A Stroll At Leisure With God

"John, is that you?"

Yesterday, I took my mom to the place where she gets her hair “done,” as the expression goes.

As I was visiting with the one man who works there and the ladies also (I know them because I also go there to get my hair “done”—ha!), one of them gasped, “John, is that you?”

“Yes, it is.”

“I honestly would not have recognized you. How much weight have you lost?”

“Oh, about twenty-five pounds.”

“Oh,” she gasped again.

“Jenny*, I have had cancer the past five years, but I am okay. The Lord is taking care of me.”

“I’m so sorry,” Jenny said, as she gasped again (for the third time).

When all of us got home later that afternoon, I told my mom and sister about what happened. Marilyn got mad. “I can’t believe that!” My mom (who was there but did not hear the conversation) was a bit incredulous. “She said what?”

Honestly, the more I think about it, I just have to laugh. I certainly don’t hold anything against this woman. The other women in there don’t respond that way and certainly none of my Christian friends. But she just didn’t know what to say. I don’t blame her for that.

Plus, I’ve had more people tell me that I look good, so I am not going to worry about it. It just set me back a bit but I am good now … really!

This incident along with my story has some level of correspondence (as does all Christian suffering; I’m certainly not anyone special) with the story of Job. Today, in Professor Horner’s reading plan, I have come to the final chapter of the Job Saga—chapter 42.

Here is the question of the hour: what did Job learn? What happened to this man who spent all that time (I don’t think we know the exact number of days or years) as an object of multiple “gasps,” as he sat on that ash heap, rubbing his sores with a piece of broken pottery.

More than that, he had to endure the “counsel” of well-meaning friends who dramatically misrepresented God. I’ll say more about that in a moment.

After everything happened through Job’s intense suffering, God finally spoke to His servant—FOUR CHAPTERS. The majority of the content of those chapters are questions, questions that neither Job nor any man who has ever lived (now or then) could answer. When God stopped speaking, once again, it was Job’s turn and his comments were short, far less verbiage than the preceding thirty-seven chapters, excluding all the hot air from his “friends”:

“Job answered GOD: ‘I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, “Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?” I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, “Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.” I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor” (Job
42:1-6 MSG).

I must admit to all of you that these words hit pretty close to home with me right now. I confess to God and to all of You that I have been pretty flippant with my easy explanations of what God—the sovereign Lord—is up to. But that has changed. My sermons are shorter. I’m much more willing to say, “I don’t know,” and I am comfortable with the integrity of those words.

Today, and each and every day that I continue to deal with cancer, I honestly know less about the Lord than I ever have. AND, I am certainly far less glib than I was before.

I love Peterson’s translation of the last words of Job’s short response to God: “I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” It is a very poor and certainly totally inadequate diet that does not sustain.

More than ever, as this disease unearths all the spiritual issues I must deal with, it has whittled life down to the main thing: knowing God and making Him known.

But I just have to say this: Job was not ready to be healed and restored until the Lord rebuked his friends and Job prayed for them. “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends” (Job 42:10, NASB).

We must ALL be very careful that we say nothing before we say anything that misrepresents God. Experiencing Jennifer’s reaction to my cancer set me back a bit, but I wonder how many times I have responded in that same way to others, in one form or another.

Lord, forgive us for presuming that we have an idea of what You are up to. Forgive me for misrepresenting You and simply babbling on way too much. I would rather listen than talk. I want to know You, whom to know is life eternal. Amen.
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