24 June 2020 – When our problems don’t go away

We have probably all had those dreadful dreams we call nightmares when life takes a decided turn for the worst. Although they may only last a relatively short time in the night, they feel like they have gone on for ‘ever’. What a relief to wake up and open our eyes and say thank you God that wasn’t real!

Unfortunately, there are people who wake up and have to face the dreadful reality that this person has died. Or that their job loss was confirmed in the letter send to them. Or that person who had bullied you in the school playground has been placed in some of the same classes as you in High School. The potential list of causes for concern is very long and we feel them more acutely during the lock down period we face following the spread of the Covid-19 virus pandemic.

For Job as an older man all the things he has worked for have gone. His financial security bound up in the possession of lots of domesticated animals all gone; his large family that had grown up. They were now adults so maybe Job was expecting a bit of help, or more help, with his business as he got older? What a tragedy they had all died in the terrible storm. Then to make matters worse, his health declined quite markedly and it is all becoming too much to take in. How many of us have also had these darker moments when we were struggling to come to terms with circumstances outside our control? Maybe someone reading this message is in that place today? How did Job react when he and his friends started to speak about what was going on in his life?        

In Job three the chapter neatly divides into two halves. They are Job 3:1-10 and Job 3:11-26. In the former section the word ‘may’ is very prominent, and in the latter it is ‘why?

1. The speech or song of lament (Job 3:1-10)

The author of such a song is not wishing he was dead necessarily, but he is certainly wondering about the point of his life if this painful reality is all he has to look forward to in the coming years. For some of us who have had to be shielding in recent months and are only now starting to venture out, if we are in the later years of life, may have wondered what is the point of being alive if all I can do is sit around in the house, as one day so easily merges into the next one. In our calmer moments in our minds we know it won’t be for ever.

However, there are other times in our hearts or emotions that it feels like ‘forever’. We are human beings not machines. Therefore, there are days when we are really struggling to cope with all that life seems to deposit on our pathway. God didn’t condemn Job for the days when he couldn’t cope and said things that he wouldn’t have said in calmer moments. Neither will He condemn us in our struggles. In such times as these, reading Bible passages like Romans chapter eight might be the encouragement we need. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love…No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38a,39).   

2. Why? (Job 3:11-26

There are fundamentally three ‘why’ questions here. Job 3:11: Why did I not perish at birth,
 and die as I came from the womb?
Job 3:16: Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day? Job 3:20: “Oh, why give light to those in misery, and life to those who are bitter?

His questions are about the beginning and the end of life. The first two relate to the most vulnerable months of life when a child is growing in its mother’s womb. God, why did I survive those vulnerable years to enter childhood and then adulthood if I have nothing better than this to look forward to? Then, the third question relates to the later years of life as an older man. In effect, saying: ‘God why are you keeping me alive in this mess? Might it not be better if I ended my life?

The effective answer to the first question, taking the book of Job as a whole, is don’t be overwhelmed God has a future for you. The best years of your life are still to be revealed and if they are not on earth they certainly will be in heaven. Grasping this truth, I hope will give us the assurance of God’s undeserved love to us in our good times as well as the tough. The last question is in effect:  why am I still here? Why am I still alive?

In broad terms, the answer must be because God still has work for you and me to do. Do you need to be reminded of this truth today? Therefore, we can with real assurance go forward in confidence in God, knowing that He goes with us each step of the way. This does not mean our problems have gone, far from it, we may have to live with them for the rest of our lives.

When this is the case, it is worth turning to the assurance God gave Paul in II Corinthians 12:8-10:  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  Amen.      

Our song for reflection today is: ‘How firm a foundation’

Pointers for Prayer

  • We praise God for the ongoing efforts of our health care workers to overcome the challenges of the Covid-19 virus in our communities. We pray also for other  countries too seeking to overcome this disease  
  • We pray for those teaching in our schools, colleges and universities, seeking to prepare for the next academic year at a time when the future is so unclear, together with young people and their families attempting to juggle work and family life alongside supporting their children in their school work.
  • We pray for employers and employees in so many workplaces with deep concerns how their work might take place safely in the coming months. We also remember those now out of work and young people seeking to gain their first jobs that each might find a place of work that fits their gifts and experience.  
  • We continue to pray for the families that have been bereaved, in particular, most recently the Nyguist and Marshall families and ask for God’s strength and comfort in their time of sorrow.

We continue to remember those who are unwell and pray for God’s healing and restoration of health and strength, together with others keeping going in pain and discomfort as they await medical tests or an operation in hospital.

  • We pray for those struggling with continuing isolation in their homes or residential homes and older members of the church in particular who are finding the strains of recent months particularly difficult.
  • We pray too for the missionary families we are associated with and in particular pray for Helen and Wit in Northern Thailand as they join us by zoom for morning worship this Sunday 28 June 2020
  • We pray for ourselves and our families and our own specific needs; also that we always make time each day to read His word and spend time in His presence in prayer.

           Brian Talbot