Hang On!

In the book of Job the “Adversary” approaches the Lord with a question he has been considering for some time.  Simply stated, the question is, “How bad can I make it?”  Scholars believe that the story of Job was written some five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, that its origins were during the time of the Babylonian captivity when it seemed that the dark forces had succeeded in making things very bad indeed.

The figure of Job, the object of the Evil One’s cruel musings, became a symbol to God’s people of their own plight.  The argument that runs through the story, forming the dialogue between Job and his companions, has to do with the meaning of human suffering, and, beyond that, the nature of the relationship between humanity and God.  The questions that surface are:

  • Do our sufferings tell us that we are abandoned by God?
  • Does our frequent inability to discern a reason for much of human suffering mean that there is no reason or purpose?
  • And the simplest form of the question: “Why me?”

To all these questions Job’s answer is, “I don’t know.”  There are no theological explanations in this story, not the kind that would satisfy someone looking for cut and dried answers or formulas.  There is only the endurance of faith and hope and the resilience of the bond between the creature and Creator.  But as for explanations, there were none in the offing when the story was written.  It is a story that came out of a time of great sorrow and loss when the very best the people of God could think to do was to simply hang on.  And when we think about it, hanging on was all that Job managed to do.  However, it was no small thing.  It was a triumph.  “Hanging on” was exactly what was required.  No more, no less.

When the “Adversary” set out to discover how bad he could make it, he tore away every external support a human being might possess…home, family, possessions, health, and even the comfort of conventional wisdom.  Job was left alone. In his own mind, he could find no reason, no explanation for what had befallen him.  It was in this extremity of isolation and pain that he cursed his own existence: “I loathe my life…Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been.”  And it is at this point that the story reaches its heroic stand, for here Job has touched the outer limit, not of suffering, but of what he will allow suffering to make of him.  Though he curses his existence he will not go further.  He will not curse the source of his existence.  He will not curse God.  He hangs on!  And the “Adversary” can’t destroy him or his relationship with God.

The answer to the “Adversary’s” question, “How bad can I make it?” is…”You can do everything, but you cannot unmake a human soul.  It is beyond your power to sever the final thread that binds a person to God.”  When God made the man and woman He made them in His own image.  The full extent of evil is not capable of destroying that image.

The worst Satan ever made it was the day Jesus died.  And, as was the case in Job’s story, once again Satan’s rampage was at the sufferance of God.  There was no help for the victim.  This was the day for evil’s full unveiling.  The only way it could be undone was for it to be completely uncovered and faced in all its horror.  That’s just what Jesus did.

The account becomes increasingly grim and despairing at every turn.  The “so-called” defenders of the faith, the priests and Pharisees, are determined to eliminate Jesus even though they have admitted to one another that He may very well be a prophet.  The main accomplice in their plot is one of Jesus’ disciples, a man who shared in the same bowl at the last supper.  The rest of His close ones fled during His arrest, save one who followed later and then denied that he had ever known his “Master”.  So on the day of His crucifixion, there were no friends nearby, only people mocking, torturing and taunting Him.

It was almost His last breath, when Jesus was finally overcome by betrayal and abandonment, that He cried out as Job had centuries earlier “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  But that was as far as Satan could push Him.  He could get Jesus to agonize over why God had left Him alone to endure the cross.  But he couldn’t break the relationship between Jesus and His Father.  Jesus didn’t curse God, but rather cried out, “My God, My God.”  In the worst of all situations Jesus hung on to His relationship with His Father.  It wasn’t broken.  He hung on in obedience to His Father’s will and love for us.

And so Satan, death and the power of sin were all defeated that day by the sinless obedient One who held on to the end.  This means that, even though we can’t figure it all out in times of trial and suffering, we have One at the right hand of the Father who understands, who has hung on through what we might suffer and worse.  We have One who is also beside us through it all.  When we feel like letting go in futility, we can trust in the One who hung on to the end.

Grab hold of that One when you feel alone or forsaken.  Know in your heart that Satan, death and sin are not the final answer, but rather the answer is that Jesus lives and because He lives you can face today and all tomorrows in His steadfast love.

Spreading, Serving and Sharing with You,

Pastor Carl