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Where is God when the world falls apart?

August 3, 2016

A NEW SERIES ON THE BOOK OF JOB

levering family portrait--birds smWe didn’t exactly plan to have a fifth child. When we found out we were pregnant, we were surprised but excited.

Nor did we plan to bury that child before we ever had a chance to meet her. But that’s what happened. We lost our Ruby Kate after 18 weeks of pregnancy.

The picture to the right is a family portrait of sorts. It was a housewarming gift from Carissa’s sister and her husband during their visit last week. The birds in the trees represent me, Carissa, and our four children: Joshua, Moriah, Eva, and Chloe. The three birds flying away are the ones we lost to heaven—Ruby, and two other babies between Joshua and Moriah.

Our story of loss is just one story among millions. Stories of grief, pain, and the sorrow so common to this fallen world. The loss of a job when the company decides to downsize. The loss of our health as we get older, or of a loved one when cancer strikes. The loss of our dignity when we’re discriminated because of the color of our skin. The loss of our innocence when someone takes advantage of us.

But as Christians, there is another, often deeply troubling layer to our loss: we believe in a good, loving, and powerful God who sovereignly rules the universe. A God who promises good to his people, who numbers our hairs and doesn’t let a sparrow fall to the ground apart from his plan (Matt. 10:29-30).

And so when we experience suffering and pain, it inevitably drives us to ask honest questions about our situation, but ultimately about our God. Why me? Why Ruby? Why would God let this happen to anyone, let alone his people? Why doesn’t he answer? Where is God when the world falls apart?

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know what he would answer me
and understand what he would say to me.
(Job 23:3-5)

The book of Job resonates with both the suffering we experience and the searching questions it generates. It’s the story of one man’s devastating loss and the struggle to make sense of God in the midst of it.

In fact, we can summarize the message of the book in a series of five questions. These are not always the questions we ask when faced with pain and loss. But they are the questions God wants us to ask, questions that he actually seeks to answer through this book.

“Does Job fear God for no reason?” (1:9). In other words, do we only love God because of what we get out of it? This is the Accuser’s question about what motivates our righteousness.

“Why did I not die at birth?” (3:11). Wouldn’t it be better to have never lived than to face such misery? This is the question of raw pain and lament.

“Who that was innocent ever perished?” (4:7). That is to ask, can the righteous suffer? This question explores the cause of suffering and the assumptions we make about the suffering of others.

“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” (40:2) In other words, is God righteous when the righteous suffer? This question cuts to the heart of the matter, whether God can be in the right while his children experience wrongs.

“Who is it this that hides counsel without knowledge?” (42:3). In other words, is there mercy for those who speak like fools? Is there any recourse when we make wrong assumptions and wrong assertions about the character of God?

Over the next five weeks at Westgate we’ll explore each of these questions as we walk through the overarching message of Job, with its overarching question: Where is God when the world falls apart? And in it, I believe we will find the hope and perspective we need to trust God amid this fallen world.

I hope you can join us.

*****

August 7: The God of Suffering (Job 1-2)

August 14: The Voice of Suffering (Job 3)

August 21: The Cause of Suffering (Job 11-13)

August 28: The Wisdom of Suffering (Job 38:1-40:2)

September 4: The Vindication of Suffering (Job 42)

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