Thursday, March 20, 2008

The BIG Question: WHY?

The BIG question is "WHY?" We have all asked it. Something happens that is just "over the top," and we turn our faces (and sometimes also our fists) heavenward and ask, "Why, God?" At the very least, we ask, "OK, God, what in the world do you mean to accomplish by this? Are You quite sure you know what You are doing?"

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book addressing this question following the death of his son: When Bad Things Happen to Good People. When his book first hit the bookstores, I was going through my own personal struggle with pain. I found his book at the Christian bookstore near where we lived, bought and read it. Wow! What a sad book! Rabbi Kushner's conclusion is that there are some things just too big and bad for God to do anything about them. He actually states that God is impotent in certain situations.

When bad things were happening to me, I didn't find what Rabbi Kushner wrote very comforting!

In ancient times a man named Job faced an overwhelming wave of one disaster after another: He lost his considerable wealth (oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels) and all the servants he employed to take care of them. Then the message came to Job that all his seven sons and his three daughters were caught in the house where they were at a party. A huge tornado hit the house directly, destroyed the house and all Job's children perished.

In the final blow Job lost his health with a terrible disease that made him an outcast from society and covered his entire body with painful sores. He had to go live in the garbage dump. When bad things happen to good people? Job knew all about that!

Then Job endured the onslaught of his three closest friends (and eventually even his wife) as they all gave him very bad advice for how to respond to all this pain. Job dialogues with them, but he refuses to be influenced by their arguments. Then a brash young man named Elihu shows up at the city dump and imparts his angry "wisdom" to straighten Job out. Elihu basically tells Job he isn't spiritual enough, doesn't understand God's ways well enough, isn't wise enough to know and follow God from his heart.

It is very interesting to read the ancient book of Job in the Old Testament. In chapter 38 God speaks. God comes in a huge lightning storm, and God blasts them all with His truth. It is an amazing recitation from God of His power to create, control and bring restoration.

Job's response is humble before the face of God. Job says, "I'm convinced You can do anything and everything. Nothing can upset Your plans. ... I admit I once lived by rumors of You; now I have it all firsthand - from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry - forgive me. ... I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor." (Job 42:1 - 6, The Message)

Job's God is not like Rabbi Kushner's. Job's God is not impotent. Job's God is powerful, great and good! Job plants his feet firmly on the Rock, and he declares, "I KNOW that my Redeemer lives!"

That is the answer to the "WHY ?" question: God is real! Jesus is risen from the dead! God has power to create and control all the affairs of men and all the circumstances of life! God is NEVER impotent! God is always both great and good ALL THE TIME! And that's the only answer to the question, "Why ?" - every time!

Jewish Job celebrated Easter long before Jesus rose from the dead in his declaration that "my Redeemer lives."

And the Bible records that in the end - when it was all said and done - that God gave Job back (restored what was broken and lost) all he had before times two. Job received (from God's gracious hand) twice as many sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys. And Job and his wife had ten more children. Their other ten were in heaven so they had 20 children in all - twice what they started with.

God is in the business of restoring the broken! God restored Job, and He can and will restore you and me in all our brokenness! Actually that's why there is a Restoration Church gathering in the South Hills of Pittsburgh - because God is in the business of restoration!

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