What can we learn from the coast? By Joe Palechek
Stand on the coast of California, New England or Hawaii and look out over the ocean, what do you see? There may be rolling surf or calm tide pools.
But how much of what is there can we actually see? We can’t see the thousands of different plants and animals that are living out there. At any given moment there are predators on the hunt and prey hiding from those predators. There are sudden changes to the environments in which these plants and animals live. Some of these changes may threaten the existence of those found in those environments.
As we look at the world we live in and all the evil that is happening around us we may question, how a God of love and justice can do such things. Or at best allow such things to happen.
Looking at the lives of Job in the Old Testament and the apostle Paul in the New Testament we see men whose lives could cause these questions to be raised.
Job was a man who the Bible states in Job 1:1 “was blameless and upright and who feared God and turned away from evil.”
Paul was a man mightily used by God; he wrote most of the New Testament and guided the early church through its early life.
In a day Job had lost his children, his wealth and his servants. As if this were not enough in a second sudden event he lost his health. And as if this had not been enough shortly there after his friends turned on him and attacked his character.
Looking at Jobs life it would seem reasonable to say that he had been treated unfairly by God. Job eventually did make the case that he did not understand why these events were occurring. He was righteous and yet was suffering more than the wicked. In chapters 38-42,
God himself speaks both to and for Job. He asked Job if he thought that he could understand how God did the things that only God can do. It should be apparent that indeed Job could not understand the way God works, his methods and means. It is a sure bet that once Job had everything restored to him in excess, he would have a new level of trust in God. This new trust could never have been achieved without having passed through that time of testing.
Our second example is found in the Apostle Paul. From the time of Paul’s conversion God began to make it clear what events were in store for him (Acts 9:15-16).
Paul spent his life diligently presenting the gospel of Christ to the known world. Yet at every corner he was met with resistance from the established religious leaders. He was openly engaged in conflict with those who opposed the preaching of the good news. Paul never pulled back; he made it clear that these leaders were responsible for the death of the Son of God.
Much of Paul’s teaching involved warfare and competitive athletic events. God had worked a great peace in the life of this man. He was confident, sure, convicting and persuasive. He never made claims that he had been mistreated by God or that his floggings, shipwrecks or imprisonments were somehow unjust. He continued to mark these up to a character-building event.
As we look at the lives of these two men we see our beautiful coast line from above and from below.
In the life of Job, we see it from below, the struggle and not the beauty. We see a man suffering and there seems to be no reason. We cannot see the result God is working out until it is completed.
In the case of Paul, we see it from above, a beauty and peace that should not be. We see the character of a man that seems to exceed what should be.
And in both cases we see the mystery of God at work. To an outsider, they may not know why events occur, or where our strength comes from, but we can see that the right choice is to place our trust in the Lord and allow Him to do that which only He can do.
As God Himself asks in Job 38:4-6, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth... Who determined its measurements...To what were its foundations fastened,” and in 38:8-11 “who shut in the sea with doors…when I fixed my limit for it. When I said this far you may come.”
All these are beyond us and we trust the Lord to handle them right. He can, and will handle every event that arises in our lives. He will turn every event into a means for good. He will never allow us to be placed in a position that we cannot withstand.
So the next time you stand looking at the beautiful coastline, consider the beauty you see from above and the struggle that may be taking place below and “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4