Job 23:1-9, 16-17
This month I am preaching on the Book of Job. The book of Job is hard for most people to understand because of Job’s suffering. You may remember last week that I said that from the very beginning God was setting Job up to be a target for suffering. No one can be that good. But I believe that God was actually setting up Job to be faithful in the midst of the difficult circumstances that he was facing. Remember that the argument the Satan made against Job was when faced with suffering, Job would curse God. I believe that God set Job to be faithful because God had confidence in Job that he would able to endure the suffering and remains faithful and do the right thing even in circumstances that were not Job’s fault. I believe that God has the same confidence in us that despite whatever circumstance or difficulty we are in, we will be faithful and do the right thing.
In our scripture this week circumstances however have changed. Job has reached the end of his rope when it comes to dealing with all the bad stuff that has happened to him. Adding insult to injury, Job feels like God is ignoring his cries for help. And to make things even more difficult, Job’s friends aren’t helping the situation. They insist that Job has done something to deserve the suffering he going through. He is confused and frustrated. Job has hit the wall.
One of the things about human beings is our uncanny ability to cope with whatever situation we are going through. We can only endure so much. There comes a time when we all hit the wall. Time when we feel like no matter what we do things aren’t getting any better. And that wall seems harder when there is little support and resources to help us. And that is particularly true for those who are poor and needy. It seems lately that I have been dealing with a lot of people who feel like they have hit a wall. Most of them are poor or homeless. It just seems like that they can’t catch a break. As hard as they try to get out of their situation It seems like the system or the world is against them. And so, they keep hitting that wall time and time again. And if you hit that wall enough you begin to get discouraged and lose faith not just in the world but with others.
We are all going to hit the wall at some point in our lives. The question is what do we do next. We can either despair and give up or we use it as a time for faith. I have a T-shirt that says “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” At the end it says, “Except Bears, bear will really kill you.” I want to suggest that hitting the wall can be for us a moment of faith.
One way hitting the wall can be a moment of faith, is the awareness that there are things that we cannot control and that we need God’s grace and help. One of the things I have discovered about people is that we don’t like asking for help, especially men. Somehow asking for help or admitting that we are having a hard time is a sign of weakness.
In our scripture Job frustration is not just he is going through suffering but the realization that he needs God’s help. The thing is that God doesn’t seem to be answering the phone. God is absent. The problems are that Job and God are in two different places. One of things we notice about Job’s situation is that the only reason he wants to talk to God is that he is going through all that suffering. We can only guess about whether Job talked to God when things were going well. We can assume Job like so many of us do, took God for granted when times were good. And so, when circumstances change Job was not in a position to really to be able to talk to God and hear what God was trying to tell him.
Sometimes it takes hitting the wall to realize that God and us aren’t in the same place. We assume that we are doing what God wants us to do. One of the things that writer of Job does is to describe Job as righteous and faithful because of the things he has accumulated. Sometime we think because we have all these blessings that God and us are in the same place, when in reality we are in very different places.
But the beautiful thing is that we may not be in a place to talk to God or feel that God is listening. God is always in a place where he is present and knows where we are and what we are going through. One of my favorite poems that illustrates that beautifully is the popular “footprints in the sand.” My favorite part of the poem is at the end when it says:
When the last scene of his life flashed before him
he looked back, at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you,
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Sometime it takes hitting the wall to help us get back to a place where we feel like God and us are in the same place.
The second way Hitting the wall can be a moment of faith is to remind us that we are part of a world that is not always right and fair. Part of Job’s frustration is the feeling that the world is treating him unfairly. What have I done to deserve this? To make things more difficult for Job is that his friends think that he must have done something to be suffering as he is. And we do the same thing too, we see someone suffering and we think to ourselves that person must have done something. But that is not always the case. The truth is that a person’s circumstance is a result of being a part of a world that is unfair and unjust.
One of things I think we as Christians forget is that we all belong to the same unfair and unjust world and systems. We forget that what happens to someone else can happen to me. The injustice that happens to another person can happen to me. That was at the heart of Jesus message. You are all are brothers and sisters living together in the same unfair world. And it’s up to you to help make it fairer for everyone. Take for instance the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. Both are part of the same unfair world and system. The Rich man has been fortunate profited from the world and is rich while Lazarus sits at the gate starving. Each day the rich man walks by Lazarus barely noticing him, not caring at all for his circumstance. He does try to make Lazarus’ world better or fairer.
But when both die, they trade places. The Rich man becomes poor in terms of his reward in heaven while Lazarus becomes rich. Rich Man suffered because he failed to understand that he had a responsibility to help make the world that he profited by fairer and equitable for his neighbor Lazarus. He didn’t use his blessings to help the circumstances of another. He didn’t understand that they lived in the same world.
Today we live in a world that is increasingly become the haves and the have nots, when it should be a world of have enough. How many times have we heard the stories of those persons who have shared their blessings with those who struggled. Or heard stories of people who suffered a loss or a difficulty and then transformed that suffering into helping other people from going through the suffering that they went through. They understand that everyone is interconnected in this world. They understand that the world is unfair and instead of complaining about it they decided to help others from the being hurt as they have been hurt.
Sometimes hitting the wall can open our eyes to reality that all of us live in a world that is unfair and instead of complaining about it, we can make it fairer and better not just for ourselves but for everyone.
And finally Hitting the Wall can be an opportunity for faith. It can be a moment of frustration and resentment and blame. Or, it can be a trans formative moment, a moment of faith and hope. Job’s friend wants Job to blame someone or something for what he is going through. When things go wrong for us, we want to blame someone or something. Placing blame where blame belongs is important. It’s part of holding one another accountable and responsible to one another. Blaming others can also be destructive. It can keep us from moving forward. Many people never are really able to move beyond the suffering and difficult circumstances.
The question for Job is will he let the circumstance defeat him so that he curses himself and God or will he move on move forward and fight back. Job may have hit the wall but Job fights back. He wants to confront God, he wants to talk to God. He believes that God will listen and make things right again. Job fighting back, his moment of defiance towards God is really a moment of hope and faith. At the same time, he understands that it is not going to be easy. Job is still scared and fearful.
Just because we have faith doesn’t mean that there is no doubt or fear. I would argue that when our faith is being tested the most is when we are going to experience fear and doubt the most. I remember standing for the first time in Horseshoe Bowl in Breckinridge. Horseshoe bowl is about 50%-degree angle and steep. It’s not even the steepest at Breckinridge. But it was my first time to ski it and I had faith in my skiing but still looking at that slope I was fearful. But I believed in myself that I could do it.
As I said last week I believe that God has confidence in us when we are going through a difficult time. God knows that we are going to get to a point where we going to hit a wall. The thing is not letting it stop us from moving on. Not letting it help us recognize our need for God’s help, Not let it stop us from recognizing that we are not alone in our suffering but that we are part of the same broken and unfair world and through our suffering we can help others, and finally not let hitting the wall keep us from faith in a God.
Ultimately that is what Job teaches us and what we learn at the end in Chapter 39 is that God is greater the world and any kind of suffering that it may dish out. And that is perhaps the most important lesson you and I can learn. Sometimes we think that what we are going through is too much that we will never be able to go on. It’s like when my daughter Meghan came home from her first day in Kindergarten in tears. I asked her why she was crying and she said, “I can’t read. I’m going to be 30 years old and you are going to still be reading to me.”
Hitting the wall is not the end. It wasn’t the end of Job and it’s not the end of us. It can be the start of experiencing the depth and breadth of faith in God who is bigger than the world and anything it may throw at us.