Saturday, April 07, 2007

Job 19:21-27a; Psalm 88; Hebrews 4:1-16; Romans 8:1-11

We sometimes think people who are close to God must have an unwavering optimism because of their certainty of God’s love and presence. In the readings for todayin the quiet space between Good Friday’s terrible drama and Easter Day’s miraculous triumphwe read disquieting reflections from godly writers who knew trouble first-hand. There’s something merciful in the way Scripture reveals emotional and spiritual low points. It doesn’t paint a picture of placid faith. Instead it shows us faith that looks hard reality in the face, yet sees something more.

After pouring out his pain and alienation and even attributing it to God’s hand, Job still could acknowledge, “I know that my Redeemer lives . . . and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” This was not a sentimental statement. Job was very low indeed. But he knew that his present circumstances were not the final word.

The writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus’ human experience. He encourages believers facing persecution that the eternal Lord can fully “sympathize with our weaknesses,” having “been tempted in every way, just as we areyet without sin.” So we can come before God with our weakness in full view and receive what we need from the only one who can supply it.

Surely those who saw Jesus’ suffering on the cross were unnerved and afraid. His closest followers had seen him praying in agony before he was arrested. On the cross, he cried out as one forsaken by God, but then said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” He knew the Father would receive him.

I’d like God to shield me from trouble. But God comes to this messy world and my messy life, just as they are. His mercy and grace extend my view as Scripture shows God working eternal purposes into the world’s mess. He is the way, the truth, and the life beyond all measurebeginning right now. Despite the valleys of human suffering, there is certain hope. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence [think of it!] so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Karen Strong

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