God isn’t worried about his reputation. He’s not concerned if he looks like a liar, a failure, a no show, or hoax. Time and again, God risks ridicule and mockery. When his “father of many nations” has only one son after 100 years, his promised “Exodus,” is stymied by Pharaoh’s whims, and his “Savior” can’t even save himself, he doesn’t flinch or change his course. He offers no explanation or excuse.
Like Gideon, we hunker down in our winepresses, trembling, wondering, “Where are you, God? If you’re with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles we read about?” But God doesn’t lose his cool when our finite minds can’t grasp his promises or comprehend his ways.
I don’t understand tsunamis, fetal abnormalities, or seven year old boys dying of brain cancer. I don’t know who or what to blame for school shootings or pain that makes you wish you’d never been born. I don’t know a lot of things. But God is patient when I add up the data and he comes up short.
So often we try to figure out God to ease our pain. If only we can make sense of things, why bad things happen to good people, we wouldn’t be so lost, wondering where God is. As Christians it’s uncomfortable to find ourselves doubting our God. It shakes us to the core.
At least if we knew why, we could explain it. Perhaps we’re just getting what we deserve. Maybe we’re hiding some secret sin. It can be comforting to think that our trouble is a result of something we’ve done (and God knows, at times it is). At least then it adds up and we still have some semblance of control.
Maybe God is building character, teaching us patience, making us an example, letting his strength be shown in our weakness, choosing us for special treatment because he knows we can handle it.
Maybe. But sometimes it just sounds like flimsy excuses for a God we don’t understand. And rather than doubt his character, we take a stab in the dark. We settle on an explanation we at least can live with. Something that leaves our faith intact.
But God is bigger than our doubts. Even if our entire world construct falls apart, and our faith in him and everything we ever held true explodes, he’s still God.
He’s not changed by our opinion of him.
God isn’t worried about his reputation, but he is concerned that we know who he is. He asks his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” But what really interested him was, “Who do you say I am?”
If anyone has gone through the wringer, it’s Job, losing family, possessions, health, and position. His friends offered a lot of explanations, mostly that it was probably Job’s fault. After all, God can’t be wrong.
Job’s friends echoed God’s own words: Sin brings consequences. If we repent God will hear us. God is good to the righteous. Job knew these truths, too. But what happens when truth doesn’t seem true for your own life?
This is where it comes down to, “Who do you say I am?” Job didn’t try to spiritualize or downplay his suffering. He was in agony and he didn’t have any answers. But he didn’t feel like he had to defend God’s reputation. Not to himself or to anyone else. God was God. Who was Job to say?
To some this may seem like a cop out, an example of notoriously “blind faith,” just another flimsy excuse. Maybe. Each of us has to find our own way.
But I’m with Job on this one. God is so much bigger than all of it. His ways are so beyond me. If he doesn’t feel he has to defend his reputation, who am I to think I can come to his rescue?
As Job says,
I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.”
In the end, that’s all I know, and it’s enough for me.