“You give and take away, blessed be the name” Popular worship song by Matt Redman (Listen here)
“ …The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
“…Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil (or disaster)? Job 2:10
One of the more difficult things in theology is how we are to understand the existence of evil; particularly, since we Christians affirm that God is all good, all loving, and all powerful – that God is One, and has no rival equal but opposite dark force who fights for evil while our God fights for good. No, we are forced to wrestle with Isaiah 45:7 “I make light and create darkness. I make blessings and create disasters. I, the LORD, do all these things.”
I say it is difficult, but it is not beyond our depth. At least, it is not beyond our depth when we are just talking in the abstract, in the absence of the screaming pain of real, fresh loss. But that is when we must talk of these things, so that we may be equipped when the waves threaten to overwhelm us. If we avoid wrestling with the problem until the day of trouble, we will be like a swordsman who avoids learning about his sword and shield until the enemy is upon him. Here on the Gulf coast, we are in the early days of Hurricane season. If we wait to prepare, to think about what must be done, until the wind is howling around our doors, how shall we stand? The time of need is too late.
I long to write more exploring the idea; but today, that is a diversion and a temptation. I need to be more personal.
When we sang that song this morning in Church, I thought of two things – I thought of the source of the lyric, in the book of Job. In the first quote, Job had just found out that all his children had died, and that his herds (his wealth) had been lost. He was bereft and destitute. And he chose to bless God anyway. The second quote comes after the evil had touched his body and covered him head to toe with painful sores. His wife counseled despair, that he “curse God and die.” Job replied that her advice was foolish. If we receive the good things of life as from God’s hand, should we not accept the tragedies of life as from His hand also? Job saw that this must be true, or God is not God. Through the rest of the book, Job wrestles with the implications of this, what it says about God, and about Job. He is very honest, and very angry. And he gets there.
The second thought that came to me was my marriage. Our (second) divorce has been final one year this month. The idea came to me that I need to receive this disaster as from God’s hand. Like Job, unpacking what that means will take the rest of the book, but some things I know:
I know that God was (and is) involved in it.
That doesn’t mean He likes it. Or that He approves of divorce. It is quite clear that He does not. But I have to acknowledge that God is sovereign, and could have stopped it. If the heart of Pharaoh was in the hand of God, how much more those of two of His children? No, God is involved.
This of course does not mean that sin was not involved. Of course it was. My sin, specifically. And not mine alone. Not even the sin of me, and of my former wife, alone. But one of the things we are forced to see about God is that He does use the sin of broken people to work His purpose out. The fact that I am flawed does not mean that God has nothing to do with me until I get myself straightened out. No. God is involved
And I still affirm (on grounds having nothing to do with me) the absolute goodness of God
God never told Job (at least, not by the end of the book!) what the purpose was, there was not even any assurance that Job himself would benefit from those reasons. God’s reasons belong to God. As it says in Deuteronomy 29, “Some things are hidden. They belong to the LORD our God. But the things that have been revealed in these teachings belong to us…” God has his secrets. But that does not imply that He is not involved, or that He is not involved for good.
I don’t know what God is up to in our divorce. I do know my former wife and I were stuck. Emotionally and spiritually we were both bound by the situation we had created for ourselves. And now we are not. Was that the reason? I don’t know, and will not, until I see Him face to face. Possibly not even then –there will be more consuming issues, I think.
But I do know, that whatever the reasons, even knowing something of the sin which brought this about, it is still something I can, and should accept as from His hand. And bless Him in it –not just for sustaining me through it, but somehow, in the thing itself. He is involved.
Even as it challenges my assertion that “He doeth all things well.”
But the two must go together, or God is not God.
Thank you Lord, for what You have done, for what You are doing, and for what You will do – That you see all ends from the beginning, even from the beginning of our marriage, and none of your plans are thwarted. They never cease without accomplishing the reasons for which you sent them forth.
That your goodness does not depend on my vision, but on your character.
As you work your purpose out, may all things (even this) glorify your name! May your name be exalted forever!
Blessed be the name of the Lord!