JOB: WHAT IS GOD PLAYING AT?

 

I love the story of Lewis Hamilton this week after he won the Russian GP in Sochi. Apparently, President Putin was on the podium to present the award and Hamilton was under strict instructions not to spray the President with victory champagne. Understandably so; on home soil to be sprayed with a clear fizzy liquid by a foreigner? Dodgy, even perhaps a disaster….!

 

Real disasters do happen. Have you seen the dreadful pictures from Indonesia after the earthquake and tsunami? The bodies are still being dug out, lives and businesses are ruined by the thousand. Then Ebola has broken out again in the DRC. Hurricanes and typhoons have battered the USA and Pacific rim. The Greek wildfires incinerated whole families in their cars. Surely they did not deserve it? I thought God was a god of justice and love. If God is God what is he playing at?

 

Fair enough question. But t’was ever so. Today we read:

 

Job 1:1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright….. So Satan went out from the presence of God and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head….. Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God and die.’

 

Like so many faced with undeserved suffering, Job cried out (in some 42 chapters) ‘If God is God what is he playing at?’ There was no explanation for Job, nor is there for us. I certainly have none. We can choose between siding with Job’s wife, waving our fist in the air and shout ‘Curse God and die’ or like Job try to make some sense of it.

 

The posh word for all this is ‘Theodicy’. Our starting point is that undeserved suffering is part of the worldwide human condition. If there is an almighty and loving God, then we have two problems:

 

Problem 1

In this word bad things happen to good people. If God is God what is he playing at? As we have seen there was no explanation for Job, nor is there for us. Let me be crystal clear: I have none as a professional Christian.

 

Solution for me:

We are called to play the best part we can to alleviate that suffering.

Have you given something to help in Indonesia? If not, why not? I suggest you do so today.

 

Problem 2

For believers: if I believe that God has a detailed and wonderful plan for my Life, what about when bad things happen? Not just stubbing my toe but the big stuff. Personal disasters, desperate illness, fractured relationships, repeated job loss, all that kind of thing. Trying to reconcile personal bad stuff causes mental conflict and faith breakdown for many Christians (and followers of other religions too). If God is God what is he playing at?

 

The solution (if that is a good enough word) for me:

Accept what comes, good or bad, and think how best we can care for each other meanwhile.

 

For example, believe it or not, at a recent Deanery Synod I heard a first-rate talk from a recently retired GP. He was talking about his experience in dealing with people with so called ‘Depression’. ‘Doctor Doctor, I am so depressed.’ His first task was to find out whether the patient was feeling bad because of ‘My shit lot in life’ or suffering from a clinical illness.

 

With the former churches can help in providing community prop up. With the latter he suggested we need to steer people to their GP for a proper medical diagnosis, but realise that it is voluntary. We cannot get over involved in the clinical illness of other people, it needs regular treatment. There comes a point where we cannot help, and we need to fess up to that inability.

 

The point is that with medical and pastoral matters, we care for people as best we can without running ourselves into the ground.

 

So what have we learned today?

 

As followers of Jesus we are still caught up in the chaos of this world. There was no explanation for Job, nor is there for us. Am I going to ‘Curse God and die?’ or play the best hand I can?

 

A final thought. Earlier this summer I was walking over the very rocky Engstlingen Alp with two small grandchildren towards a café in the distance. The elder asked me, ‘Any chance of a carry?’ I declined but offered my hand. Together we safely negotiated the rocks and chasms.

 

Take God’s hand through it all. He will see you make it however challenging the going gets. Bon voyage!