing we need to notice is that Job doesn’t repent of supposed sins that caused his misfortune…
He repents of his attitude toward God…
He asks God to forgive his arrogance and acknowledges God’s great power and sovereignty.
Listen to our own sin when we speak in anger to God: “If you are in control, if you are so mighty and powerful, how could you let this happen to me?”
Therein lies the real sin…Blaming God for our misfortune…
God does not cause us to be in pain;
God does not take people away from us;
God does not punish us by making bad things happen to us.
However, when these things do happen in our lives, God can find ways to help us get through them and to learn valuable lessons from them…
It’s not that God deliberately tests us or teaches us a lesson by these circumstances…
It’s that God can take any situation and use it for our good; even when it is painful and we don’t understand what’s happening….
The lesson of Job is that we must give God sovereignty over our lives and trust that God knows best how things are going to work out…
This is the true nature of being thankful – trusting that God will work everything out according to God’s plan and thanking God that we get to be part of what God is doing in the world.
Remember Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians…
[1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]
No matter what happens, God wants us to be thankful for Jesus Christ who suffered more than we can ever imagine…
There are a lot of things in life that we do not understand…
But, we can understand these words from Paul:
It’s not that God is so insecure that he needs to hear our constant thanks;
The point is – when bad things happen to us, it doesn’t do any good to gripe or complain or feel sorry for ourselves, does it?
No. That only makes things worse.
When bad things happen we need to realize that there is an enemy out there who wants to steal our faith, our peace, and our joy…hasatán
Scripture tells us to resist this enemy and remain steadfast in our faith…
Giving thanks, no matter what, is a powerful way to resist the powers of evil
that come against us.
Even when we don’t feel particularly thankful for the circumstances of our lives,
we can always be thankful for the love of God and
what God did for us through Jesus Christ.
Job was a person of faith who lost everything and wound up finding God more mysterious, intimate, and deep than ever before.
That was Job’s miracle.
In the end, God restored Job’s blessings two-fold.
There are times in our life simply to give thanks to God for God’s deliverance
and the blessings on loan to us.
I read a story this week about a missionary who has spent a lot of time among impoverished people in Central America.
What’s remarkable is their ability to worship and give thanks to God even in the midst of their poverty and hunger.
These people share their sorrows and their praise of God.
This missionary gives thanks because the people have allowed her to be transformed by their hospitality and worship.
What we learn from Job, and from these poor people in Central America, is that we should give less of our energy to the stresses of life, and more energy to celebrating God’s goodness.
We all have times of pain and suffering; yet, these times are more tolerable when we are already in the habit of thanking God and praising God for everything we have.
Even Job began this story praising God in the midst of his misfortune; it wasn’t until he began to listen to his friends’ bad advice that he fell into the pit of total despair by crying out against God.
When we face devastation, we discover that all we have is God; and God is all we need.
What has come before is no more, but God endures.
And God will help us endure.
We know that one day God will heal us and restore us.
Until then, let us embrace the gift of discovering new, deeper meaning under the rubble of what we have lost.
Jennifer Graves, Duke Divinity School student
No matter what?
I’m supposed to seek God, no matter what
I’m supposed to find God, no matter what
I’m supposed to thank God, no matter what
It’s difficult to see in the midst of what
seeing the forest of hope through the trees of what
hearing the voice of love through the din of hate
tasting the breath of life in the stew of death
GOD IS NOW HERE
No matter what!
No matter what happens, always be thankful to God.