Job 1:9-11 (New Living Translation)
Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”
“C’mon God. Let’s be honest. The only reason Job loves you is because his life is so perfect. If anything started going wrong, he’d dump you in a heartbeat.”
Okay… admittedly, that’s a bit of a paraphrase. But in this passage from the book of Job, Satan boldly argues that Job only loves God because things are running so smoothly in his life. Satan is convinced that if things started going wrong, then Job would no longer be faithful to God.
Surely not… right?
But there’s a little bit of truth mixed in there with the accusation, isn’t there? (There usually is– that’s what makes evil so dangerous.) It’s easy for us to take God and God’s goodness for granted when things are going well in our lives. We feel like we’re in perfect rhythm, everything going our way, moving right along. But when things get hard– as they inevitably do at some point– then we cry out to God: “Why?”
I was thinking about this as I rode the metro recently on my way to classes at Wesley Theological Seminary. It was rush hour and the subway car was packed. As we swayed back and forth, trying to keep ourselves upright without bumping into the person standing so very, very close to us, I suddenly started noticing– really noticing– the people around me. And I remembered a posting I’ve seen in several places recently:
There are challenging realities in the world around us. There are challenging realities in our communities, in our workplaces. There are challenging realities in our churches, in our homes. Grief, estrangement, addiction, depression, poverty, homelessness, neglect, fear, poverty, illness, confusion. The church is called to be a place where hurting people– you and me included– can come to hear a message of hope and redemption, and to receive real, practical support. It must be a safe place to come and cry, to mourn, to wonder, to be restored.
But the church is not just a place for people to come to. It is also a place where people go out from into the world.
In their book unChristian, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons reported that one of the negative perceptions held by 16-29 year-olds about the Christian church is “sheltered.” We’re perceived as pretending that everything is perfect and lovely and wonderful– all the time. We’re accused of denying the reality of the world by living in a comfortable Christian bubble, closed off and insulated.
That is not– and that never will be— who Christ-followers are called to be. And we must be on the lookout for ways to burst that perception.
What circumstances in your life right now give you joy? What is currently a struggle for you? Where do you go for support and encouragement? How can you be involved in relieving suffering in our community and world?