Bread – Calamity

September 29, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, September 8, designated by the Book of Common Prayer:

Job 29:1, 30:1-2, 16-31; Acts 14:19-28; John 11:1-16; Psalms 49, 53, 119:49-72

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Calamity befalls us all. Perhaps it appears in a lost job, in more bills than money, in sickness, in death of a loved one, in a car wreck, in a mistake, in a war of words or weapons, in a lightning strike or tornado, an undesired pregnancy, or in a simple loss of a precious heirloom. However and whenever it appears, it is there and we have to deal with it. How do we deal with our own calamities? It seems to me that there are three basic answers: (1) we can hide from it (retreat, hide in the closet, depressions, withdrawal from the world, becoming afraid to love and engage for the fear of being hurt); (2) we can attack it (“Let me fix it!”, “I’ll just beat the *** out of it!”, blame someone, build active defenses); or (3) we can rest in the arms of the Almighty (let it pass, water off a duck’s back, it’s only a temporary setback, etc.). Options (1) and (2) are dead ends, resulting only in disappointment or despair. Even if we are successful in option (2) to “fix it,” the memory of the “fix it” solution may (and in many cases, will) continue to haunt us and we are enticed into a self-deception that we can fix everything, which will ultimately lead to greater calamity and, more than likely, option (1). Option (3) brings long-term health and happiness.

Job: “Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Job 30:26. What do I do when bad things happen to me? Who can I blame for my troubles? Maybe it is my wife, maybe it is my boss, maybe it was the derelict who ran into my car when I was parked in a parking lot, maybe it was Satan, maybe it was God. Surely someone must be to blame for my miseries, because I am a good person and only good things should happen to good people, right?

By now you are laughing, because if you know me then you know that my characterization of myself as “good” is probably a little overboard. But how many times have you asked yourself this same question when some calamity has befallen you? How many times have you said, essentially, that you are a good person doing your best to do good things and that what has happened to you is unfair!

In today’s reading from Job, Job has finally gotten tired and has decided to blame God for his troubles. Since it was God (through Satan) who allowed Job to be tormented, the blame is in one sense fairly placed.

…then know that God has wronged me…Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!” I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. He [God] has blocked my way so I cannot pass; He has shrouded my paths in darkness; He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. He tears me down on every side till I am gone; He uproots my hope like a tree….Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me.” Job 19:6-10, 21

Would you say that Job finally blames God for his troubles? I would.

We follow Job in so many ways. We know as Christians that it is our sin, Adam’s sin, which has separated us from God’s blessing and that, therefore, the real cause of our troubles is us. Job knew this too and, in earlier readings, he states that we are in no position to judge God, to lay blame as it were. However, he got tired just as we get tired, and he finally blames God for his troubles just as we do. It is so easy to blame someone else rather than the man or woman in the mirror (ourselves). It is so easy to slip into the habit of blaming God, rather than slip into the habit of thanking God for our daily mercies, for our daily bread, for our daily perseverance, for our daily life. So easy.

And yet, as Christians, there should be something else which is easy too. For Job it was easy. Three verses after Job says that the hand of God has struck him, he goes on to say this about Jesus Christ:

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27

From despair and blame in one sentence to real hope for all eternity in the next sentence. How does one do that?

Because Job knew what we know, that we can wrestle with God all we want, we can blame Him all we want, and the result is the same – for those who acknowledge that Jesus has died for their sins; that He is resurrected; that He is the Redeemer, having bought our eternal life with His own blood; and that He is Lord of our life, there is eternity where we will, in our new bodies, see Him. And that, my friends, is hope in all circumstances.

From blame to hope. It is a journey well worth taking.

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