SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Faith Helps Us Trust God Even In the Worst of Times
Key Verse: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. – Job
When things go well for us we can vigorously declare, “God is good – All the time!” When the bottom falls out most of us struggle to believe that God is always good. We are Christians, and strong ones, but even the best of us is prone to wonder if God simply forgot about us. In excruciating pain, our hearts cry out – “Why, God, Why?”
Clearly the story of Job is in the Bible to help us deal with the agonizing “Whys” of our lives. Is there a human being who has not asked at one time or another, “Why has this happened to me?” There may be but I doubt it.
Yet few of us ever ask that question when something good happens to us. The conclusion seems obvious: We assume good things should happen to us because we believe that God is good. So we take God’s goodness for granted, so much so that we even fail to thank Him for the good that has come our way.
But when tragedy occurs we are quick to blame it on God. Even if we do not believe God caused the tragedy, we complain because God did not protect us from it. We conclude that God must not be good or he would have stopped bad things from happening.
I have known such times of bewilderment in my own life. When our young son died at age three, I did not curse God. I feared God too much to curse him. But I did curse the darkness. I did curse the heavens. There boiled up out of my being fierce anger that God would let my son die and refuse to answer my heartrending Why?
I was ready to drink the cup of bitterness and give up on God. How, after all, could a God who is love allow a beautiful little boy to die? It made no sense to me. I prayed for my son to be healed and God let him die. Had God even heard my prayers? Did he really care about human suffering? Was God, after all, simply a name men have given to some oblong blur or a figment of human imagination?
Fortunately the God I doubted and was almost ready to curse did exist and he did care. He cared enough to come to me and my wife. We did not see him but we knew he was there nonetheless. He came to us in a man, a kindly man who came to our home within an hour after our son died. He put his arms around us and spoke words that came from the heart of God. He said, “I have come to tell you this morning that God hurts like you hurt. He hurts with you and he shares your sorrow.”
Those words, spoken in kindness but with total confidence, pierced my rebellious, angry heart. I knew immediately that God had spoken those words through this man directly to me. I had been ready to throw down what little faith I had. Why believe in a God of love if he lets little children die? Either he is not love or he is an impersonal Creator who is indifferent to human suffering. I could see no point in loving or serving a God like that.
My friend’s words put a new face on God for me. If God hurts like I hurt, then he understands my pain. I could love a God like that. I could serve such a God. This stunning revelation did not answer all my questions. I still had no clue why a loving God would allow disease to take the life of an innocent child. But I could love a God who hurts with people and helps them find healing for their grief.
So for 50 years my wife and I have loved this God who hurts like we hurt. I have continued asking why. But I have not asked in anger. That is because I believe God to be a loving Father who truly cares about my questions though he does not always give me the answers I want. I have come to realize there are some questions for which there are no answers this side of heaven.
While Job refused to curse God, he did curse the day he was born. He wished he had died at birth. I have known such pathos. I have wallowed in despair and self-pity because of my troubles. I have even a few times wished I were dead. But in all those ugly bottomless pits of hell, the God who hurts has come to me again and again. He has hurt with me, restored my hope, and given me the grace to smile again, and to embrace life with new zeal.
Job’s question is a piercing question: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” The situation is important. Satan had afflicted Job with ugly boils from his feet to his head. Seeing this, his wife ridiculed his unwavering trust in God and railed at Job saying, “Curse God and die!” This Job refused to do and reminded his wife that we should be willing to receive the bad as well as the good from the hand of God.
Job’s question jabs the heart wide awake. It jolts us with the realization that the God who gives us good things is the same God who allows bad things to happen. If we are willing to learn, God will teach us to accept the bad with the good and to trust his judgment. He has a wonderful way of using tragedy to teach us to depend on him and in the process become better people. When the bottom falls out, God’s purposes are often hidden from us though sometimes we discover later on what he had in mind. As we mature we learn to ask a far more important question than why; we learn to ask “Father, what are you trying to teach me in this tragedy?”
God is not angry with us for asking why. As for our anger, God can handle it. We need not be reluctant to express our anger or our deepest disappointments. God understands. He is a Person, a feeling Person. He knows we hurt because he made us with that wonderful capacity. Imagine how terrible our existence would be had God not made us so we can hurt and identify with the hurts of others? We are made in the image of God. That is why we can believe that God hurts like we hurt.
Basic to our understanding that God is good is our acceptance of God’s sovereignty. The world is not out of control. God is in charge. He is God and whatever happens, he allows it to happen. He has his own reasons, some of which our finite minds cannot grasp. Having said that, this truth is also basic – God is always working for our good no matter what happens. He loves us. He wants us to love him and to trust him – in good times and in the worst of times. And best of all, he promises to be with us! That we can count on; he will always be with us especially in those hours when we are going through the valley of the shadow of death.
Perhaps the greatest insight God gives us as we persevere through our troubles is this: We can let God use us to help others around us who are hurting. The friend who came to us when our son died had lost a little girl years before. His daughter was about the age of our son. We did not know that the morning he came to us. But learning it, we began to realize that we were not the only ones hurting.
Our own lives took on added significance and joy when we were able to dry our tears and go to others, sharing with them the good news that did so much for us – God hurts like you hurt. Yes, faith does help us to trust God even in the worst of times. Glory!
(You may contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)