Belgian Christadelphians

Content with the “no” answer

 By Beverley Russell>

< 17 God’s measure not our measure


18. Love God and be content with the “no” answer to our suffering

Earth’s afire with heaven and every common bush afire with God, but only he sees who takes off his shoes, the rest … see only evil.

Men dance in tune with the Lord, but if there are those who cannot hear the music, they perceive the dancers as mad … and complain about the dance, bringing in resources to forbid it.

So the tormenters in our life on earth make it grossly unfair. The sinless Christ found that out. But he also found a God of sacrificial love. No one is exempt from tragedy or disappointment. And if we stake our life on justice and a fault proof life, with every contingency considered, and every escape route covered, then we set ourselves for a loss of faith.

In any case, if miracles do happen and people are revived from imminent destruction, those miracles do not prevent their eventual death. Sure, out of darkness, and from the unfairness and unrighteousness, a bright light can shine, like the miracle of the resurrection morn for Jesus Christ. The cross overcame evil, and gave us a way to relate to righteousness, but the cross did not take away unfairness and unrighteousness, and so we need our resurrection morn as well. That requires a new heaven and a new earth for which in expectation we pray.

To love God”, the first commandment, requires that we love Him, not only in the good times but in the difficult times as well, even in the terrors and tragedies and the fear and the loneliness and the persecutions, when we are in the wilderness of life. He does ask us to run with broken legs, or sing when our throat is dry, to pray when the words cannot come, to sit on an ash hill, and argue with tormentors who take wrongful points of view. He does expect us to ask for blessing upon detractors. For hurting hearts that is a very hard task, but blessings on detractors, bring blessings back to us. That’s God’s goodwill revolving around about us.

We might doubt our value to God when our tormentors taunt us with “Do you think God cares about someone like you?”, “Do you think the Maker of the Universe would ever drop down to speak with you?”, “Does He need to explain Himself to you?”, “We have God’s mind on Truth, and we know that He does not want you”. That’s when the little spark in the cloud comes by and God reaches down and speaks to reassure us, and asks us to bless the tormentors.

Here in four chapters, (Job 38-41) is God’s defense of the charge of His role being unfair and disappointing. It is not an acknowledgement of the unfair, and over the top pain we feel over our trials, or even an understanding of our disappointments. It is a lesson given by God in how He manages the physical universe, and how Job cannot do that, and how we cannot do that.

By implication then it also means Job cannot manage the moral universe either. So we get our lesson as well, that we also are unable to manage the moral universe. Job repents in dust and ashes and every trace of thinking God unfair, and any disappointment with God vanishes. God asks us, in the lesson of Job, to do likewise.

But we are not told the full answer, still. God declined to answer specifically as Job had asked, and the friends and comforters withdrew themselves with their mistaken ideas and pompous speeches, and Job himself withdrew His questions. Then it was that God vindicated Job

If we can also cast ourselves upon the Lord even when we do not know all the answers, He will vindicate us as well, sometime when He deems it is right. As Job eventually accepted the ways of the Lord and withdrew his questions, we also, not fully understanding the way of the Lord, can trust in Him to do it right, without question. Then we will be able to accept the “no” answer with better equanimity, and be content.

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19. Are we satisfied with God’s answer about suffering?

Any explanation of our suffering would not satisfy our relentless questioning of why this or that happens. We hear it around us, and we hear it in our own heads. We place our lives in His hands on our baptism, yet there is still no plausible knowledge in our spiritual experiences in Christ or even in our logical stance of fairness that would allow us to understand all His ways.

So God does not try us with answers too hard for us. God Himself does not give us an answer. He supports us in the suffering but the suffering itself is too hard for us to understand. If we attempt to answer there are too many inconsistencies that do not follow our pattern of logic. When God stepped into my life, into my time, then I perceive, in my understanding that God has to exist by my rules. Not so. He steps in and out of time as I know it, so I cannot comprehend it.

Is man even capable of understanding how God works his physical and moral world? No.

Can man understand the greatness of God, the creation by God, His omnipotence over the universe, over all of the heavens as we now know we are part of? No.

Can man understand the time from before time and into future time? No.

Can we, who live in the present, and remember the past, and wonder about the future, ever understand the whole picture of what He surveys and controls? No.

When we say God is in control, we have to cast our minds into an unknown infinity with an unfamiliar time frame, which does not resemble anything that we are familiar with. We are in the realms of impossibility for our finite minds cannot comprehend it. We cannot understand sound and colour if we are born deaf and blind. So then Job’s questions, and our questions of the same ilk, belong to another place rather than our customary place. It is a higher point of view, a more complex and unseen place, beyond our comprehension, and a place forbidden to us yet. So the answers to those questions and the answers about space and time, belong to God who formed them. He can move about in them, we cannot. He looks at the whole of history and on into the future. He talks to us about them, for he says “one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day”, but He cannot explain them to us. He talks about eternity but in our finiteness, we cannot understand the infiniteness of eternity. God’s truth of eternity is elevated above us, but in His graciousness He comes to us and allows us to exist in a time and space, which is only a small part of His time and space, a place which we can understand and comprehend. That is why we are limited in our understanding of suffering. To us, it is an overall unseen picture.

We look at the past, the present and the future in a sequential series of frames, one after the other. God sees the whole collection at once from above in a great pattern of His creation. Perhaps some can better understand the view from above than others can, but no one can understand the ultimate details of the view.

God told Moses to record the creation in different styles, and gave us different measures of understanding of His creation. God gave Job as much as He considered Job could comprehend, about that same creation. Job was honoured with that gift of explanation, and then barely comprehending, was at last content with God’s stated position that Job’s rules could not apply to God. Now Job understood God’s request that he could leave the rest to Him.

Theologists have debated, without much success or understanding, the different positions of foreknowledge and predestination and things that we cannot foresee. In another life we may understand these puzzles but for now because we do not have that skill, we are entrapped in our time, where space and time and the other mysteries are not revealed to us and we cannot foresee. Our perception is warped, and we may call God unfair. We do not understand the success of evil, the unfair events, or the sadness that overcomes us, and when so often righteousness is overcome with unrighteousness. So we remain unsatisfied, yet trusting Him.

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