I mentioned a couple posts back that I’ve been reading the Book of Job. It certainly needs the full revelation of Christ to complete it, but it does deal with some perennial questions of human life—and the ultimate, one-size-fits-all answer that God is God and we are not. Job tends to give voice, however, to our natural inclination to question or argue with God when things don’t go the way we think they should, when we experience injustice or “innocent” suffering. There are real injustices in the world, of course. Yet we ought to keep in mind that for the most part—if we are not living in a society or situation that is intrinsically or deliberately unjust—we deserve whatever we get. We are not innocent. Thomas a Kempis puts it this way: “we shall always have something to suffer, and the reason is that we have lost our innocence” (Imitation of Christ, I, 13). And there’s a line in Job that we would do well to remember: “Know, then, that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves” (11:6).
Most of our troubles come from the fact that we tend to resist God’s will—not as a matter of policy, but at such times when his will seems to clash with ours (and this may in fact be a regular occurrence). This inner resistance creates turmoil and anxiety, a sort of dis-ease or unsettled conscience. “If only you knew,” exclaimed Jesus, “the things that make for peace!” (Lk 19:42). We don’t really know the things that make for peace, and we probably discover more often than not that having our own way is not accompanied by peace. Somehow we don’t get it, for we do the same things over and over, with the same result, the same gnawing unhappiness and dissatisfaction. I suppose we could then start blaming or arguing with God, but there’s a better solution.
I found a passage in Job that I think I’m going to take for my motto: “Agree with God and be at peace.” Simple, true, effective. Here’s the expanded version: “Agree with God and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty and humble yourself… and if the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him and he will hear you” (Job 22:21-27).
We probably all accept in theory that in God’s will is our peace. But maybe we secretly think that if only God’s will were the same as ours, then we’d have peace. But, as Jesus reminded us, on our own we simply won’t know the things that make for peace. We have to turn to the Source of peace and agree with Him! The fruit of this, says the Scripture, is that good will come to us. Perhaps not the apparent good we were seeking, but good as God sees good, good that will benefit our souls and lead us closer to Him and to our salvation. This good may not translate into our personal pleasure or material advantage—but it will be good.
In order to agree with God we’re going to need to humble ourselves, because arrogance and filial submission cannot be found in the same person (at least within the same relationship). Job eventually learned his lesson. He thought he had bested God with his airtight arguments, but God reduced him to “dust and ashes” simply by inviting Job to take a good look around and see whose wisdom it was that designed and maintains the universe. So, having humbled ourselves so as to abandon our adversarial relationship with God, we are to receive instruction from Him and to cherish and meditate on his words. The more we grow in wisdom, the easier it will be to agree with eternal Wisdom.
This humbling of oneself and making oneself willing to learn should not be done grudgingly or out of a weary or resigned sense of duty. No, the Almighty must be our “gold and precious silver,” i.e., that which is most valuable and desirable in our lives. Then, lift up your face to God and pray to Him, and He will hear you! This reminds me of a line from Psalm 36(37): “If you find your delight in the Lord, he will give you the desires of your heart.” See, if your delight really is in the Lord, then the desires of your heart will likely be in accordance with his will.
We can produce all kinds of arguments, and even evidence of a sort, concerning the rotten hand we’ve been dealt or even the intractable problems of the world. We can blame God or demand an answer or decide that we won’t cooperate until we get some satisfaction (I recently read about a spiritual leader who stood silently for a long time in his congregation without offering any prayers; finally he said to God, “If You are not going to answer my prayers, I’m not going to say them anymore!”). Somehow I think the man did not walk away in peace.
We have to learn the things that make for peace. Agree with God and be at peace. Recognize that his will is the path to true and eternal peace, even if doing his will leads to the Cross, to the place of the renunciation of selfish desires and even to the acceptance of suffering—for the good of our souls and even the good of others’. Good things will come to us if we agree with God, humble ourselves, accept the instruction of his word, and regard Him as that which is most valuable in our lives. We will not only find peace, but we will lift up our faces and our hearts in joy to the Lord, and He will hear our prayers.