I need to make a confession: I am stubborn man, and my stubborn pride many times prevents me from quickly learning the things that God would have me learn.
I can't begin to tell you how many times I've learned life's lessons the hard way. Experience is a good teacher, but many times painful.
You should also know that I possess stubbornesses kind cousin, determination. I many times get them confused with one another.
This year, I'm making another annual journey through the Bible, but this year I decided to make my journey through Eugene Peterson's The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (affiliate link).
There is hard-wired in every man, woman, and child a sense of justice.
We know, for example, that a man should not rape a woman. And, God forbid, if a man does rape a woman, we feel a sense of justice when he is apprehended and locked away in jail for many, many years.
We say to ourselve's, he had it coming. He performed great evil, and got his just rewards.
Eugene Peterson say's this in his introduction to the book of Job:
"One of the surprises as we get older, however, is that we come to see that there is no real correlation between the amount of wrong we commit and the amount of pain we experience. An even larger surprise is that very often there is something quite the opposite: We do right and get knocked down. We do the best we are capable of doing, and just as we are reaching out to receive our reward we are hit from the blind side and sent reeling. This is the suffering that first bewilders and then outrages us. This is the kind of suffering that bewildered and outraged Job, for Job was doing everything right when suddenly everything went wrong. And it is this kind of suffering to which Job gives voice when he protests to God." (Peterson, Eugene H. (2011-03-11). The Message Numbered Edition Hardback (Kindle Locations 22152-22157). Navpress. Kindle Edition.)
In our minds, we really, really struggle with something that might be called unjust suffering.
We cry out when a loved one dies unexpectantly, when we are unjustly wronged, or when a great depression ravages the savings we've worked all our lives for. This list is endless.
In the book of Job we feel for Job's seemingly unjust suffering. Why, God himself tells Satan that there is no one quite like Job. Job is honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hates evil.
Yet, God seems quite willing to let Job go through intense suffering by taking all that he has. His wealth, his health, his children, and even the respect of all that know him.
To further Job's pain, three of his friends come along and repeatedly instruct him that his suffering is brought about by his sin. To which Job vehemently spends thousands of words refuting.
However, in spite of the finger-pointing of Job's friends, or the "God wants you rich, healthly, and happy" mentality of many in today's church, the truth that Job teaches us is that suffering is a mystery.
In fact, God, in the contemporary language of The Message comes to Job and says, "I’m in charge of all this— I run this universe!"
Job wisely submits to God sovereignty, and says, "I'm sorry - forgive me. I'll never to that again, I promise!"
Now, before you quibble about Job's response, you simply must read the whole book of Job. Only then will you have the beginnings of an understanding. Deal?
Here's a final thought from Eugene Peterson's prologue to the book of Job:
"When people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering. So, instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering— which we simply won’t be very successful at anyway— perhaps we should begin entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able— entering the mystery and looking around for God."
I don't know about you, but I've learned that the thumb-sucking woe-is-me attitude hasn't served me very well.
Oh my soul, in suffering, learn to enter the mystery and look around for God.
Even as I write those words, my heart says, but God, can't I just have my life's savings back.
Oh, the journey continues...