Tim Erridge Bleadon ChurchReflections - Rector's Letter

The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”. (Job 2:9)

This week we continue our look into apologetics as we look into the existence of suffering, whilst maintaining God is good. I will be expanding on this subject at Church tomorrow morning.

As we are joined together as Brothers and Sisters through Faith, so we join together now in prayer:

O Holy Spirit, the comforter of all who trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; increase and multiply within us thy heavenly wisdom; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal as never to lose sight of the things eternal, and may ever live in the service of Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Almighty father liveth and reigneth one God for evermore. Amen.

Old Testament Bible Reading: Job 2:3 to end.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish[b] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

New Testament reading John 9:1-7

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Thinking together:

A global pandemic.

Growth towards a catastrophic climate emergency.

Widespread racism, sexism and corruption.

Knife crime. Cancer. Infant mortality. Theft. Poverty. Pain.

Suffering seems everywhere right now.

How then do we, as Christians say; “God is good! He loves you and wants what’s best for you!” Whilst we still observe pain and suffering in our world? To the casual observer God is NOT good, otherwise he’d have helped us. God does NOT care about us, otherwise he would intervene. God is either; fake. Or he does not care about His creation. Much like Jobs wife, if God hasn’t come to your rescue, you may as well curse His name and die.

So, what are you going to say?

Firstly, do not make any glib answer. You aren’t going to solve anything with “There must be a reason.”. Make sure you are addressing the RIGHT question. If God DOESN’T exist then there really is no sense in trying to understand any of this, they are random events. Surely this is the way of the World. Accidents happen, biology, human behaviour and natural disasters are a part of life.  The question is, “How do you view them?”

For the disciples they are looking for someone to blame. Without understanding biology and genetics, they were happy to blame sin. They wanted to know WHO to be angry with.

This is the, actual, question you will be helping someone work through. “I am angry for… (insert death of loved one, natural disaster, pain), where is this anger coming from?”
This is where the Christian faith MAKES sense! We get angry because we recognise that something is wrong with the world. That things are not as they should be. That there is a VERY real difference between good and evil. They are not just plots of some play, but real and tangible effects.

They say suffering disproves God. We say that without Him we would accept that our anger, at the natural order, is without basis. It is our anger that is proof that we recognise that something is very wrong with our world. We ask, “Why did this happen?” because God is real and this isn’t what He wants for us.

So, if God is real, why does He “let” bad things happen?

As a Dad I hate taking my children to school when they’re upset. I don’t want to let them go. I want to hold onto them and deal with the problem. I want to take the pain away. However, as a Dad I also recognise that if I don’t let them deal with their problems and learn to rely on other people and control their emotions then I am doing them a great disservice. It is not that I care any less about my kids, but I know I need to withdraw so that others can come close. God doesn’t intervene for the same reason a parent allows their child to make mistakes, or learns to stand on their own two feet or waits for a cold to pass.

So why can’t God just get rid of all evil and suffering once and for all?

I love a good book, but the story is pointless if the problem/threat/issue is dealt with on page one. We must stop looking at our problem of suffering as something that needs fixing here and now and begin looking at the ENTIRE history of humanity that needs fixing! Here we find our suffering as part of a rich tapestry that embeds our pain and our broken story in God’s great rescue plan! Here we find our Easter story, God will wipe away all pain, God will wipe away suffering, but that day hasn’t come. Until it does, we still have choices to make.

He doesn’t know what it’s like!

Through Jesus Christ God has suffered with humanity. It is one of the reasons Christianity makes sense. God is not far away or absent, He is engaging in life with us. The choice we have is to give this pain and anger over to God, who knows us, knows the pain and suffers with us. Or to take on pain and suffering that is without relief or hope for a better future.

So, what choices do I have?

One chooses brutal acts of pain as senseless and random; the other is the offer of a divine friendship.

It’s your choice.

We Pray together:

You are the peace of all things calm
You are the place to hide from harm
You are the light that shines in dark
You are the heart's eternal spark
You are the door that's open wide
You are the guest who waits inside
You are the stranger at the door
You are the calling of the poor
You are my Lord and with me still
You are my love, keep me from ill
You are the light, the truth, the way
You are my Saviour this very day.

Amen.

Let’s pray the Lord’s prayer and the Grace together:

Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be thy name.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

May you know a God who suffers with you. May you know that He has plans to prosper you and not to harm you. May you know your Father in Heaven who cradled you in His arms long before He threw the first stars into space. Amen.

God bless

Rev. Patch Webb