An honest and gut-wrenching song is performed by Mark Shultz. It is entitled, “He’s My Son,” and it is the song of a dad crying beside the bed of his very sick son. A link is provided below, but I warn you not to listen without a tissue.
Are you truly convinced of God’s existence but terribly confused by God’s providence? Are you one who wonders why the Sovereign God of the universe allows you, your neighbors, and your world to be so terribly harmed? Are you baffled by God’s continual toleration of Satan and his devilish friends? Have you prayed for rescue from wicked foes or your own wicked flesh but found that God seems not inclined to grant you freedom? Do you find your body wasting away, your marriage falling apart, your children playing the fool, your business going to the dogs, your world going to hell, all the while your God seems to sit quietly by? Perhaps, like others, you find yourself asking, “How can God be all-good and all-powerful and yet allow the wicked to thrive while the righteous cry?” And after analyzing this world and playing the role of the philosopher, do you struggle being a theologian and praying to the Sovereign God who passively allows or actively causes all this injustice and tragedy?
If so, the twenty-third chapter of Job may be of some assistance:
Then Job answered and said: “Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge. “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; yet I am not silenced because of the darkness, nor because thick darkness covers my face. (Job 23)
Job is correct in his understanding that God gives and takes away. He may not be aware of this yet, but God is the one who summoned Satan and encouraged Job’s persecution. God is the one who ordains both the happy and the horrible. By the creative hand of God, Satan was formed. By the will of God, Satan was allowed to enter the Garden of Eden. By the decree of God, the curse was instigated. According to the timing of God, Satan, sin, suffering, and sorrow will be no more. And according to the will of God, that day is not today. Job has no problem placing the responsibility for sorrow in the lap of God, and his theology is correct in doing so.
Job is correct in groaning before God. True worshipers of God are not called to be passionless stoics, nor are they commanded to maintain plastic smiles and a “glass is always full” attitude. The Old Testament prophets are excellent at issuing forth inspired complaints; like David, Jesus looks at his Heavenly Father and screams forth, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!”
Job is correct in anticipating a response from his Lord. Scripture exclaims that Christ suffered both temptation and tribulation; he is able to sympathize with all the weaknesses of his children. Therefore, the pain-filled worshiper may come boldly before his God, and in due time he should expect comforting words returning from the Comforter.
Job is correct in starting his prayer with fervent complaint and ending with a declaration of faith. In this utterance, Job gets it right. In later scripture, the Psalmist is legendary for beginning his prayers with despair but ending them in doxology and rededication. Then later, on the cross, Jesus begins his supplication with loud cries and tears, but notice how he ends by declaring, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
Therefore friends, come sorrowfully and boldly before the throne of grace. Like Jacob wrestle with God. Like Job, cry for an audience. Like Hannah, moan and wail as if intoxicated. Like Elijah, cry in your hands. Like Jesus, mourn until you bleed. But, do not for a moment doubt the present love, wisdom, and comfort of God. And do not doubt his sovereign power and future redemption. Yes, plead for rescue, wisdom, and spiritual intimacy. Stay there in prayer and cry a river of tears while waiting for him to come and inform your head, touch your heart, nurture your soul, and strengthen your resolve. And don’t be surprised when his Spirit moves and you find your own lips issuing forth words like Job …
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. (Job 13)
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. (Job 23)
2 thoughts on “Can You Hear Me?”
Thank you for this, Pastor Franks, excellent thoughts. I’m particularly interested in study on the subject of suffering myself – not simply as an intellectual pursuit, but to better help others in theirs.
I was really struck by this part of Job’s verse: “What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind.”
Reminds us of God’s sovereignty. His desires are always good, whereas we only think ours are. He will follow all things through to perfect fruition and there’s no way to even trace all those things in His mind. And he sees the trajectory of an individual life, though there are so many of us humans! I feel like I had never seen that verse before – thank you for calling it out.