We like to be in control. Of ourselves – of situations. We like to know that we are calling the shots, making the decisions, and determining the outcome. And if we aren’t the ones in control – we want to know who IS! That way, we know who to confront if things aren’t going well – and who to blame if everything goes wrong. So when things are completely outside of our control – like now – it isn’t surprising that we might blame God. After all, if God is just and God is powerful – things just shouldn’t go this wrong!
There are times when the world seems to be in crisis. When the very structures that provide balance and support for life are toppled – when the center of our lives falls through – when the assumptions that we held are not just gone, but annihilated…. That’s a world in crisis.
Psalm 74. It’s a crisis. Temple destroyed. The center of life for the Jews has been destroyed by Babylon in 587 BCE. They didn’t even have a prophet to interpret what had happened. Everything they thought held meaning is just gone. Why, O God? What good thing could possibly happen now?
Job. It’s a crisis. Job assumes that God is just – and demands that God explain why he is going through such loss and tragedy. He assumes that God thinks he deserves it and demands an explanation. “He is blameless,” he insists. A just God wouldn’t inflict this kind of punishment on him. Job thinks that God isn’t being just – and accuses God, “’Scuse me, God – you made a mistake here. I didn’t deserve this. You must have confused me with someone less faithful to you, less righteous. Now you should correct this.”
Both of these scriptures seem to indicate that it is okay to question God. The Psalmist asks questions and is able to move on to a broader perspective. Job asks questions and God never rebukes him for that.
We ask questions too, especially in a crisis. We all have those moments of crisis. In our family there was a time when our daughter Carol was really sick and the medical experts were saying that there wasn’t anything they could do except monitor her decline. They could tell us how close she was to dying, but not tell us anything to do to stop it. We asked questions. Of course we did. Questions of the doctors. And we cried out our questions to God. Mostly “Now what?” What were we supposed to do now? We believed strongly that God had a longer life planned for our little girl – even that she had the gifts to change the world in some wonderful ways – but we couldn’t see a path from what the doctors said and what we thought was God’s plan for her life.
We question God when life seems to be going very, very wrong. We ask questions in crisis. Of course we do. And questioning God is a big part of it—if God is powerful and good, God should at least have some answers.
But what if the answer is not what we expect – isn’t the answer to our questions. God seems to interrupt us to say that there is more. There is more. More than we know. Much more. We cry out to God and sometimes we learn about the “more.” Sometimes we learn things that help us re-center our lives.
Psalm 74. Tells us who God is… v. 12-17 Temple isn’t God. “Even when the temple is destroyed, life remains focused on the invisible, but very concrete, presence of YHWH.” The Temple is important – but not ultimately important. YHWH is. (Bruegeeman, Message of the Psalms, 70.) Israel moves beyond the temple, which is hopeless, to GOD who is the ground of hope. (Brueggeman, Message, 69)
Job 38: God speaks out of the storm. ‘Scuse me….You don’t know all that you don’t know. The question isn’t whether what happens in our lives is fair. We keep thinking that whatever is happening in the world is about us. And we’re wrong. That’s God’s answer from the whirlwind – Did you think this was about you? It isn’t. We don’t even have the right question. The question is, “Is God the sovereign over all creation?” And the answer is YES.
When the world has lost its center – when nothing is as we thought it would be – God IS. We can put our faith in God. Not social structures.
Not our jobs or financial security.
The world has lost its center and we need a new one. Let it be God.