"The Pharisees" by Karl Schmidt Rottluff

Today: Psalms 17:1-5; Matthew 19:1-15; Job 4, 5, 6, & 7

Matthew 19

Those smug, self righteous Pharisees are always coming at Jesus with their devious questions. They are the cancel culture PC police of the Bible, the arbiters of what is okay or isn’t, bulldozing over everyone with their narrow opinions. They are trolling Jesus and he knows it, looking for any way to twist his words into some sort of offense. But Jesus is always ten steps ahead of them. They bring the law and Jesus responds with relationship. They speak in two completely different languages.

Francisco Goya’s Tristes Presentimientos de lo Que ha de Acontecer (Gloomy Presentiments of Things to Come), from the series Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War).

Job 4-7

Welcome to the long-winded dialogues between Job and his friends. They can be tedious! Here’s a synopsis of the discussion between Eliphaz in Job 4-7:

Eliphaz: Job, buddy, you totally screwed up! God is obviously punishing you for some terrible thing you have done. Stop complaining and fess up! Just come clean and say you’re sorry and things will get better. Oh and by the way, you should listen to me ’cause I’m really smart.

Job: Hey, Phaz, my man, I wish it were only that simple! I double pinky swear that I didn’t do anything wrong! My life stinks and it’s just not fair. I would be better off dead! Oh yeah, but God is still cool.

I would normally question Job’s insistence of innocence. Doesn’t everyone sin afterall? But our author claims that Job was “blameless” and “despite all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” That means Job wasn’t lying when he denied any wrongdoing. I’m sure the guy wasn’t perfect because no one is… but in this case the message is clear that Job’s trials were NOT punishment for any particular misdeed.

This isn’t the answer we are looking for. We long for justice. We crave an eye for an eye. We want to believe that if we just follow the correct formula, everything is going to be wonderful. This ‘bad things happening to good people’ stuff really bothers us.

But it is what it is, my friend. Life is messy and God isn’t cleaning it all up just yet. This is a hard world and life is full of pain. It just is. Everyone experiences pain and hurt and sickness no matter how rich or how smart they are. Things are going to be unfair. We aren’t going to always get our way. That is just the truth. Trying to deny this truth is only a bandaid on a bloody stump. We can get away with it during good times. But some day, some how, life is going to get difficult and that false tower of denial is going to come crashing down. We’re much better off confronting this truth and dealing with it now instead of from the underside of a tragedy.

How we respond to this truth will determine if we are happy or depressed. Becoming a happy person doesn’t mean that we learn how to avoid difficulties or pain. That is impossible. The key to happiness or lack of it really doesn’t have much to do with the outward circumstances of our lives at all. Our happiness is determined by how we think about the circumstances of our life. And we can control that.

First we have to understand and accept that pain and difficulty are going to happen. Trying to fight this truth is pointless. We can’t win this fight and it will only fill us with despair. We can work hard to make our life better and still acknowledge that life will include difficulty and pain. This doesn’t mean that we want to have hardships. Nobody wants that. But we know they will happen sooner or later. So when the hard times come, we don’t feel that life is over. We only have to bear the difficulties for a season. Accept them. Learn from them. There is much to be gained from our hardships. They make us stronger and wiser. The good times will eventually come again too. And when they do, we will have a deeper, more profound thankfulness for them than we ever had before the troubles began.