There is no such thing as perfect faith, only a perfect God. I think a lot of Christians are finding out during this pandemic that their faith is pretty sturdy. And I think a lot of Christians are finding out that there’s a loose leg or two on the chair and it’s hard to sit on it with your full weight. Aside from Jesus, I can’t find anyone in the Bible who had a faith that never wavered. There are stellar examples of faith, but everyone I can locate has that moment when their true humanity showed through.
In this season of uncertainty, there are so many questions. Am I and my family safe? That’s probably a top question. That question is much more pressing than locating some toilet paper or hand sanitizer. We might be worried about our food supply or whether or not we can pay the house note. But the top of the list is our families’ health.
That’s why Job has such a striking story. There are some behind the scenes things going on with God and Satan. There are some good friends who get tired of waiting for Job to snap out of it and become not so good friends. There is an amazing reply from God at the end of the book (and it’s a long book!). But chapter one just leaves us speechless.
I do not need to recount the entire story, we know it very well. In one nightmare worst-case-scenario day Job loses his wealth, his children, the respect of his wife, and ultimately his health. That might not seem so far fetched. I’m going to guess that there are some people worried about this same fate playing out in their lives as well. With businesses closing, a virus spreading rapidly, and tension in families raising to new levels, Job’s story has become all too real.
We wrestle with the tension between God’s goodness and man’s plight with illness and pain. Libraries can be filled with the efforts of humans to grapple with this and make some sense of it. Job has 42 chapters, most of which are trying to come to grips with the question we always come back to. Why? Some people blame God for everything bad. Some people blame the Devil for the bad stuff, and give God credit for the good stuff. For some, it’s all being dictated from heaven – every minute detail. For others, God is busy elsewhere and doesn’t even know what’s happening here. Maybe most of us land in between there someplace. I can promise you I’m not going to solve this puzzle today.
Not that I haven’t done my own share of wrestling. Struggling through the aftermath of Katrina pushed me to my limits. So I thought. The death of my son and my stepfather in the same year really did push me to my limits. Losing my dad last year, after years of estrangement was hard. The last year with him was accommodated by Alzheimer’s disease. He forgot he didn’t want to talk to me. I take a risk in mentioning these storms because I know that you have your own. Mine are not worse, I don’t care to compare losses. Whatever has happened in your life that caused you to wrestle with your faith was significant. What you did to make it through was significant also.
We are all wrestling with COVID-19. It is impossible to think that we won’t know someone who contracts the virus. It’s entirely possible to believe that someone we know, and love, will die during this outbreak. And it is also possible that we will have to fight for our lives if we catch it.
So, my shaky faith friends, what do we need to remember? I think we need to remember that faith lands. At some point we get to the bottom of our faith – that place where it reaches its conclusion and isn’t going anywhere from there. What’s the bottom line of your faith? I don’t want you to be one of those who loses their faith. Our faith may creak, groan, warp, and even crack, but it doesn’t have to break. Job’s didn’t. In a moment of absolute crisis, the book of Job recounts the most amazing response.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”Job 1:20, 21
If we follow in Job’s path, we don’t give up on God. We turn to him. That’s where our faith lands. I want to make three observations about what we learn from Job’s response to sudden loss.
Worship God humbly.
From the ground if need be. If you have ever been sent to the ground in grief or sorrow, you know what Job was doing. But on the ground he was reminded that his faith was not in himself, but landed on God’s shoulders.
Remember the human condition.
We arrived without anything, and we’re going to the ground without anything. All of us. Your suffering hurts, but you are not alone. We are all in that line that ends in eternity. As Mid McKnight used to ask, “are you ready for your journey to eternity?” Thousands are predicted to die with this virus. Also thousands will die from other causes. I will die. Sometime. I’m human. Job remembered this.
Yes, Job trusted God. He blessed God’s name as he wept there on the ground. Great trials were yet to come, but faith landed here. It would be tested. He would have to come back to this moment again and again. At the end of your struggles and trials is the foundational belief that God is God. He doesn’t owe us explanations. He cannot even reveal himself fully to us – we couldn’t possibly understand Him. So he sent Jesus, a human being we could love. It was a way for us to understand that God understands. He does.
I’m praying your faith lands on God’s power and strength and stays there. You’re not going to fight this battle perfectly. You’ll lose your temper or you will hoard some item or you’ll wonder if God is singling you out for some purpose. But always come back to trust and let your faith land there.
I confess I don’t like the ending of Job. (Is it OK for a preacher to say that about the Bible?). Mostly I dislike what we do with it. We suggest that if we are faithful that we will receive so many blessings in return. Job had more children and new wealth. But you know he remembered those children who died on that terrible day. He loved them. He missed them always. Nothing takes that away.
You might persevere beautifully, but I won’t promise that everything you lose will be restored in this life. I do believe we will be richly rewarded in the next life.
The ending of the book of Job isn’t quite as exciting as it’s contents. Job 42:17 says,
“And Job died, an old man, and full of days.” He had quite a run. It is not promised to any of us that we will die old and full of days. But God has promised to always be with us and to strengthen us. He has promised heaven to those who trust him. Faith lands – it has to – someplace solid – on the truth of God. That’s why it’s always true that out here hope remains.
This short series of posts are exploring the idea of UNCERTAINTY: Faith in the Shadow of a Pandemic. Thanks for sharing if you felt it an encouragement.