Out of the Whirlwind

He causes it to come,
Whether for correction,
Or for His land,
Or for mercy.
Job 37:13

Have you ever read something in scripture that just doesn’t make sense? I contend that if you’ve ever read scripture, the answer is YES. My pastor has a little saying: If you don’t understand it, that’s simply because you don’t understand it! There are deep truths hidden in the stories and the words, and it takes a little effort, a willingness to press in and ask for the meaning, if you really want to know.

One of my unsettled places has been the book of Job. It’s especially unsettling if you read it piecemeal. I mean, you could grab some verses and build yourself a very wrong theology. Yesterday I took the opportunity to sit and read the entire book in one fell swoop. Finally, peace is falling!

I could go in a million directions here, but what stood out to me at the core of it all is how very limited our view of reality is. We see so little of the big picture, but our minds scramble to fill in the blanks and make sense of what we see.

Job and his three friends debated with each other over why bad things happen to good people. They all had bits of truth in their arguments, but an overwhelming lot of falsehood. That’s why it was always confusing to me. The arguments were built on these things – personal experience, tradition, teachings of men, common sense. Do you see the problem? They tried to see and explain a spiritual issue through a human lens. They tried to solve a spiritual (heart) issue with a physical (behavioral) formula.

JUST SHUT UP + REPENT = PROSPEROUS, BLESSED LIFE WITH NO HARDSHIPS

They all started from a false assumption!

Job wasn’t targeted because he needed to repent, but because he was on the right track. They all had to confront faulty theology: that in this world, the righteous are always (physically) blessed and the wicked are always (physically) afflicted. It doesn’t always look that way through a human lens.

I have to tell you – by the end of the ordeal, it was so frustrating to see Job operating through his limited vision and understanding. Frustrating because it caused him to experience rejection and betrayal where it was not. To misdirect hurt and anger. To pray the wrong prayers.

Frustrating because I’ve done the same thing in my own life.

I have also gone through those moments where the rug I’ve been standing on as foundational truth has been pulled out from under me. Where I’ve felt the need to lay blame for my error somewhere, anywhere. Just like Job, I also let anger and bitterness in and wrongly directed them at God, opening the door for a real need for repentance. None of us are perfect, or have a perfect understanding of theology. But the arrogance to accuse God of injustice and demand that he explain himself to us or in the way we prefer must be dealt with. We have no idea how BIG the big picture really is.

Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
“I know that You can do all things. Nothing can put a stop to Your plans.
‘Who is this that hides words of wisdom without much learning?’
I have said things that I did not understand, things too great for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear now, and I will speak. I will ask you, and you answer Me.’
I had heard of You only by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.
So I hate the things that I have said. And I put dust and ashes on myself to show how sorry I am.”
Job 42:1-6

In the end, it came down to a heart shift for Job, as it did for me. Just like Job and his friends, we seem to have a default setting to worry about WHAT we do or don’t do (our behavior), and tend to ignore HOW we do it (our motivations). [Shameless plug for Bob Hamp’s fantastic new book describing this shift, Think Differently Lead Differently. Do it if you dare!] God wants to share hearts, not examine our checklists like a good schoolmarm. What an amazing opportunity we’ve all been given, to share his heart!

I write this hesitantly, feeling like it is for a future me. He spoke out of the whirlwind, out of the storm. I know it’s hard to reconcile that really bad things happen to good people, and harder to be thankful for the experience. Especially in times of grief. But there he is, waiting to draw us closer to truth, to his heart. Ready to restore abundantly. He’s there healing, speaking, loving. Remember the picture is much bigger than you can ever imagine.

Year of Fulfillment

There are a handful of teachers I trust to speak into my life. Last year, one of them proclaimed 2014 to be a year of “gaining ground.” At the time, I thought that sounded really great! It translated in my mind to growth, progress, success – the positive end result. Sigh. You know, that doesn’t just happen. We gain ground by fighting for it. That means for many of us 2014 was a year of battle, of struggle, of war. It may feel like more ground was lost than gained. That’s certainly true for me.

Now to the good part! Last week, 2015 was proclaimed to be the year of fulfillment. The year of walking into that new ground.

I’ve determined that this year I’m not going to just focus on that end result, the promise. I want to do what I failed to do last year – this year, I’m asking what that requires of me. Just like the year of gaining ground meant a resolve to fight for what is mine, the year of fulfillment takes action on my part too.

For one thing, I have to choose to walk into it. Sounds ridiculously simple when you type it out, but this is not easy for anyone I’ve ever known. It means leaving what you know, and very often what you love.

It requires action, and most of us are pretty content swimming in the circles we know.

This morning I decided to pick back up where I left off in my reading through the Bible. I had a few chapters to finish in 2 Samuel, and I went in there intentionally asking for more revelation on this year and the promises made. If you know the last few chapters of 2 Samuel, you know that’s asking a lot! It’s pretty much a mishmash of events thrown together almost as an post script. But if you know my Father, you also know it is not asking too much.

One little phrase was used twice, and it jumped straight off the page into my heart. God “was moved by prayer for the land”.

In the first story (2 Samuel 21:14), that meant an end to famine. In the second (2 Samuel 24:25), it was an end to a nasty plague. In both cases, the land returned to prosperity. After David took action.

David didn’t just pray for God to change an unpleasant reality. He took responsibility for his part in it. He repented. He threw himself out of his comfort zone. He made sacrifices of his time, energy, and money. All with a heart to obey and honor God.

So here’s to an exciting 2015. This will be a great year of restoration and fulfillment for those who dare to choose it. Let’s choose well!