Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Resting at the Bottom of the Sea

A truth I keep coming back to in life and that is growing larger and larger in my mind concerns the nature of God.  The truth that is looming ever larger in my mind and life is represented well by the literary critic, Terry Eagleton, who says, “For Christian theology there is no necessity to the world at all . . . He [God] created it out of love, not need.”  God is not a reason, answer, or an explanation for life. Rather, God is life.

In other words, God is not the final result of an equation, the conclusion to a philosophical riddle, or a scientific solution. You have heard me say on a number of occasions, “God is not the answer, because God is bigger than the question.” What I find so invaluable about God being larger than the questions of life is the fact that nothing in life therefore can rob God of life. Yet we experience much in this life in terms of tragedy and heartache that seems to strip many of hope in this world. Thus, we often want an explanation for everything under the sun, and so there is a human impulse and tendency to try and answer every difficulty, riddle, and mystery in order to cope.

Our compulsion as human beings to seek answers to all of life’s questions is understandable. We not only want to cope, we also want to control the future.  If I know the reason “why things happen,” and the “reasons for things happening,” then I think I can increase the good and decrease the bad happenings in my life.  Or if I cannot prevent or predict the trouble I experience, then I can at least cope better and deal with life knowing “why” things turned out the way they did. To put it another way, I need to know that what I experience in life has a purpose.

However, the necessity for understanding the purpose of our life events can bring us into emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually troubled waters. Like a boat being tossed back and forth in stormy waters we often flay about seeking answers and resolutions to our troubles. The old expression, “Any port in a storm will do,” is an apt description of our frequent desperation to escape our difficulties with solutions. To put it simply, we are not comfortable not knowing why something difficult is happening to us, and so will latch on to any answer that would appear to solve the problem or question.

The patriarch Job, along with his four would-be comforters, is a prime example of desperately seeking an explanation to life’s struggles. After Job exhausts his friends’ attempts at explanations for his sufferings and Job concludes his experience is unjust, God speaks. What is particularly interesting about God’s response to Job is the fact that God never answers why or to what purpose Job suffered.  Job simply confesses to God, “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 424-6).

God does not answer the mystery of Job’s life. God is bigger than the question and bigger than life itself. What Job and all of us need to learn is that God in and of Himself is more than what is needed in this life. If there is necessity in this life, then the only necessary necessity is God. Everything and everyone else is ultimately unnecessary.  Sadly, it often seems necessary to go through the shortfall of all our explanations and proposed solutions to arrive at what is only truly necessary: the presence of God. 

In keeping with our sea analogy, we may often be tossed to-and-for by the waves and winds of life’s struggles. Yet, despite the emotional, psychological, and spiritual hurricanes we encounter, the bottom of the sea where God is present is calm, still, and at peace. We can only manage life’s storms for so long with our answers, solutions, and resolutions. If we do not make our way to the necessity of God’s presence at the bottom of the sea, then we will eventually discover our proposed answers have shipwrecked our faith. Let us therefore abandon the ship of answers, resolutions, and solutions, and come to rest at the bottom of the sea where God is present in peace and rest. 


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