It is disheartening at my age to find that I still subscribe to the belief that if I keep my nose clean, it will not be bloodied by the bruises of life. I face adversity. I complain. Unlike Job, I do not lament. There is a difference. Even Jesus questioned during his suffering. “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Perhaps it is how I ask the question “why?”
One way comes out of a heart of complaint. Why is this happening to me? Why do I need to suffer? As in, I don’t deserve this. (A sense of entitlement perhaps?) It is as if I believe that my allegiance to God somehow incubates me from suffering. So when the inevitable trials of life occur once again I am surprised. I complain. Invariably when I ask why in this way, I am not teachable, or in a frame of mind to listen, to receive the strength God will provide if I am open. I forget to pray, to ask for help or guidance. I try to face things on my own.
Yet the way of the suffering Christ, of Job, of Wisdom, speaks to a different “why?” Why is this happening to me? What are You trying to teach me? To show me? To prepare me for? Jesus asked the question on the cross, and while the scriptures do not give us God’s answer, I am sure there was an answer and it went something like this, “My child, my child, I have not forsaken you. I never will. I am here.”
Jesus knew these words from Deuteronomy, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Words so important that they are repeated in Hebrews 13:5). If I truly believe them to be true, that I am not alone or forsaken, then when tough times come, my why changes from complaint to lament to openness to the presence of a God who is with me always. Job was clear that true wisdom can only be found in God. Perhaps I am best open to it when I am in trouble. Hmm.
This relationship of suffering with wisdom is alluded to in James, which I consider to be the NT’s contribution to the wisdom literature of the Bible. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Interesting that the command to ask for wisdom follows so quickly upon the testing of one’s faith. Hmm.
Dear God, help me to ask the wise whys!
Forum post for AMBS seminary class.