Getting to Know God Meditations: 30. God of Hope – theory into practice
Job 19:25-27 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.
Where next? Often when I write a study/meditation, I come to the end of it with no idea where we will go next. Often it is only as I am praying next morning that the ideas flow. When I came to the end of the previous study I felt two things. First a sense of inadequacy and lack of completeness and, second, a sense of nowhere to go. I no longer write until I sense direction so two days have passed without writing a study. But this morning the answer came, so here it is. The previous study was the theory, here is the practice.
Living in the Fallen World: I often refer to living in this fallen world, a world that is no longer like God originally made it (perfect), a world where things go wrong, a world where all human beings in some measure or another are dysfunctional – we no longer work as we were originally designed to live – and so we get into trouble, things go wrong, illnesses strike, jobs are lost, loved ones die, and so on. But there is one thing I have observed over the years that is crucial for us to understand and that is the sense of hopelessness and helplessness that many feel.
OK, this isn’t always true. You lose a job but get up and go hunting for a new one, possibly get retrained and, with some serious endeavor, life goes on. Some people give up smoking. Sometimes it is with the help of a hypnotist, or therapy or nicotine patches but at the end of it, they are free of the addiction. Some people have cancer and receive treatment and are then in remission, which simply means the signs are gone but it could come back. Alcoholics similarly know they are never completely free, they are just able to say, “I haven’t had a drink since….” So yes, there are many ways in life where the hope that we have is of change, often by our own abilities, often by those of others. It is a better life today than it was two hundred years ago, say.
Helpless? So why do I speak of helplessness and hopelessness? Because as much as we live in a world were some prophesy lives will be going on and on and on, the human race evolving even more, these are the ramblings of the privileged few and even for them, I believe, it is deception. I have watched the lives of two people in particular, two men of capability, two successful men, two men who most of the time feel safe and secure in their business acumen and their affluence – how these things can deceive. But then I have watched in each case and changes in the world, changes outside their control have threatened their very existence and certainly their affluence. Suddenly life was not secure.
I have referred in the past to these sorts of changes that impose themselves on our lives, things out of our control, as the storms of life. I have also recently referred to Jesus’ parable of the two house builders (Mt 7) which specifically addresses how to cope in the face of the storms of life. But some people don’t heed his advice and follow him, and so when the storms come they are seen as disasters. Some don’t cope well and suicides sometimes follow, or marriage breakups occur, and so on. It can be really rough navigating the storms of life. Much of the time, life is fine, but then the storms come and it is very different, at those times, despite all our previous bravado, we suddenly find we are helpless (powerless to bring the change we need) and hopeless (unable to bring the change we need) and thus face a distinctly uncertain future.
The Lessons from Job: Job was possibly the greatest example of someone riding the storms of life having had everything stripped out of his life – family, friends, affluence, health – and death stared him in the face. In some ways it is a terrible book, this book of Job, especially when it seems it is God who allows it all to come about, but it is a book that has one or two powerful messages. First, and perhaps the most important, is that God is always in the background watching over and limiting what is going on. Second, it shows us that it is possible to weather these storms without letting them distort our beliefs, for Job refused to abuse the name of God and the testimony and challenge to his ‘friends’, from God, was, “You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has,” (Job 42:7 & 8) and, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:22) It may just be a parable or it may be history; we don’t really know, but the message at the end of it is that God is there and able to utterly restore Job and his circumstances to make them even better than they were before.
Out of the Darkness: Now it is in the midst of the darkness of his experience (and I have watched others have the same experience, and known it in small measure myself) that suddenly hope bursts forth within Job. It cannot be explained logically, for everything out our situation is black but in the blackness there is suddenly revelation and Job declares those amazing words, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.” Now you may not think much of this but consider this: Job is staring death in the face, the abyss of the great unknown, the big question mark that hangs over every life, that “it is destined that men die only once, and after that comes judgment.” (Heb 9:27) Many try to pretend it will never happen but we know it will. Many try to pretend that there is nothing after death, but the question mark is always there.
Two Aspects: Now we have been considering two aspects of being human: first, that life goes wrong and so can be painful and fearful and, second, that we all face death and whatever happens afterwards. We use a variety of techniques to push away these thoughts – especially when we are living healthy lives, affluent lives and there seems not a cloud in the sky. Indeed at such times we speak of such people as me at this moment, as ‘Jeremiahs, prophets of doom’, to which I respond with a smile, no, merely a realist who has watched life too many times to be conned by the good times. But, whatever the reason, whatever the cause of a particular storm, the Bible reaches out to us with hope – that God is there and He is there for us if we will but reach out for Him, rather like Michelangelo’s fresco painting in the Sistine chapel, the Creation of Adam, where God’s hand is reaching out to touch mans. This is always the hope that is there – that He is there and He is for us, always reaching out to us – to bring change!
But?… When the storm is at its worst, when the time is at its darkest, we need more and more reassuring, and so in the next study we will lay out further, more detailed evidence of ‘hope in practice’.