Difficult times and the kind of God we have

I hesitate to comment on the sadness around in the lives of many of my friends, for fear of being trivial.   This is an extensive reflection by John Ortberg on Job’s troubled life.  It sums up all I think and believe.

Ellen Davis writes that God’s questions are indicating something about the kind of person he is. They are filled with references to God’s extravagant goodness and provision even though there is no "strategic gain" in it at all.

"Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,… to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?"

These lines would jump out at the reader in Job’s day. Life in Israel depended on rainfall. They would never waste water. So why would God water "a land where no one lives"?

Because God is a God of gratuitous goodness. And he is uncontrollably generous. He is irrationally loving. He is good for no reason at all. He is good just because he loves to give. He sends streams of living water flowing out of sheer exuberant generosity. There is a wilderness where no one lives, yet it is full of beauty and grace because God makes a river run through it.

God delights in animals that are of no apparent use at all. The ostrich looks goofy and flaps her wings "joyfully" as if they could get her somewhere. She lays eggs and can’t even remember where she left the babies. She doesn’t seem to be worth much of an investment- But when she runs—oh my! "She laughs at horse and rider." Why would God waste such talent?

"I made the behemoth," God says—probably the hippopotamus. The creature is of no particular use: "Can anyone capture him when he is on the watch, With barbs can anyone pierce his nose?" The ancient world considered the hippo a chaotic monster that had to be destroyed—but not God, "He ranks first among the works of God." It’s as if God is saying, "Best thing I ever did. I had my A’ game going the day 1 made the behemoth."

God takes pleasure in wild oxen that will never plough; the wild donkey that will never be tamed; mountain goats that give birth in secret places man will never see; the leviathan that no one can catch. "Nothing on earth is his equal."

God creates, cares for, gives to, and delights in animals that don’t appear to be good for anything. Why should God love a world like that? Anne Dillard writes, "Because the creator loves pizzazz." He revels in the beauty of the least strategic creature.

„. What God is really telling us is, "I’m worth it, Life, following me—it’s all worth it. Don’t give up. This pain is not going to last forever. I am the kind of God who is worth getting close to."

That is because God is gratuitously good—and uncontrollably generous—and irrationally loving. He Just gives for no reason at all. It’s his nature.

"God loves pizzazz."‘Maybe that’s why we’re here.

My favourite author writes,

And when I begin to think about God’s wild extravagance, his wastefulness, his passion for the unnecessary and the excessive and the completely useless, I am struck by a thought so wonderfully freeing I can do nothing but laugh. What if that extravagance extends to me? I am not a soldier for God, or a valued servant in the kingdom. I am a jester! I am the celestial equivalent of a peacock—a tiara—a talking doll. We were not made to serve God. We were made to charm him.

[Job’s] story is our story. On this earth .. winter comes, and we don’t know why.

But Job finds out about something better. He finds out who God is.

"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." That’s enough. God knows, God cares.

When God himself came to the earth, he came in winter. Jesus, like Job, was known as a "man of sorrows." He was acquainted with grief.

Where was God? He was on the ash heap. He, like Job, was so torn by suffering that no one recognized him: "We considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted." He himself would go through the winter of the absence of God: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

On the cross is the ultimate paradox: God experiencing the absence of God so that he can draw close to us in our loss and grief and even in our God-forsakenness,

Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote a book called "Lament for a Son" when he entered into winter after his son died in a an accident while mountain climbing, Woltersdorff writes of how we are told that no one can see the face of God and live. "I always thought that meant no one can see God’s glory and live. A friend suggested that perhaps it means no one can see God’s suffering and live. Or perhaps his suffering is his glory."

Never did we see his glory more clearly than when he was on the cross, taking our God-forsakenness on himself. Karl Earth wrote of the great miracle that God would rather be the suffering God of a suffering people than the blest God of an unblest people.

If it is winter in your life, and you wonder where God is, you don’t have to wonder anymore. He is the God of the ash heap. Jesus was, in a sense, never closer to us than when he was farthest from the Father. Perhaps his suffering is his glory.

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