Today is the First Sunday of Lent. As I noted yesterday, Sundays are not part of the Lenten observance, but respites from the effort. There are some changes for Sundays in Lent: no alleluias, a focus on repentance and confession at the beginning of the service, and in general a more subdued tone, but I must add, no diminished joy. That is why you see Day Four-S in the title. Today is the pause between day four and five of Lent.
Today I have been a bit retrospective. I love to examine the logs of visits to this site, because sometimes the posts people pull up out of the old file drawers surprise even me when I read them again. After a few months, a year or more, I sometimes say, Did I write that? Not that I am ashamed of what I said but that I am surprised by it.
I had such an experience today when someone spent time in an old post from June of last year entitled Hard Questions, Difficult Answers, and in some ways its theme ties in with what I talked about yesterday: patience and letting things fully gestate.
In that post from last year I dealt with our desire or maybe I should say our need to know, to have answers to often difficult questions. I noted that as Christians we have the freedom to ask difficult questions of God and I took for my model Job, one who asked very difficult questions of God. But my premise is slightly different than the issue in Job and that is that neither we nor God have anything to fear from honest questions.
Why am I able to do this, you may ask? Because my God is God (to paraphrase that beautiful line from Yul Brenner in the Ten Commandments) and I have nothing to fear from the truth. Granted, sometimes finding the truth in certain situations is difficult, but in the end, I have nothing to fear from it. As Numbers explicitly states,
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19
Therefore, I am free like Job to ask the most difficult questions and as Wretchard [The Belmont Club] said in his article that is true freedom. As Christians we all posses this freedom, to ask God our Father all the hard questions and most importantly, not be afraid of the answers. There is one caveat, sometimes we do not get the answer we are seeking. Sometimes God says, as he said to Job, you do not need to know. Trust me instead.
I should note that I mean honest questions. Those are the kind of questions that include the honor and commitment not to shrink back from the answer, no matter what it is. In relation to God the answer is often, No! It was for Job. He never learned why those things had happened to him, and that is not a copout.
Cop out some will say; unfair others will pontificate; an example of the failure of your belief some will opine. Instead, I choose to sit at the feet of Job, let God be God, and I will take the hindmost. I believe that whatever God has for me, if I trust him, is infinitely better than the alternative. Os Guinness, in The Dust of Death, which was a seminal book in my early Christian life, argued that what separates Christians is their ability to trust the One who knows why even when they do not. This is only possible and maintainable, Guinness argues, because at some point the Christian has thought through “to the point where he knows ‘why’ he believes ‘what’ he believes.”
Why is being kept out of the loop so difficult for us to deal with? Why cant God just say no and have us willing to accept that and trust him instead? Where is our patience, our willingness to let things gestate without having to always know all of the whys and wherefores? Why cant we learn from Jobs final test?
For me, I will always be, as they say in the vernacular, down with Job. He knew that he had received good from God and if he accepted that from him, then he had to accept everything else. He even had to accept the apparent bad from God, for God was God. Yet, even with that acceptance Job still questioned, an attitude to which I can relate. He asked the hard questions of God and God did not condemn him for that, considering him to the very end to be a just and righteous man (he had to sacrifice for his friends, not himself, to allay Gods judgment). When all was said and done, Job got a difficult answer (what some will argue is no answer but I disagree). Despite that, he was consistent. He accepted God’s refusal to include him in His counsel and went forward on faith and trust. He knew that when push came to shove his fears (see Job 3:25) were not what defined him or his relationship with God or the freedom that relationship offered. In a way, this was Job’s last test, one that went well beyond the debate between God and Satan. In many ways his last test addressed the issues that are at the center of our modern/post-modern life, the desire to know.
Our modern/postmodern/whatevermodern sensibilities rail against that. They scream that we have a RIGHT to know. Despite the obvious question of why is that so, why do we have a right to know, the more important issue is trust. When push comes to shove we want to know so we can judge the situation ourselves, because it is highly possible we dont trust the judgment of the one we are questioning, including in this case, God. That wasnt Jobs problem. His trust was absolute; his questions were primarily a quest for instruction; his heart was pure.
Job, remaining consistent and confirming his enduring loyalty to God, bowed his knee in submission and trust and accepted God’s decision; he accepted not knowing.
He bowed his knee and waited. Trust, patience, not knowing…they are all intimately entwined and in important ways defining of who we are in Christ. I thank Job for his instructive life and his willingness to bear up under the difficulties that came his way and still not lose his faith.
I can do no less. What about you?
May the grace and peace of God be with you today and everyday and may you learn to wait with patience and trust, allowing God’s plan to come to full gestation, even if that means you might never know the whys or wherefores. Amen.