Time moves slowly when you watch the clock
Two days ago I had a job offer at
9am that was going to fly me out to Dallas Texas and do contract work for two weeks paying good money. That same day at 7:30pm the contractor pulled out of the deal.
Two and a half months ago I graduated from a small private university with a degree in Bible, which in the secular world is worthless.
Three months ago I was in line to be a Pastoral Assistant for a church, but then the church’s HVAC had to be replaced so I didn’t get the job.
Four months ago I was hired with a ministry, but it never got off the ground.
Ten months ago I had a job lined up to be a Pastoral Assistant with another church and on the week of my college finals I received a text saying that the elders had chosen to go another route.
Life does not play by rules like those found in a sport. There are things in life we see as
indicators of clear rules, like the lines on a basketball court indicating the three-point arc. However, life is not so clear. Sometimes it seems like the line is moving even after we take our shot. When I started writing this I thought the events had started at least a year and half ago. It’s only been ten months though. The shot clock in basketball moves in slow-motion when you watch it. Time moves more slowly in life when you watch it.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job walk into a bar
Now the last thing I want to do is make my life sound bad. My life is good. Very good.
Yet the fact remains that when you look at the events within the past ten months of my life, it looks like one second place finish after another; and we all know that second place is just the first place loser.
You might even think, “This might be a good sign that you need to change your career.” The further we are from a situation, the more advice we give. Sounds pretty backwards doesn’t it?
Lot’s of people will say to look for the silver lining. You know the advice, that we have to go through something difficult to come out better, stronger, and so on. Well I think that God’s ways are higher than my ways. His ways are more than a mere silver lining.
Many Evangelical’s will say that you reap what you sow and if you keep putting in the work that you will get the results. They even point to the book of Proverbs to support this. While this is true, it is not always true. We must not neglect other wisdom literature in the Bible like Job and Ecclesiastes (my favorite book). Sometimes our attempts to find meaning in life are a chasing after wind.
Ecclesiastes teaches that although finding meaning in life can seem to be a chasing after wind (often translated as vain), we should enjoy life by honoring God. The author Solomon concludes by telling us to “Fear God and keep his commandments.”
Job is a book that discusses the problem of undeserved suffering. It is written in dialogue and contains easily relatable viewpoints. Someone might look at my life and think I’ve had a rough ten months. Indeed, I have thought that.
The book of Job’s main character is a guy named Job (original right?), who is blameless. Not blameless like he isn’t that bad of a person or hasn’t done that many bad things. He’s blameless like he’s actually a sincere good God-fearing person. He fears God and keeps his commandments just like Ecclesiastes says to do. He also has a very good life reaping what he has sown, just like Proverb says. Job has it all.
But something happens in Job’s life that just doesn’t make any sense. One day he loses everything.
Job goes bankrupt.
It goes beyond his finances. He loses his family too. Even his health is destroyed and he’s covered in boils.
So, where is the silver lining? What’s the moral lesson here? Oh there’s one more thing I forgot to mention:
God (the God Job worships daily and believes to be the source for his good life) allowed all of this to happen.
An accuser named The Satan (which just means The Accuser) challenged God that this man named Job only feared and obeyed God because God had made his life so good.
“Job would curse you the moment his life goes bad.”
So to prove that Job really did love God, God allowed Satan to do with Job and all that he owns whatever he pleased. At one point in the story, Job cries out to God and demands that God defend his actions. God answers Job in a whirlwind.
But instead of answering any of Job’s questions, God shows Job his creation above and under the sea. Job is taken back by the complexity and enormity of just a smidgen that God orchestrates. Job realizes that he is merely human and cannot understand the magnitude of God’s wisdom. Humbled, Job recants his accusations about God’s character.
The book of Job ends with God restoring everything to Job plus more than he had before. So while the answer to undeserved suffering has not been answered, Job has grown spiritually with his suffering being the avenue for his relating to God.
Jesus isn’t running a pyramid scheme
See, even now as you’re reading this, even if you know the story, you are thinking of an answer. You are quickly rushing past the problem of underserved suffering to shout out an explanation. You want so badly to have a quick fix. Evangelicals do this all the time. To many Evangelicals that is all Christianity is to them: A quick fix to the problem of undeserved suffering.
Jesus suffering past the point of death to the separation from his heavenly Father is not a quick fix. Jesus living a blameless life in the midst of prostitutes, drunkards, religious jerks, and the elites was not a quick fix for your life. There is no silver lining. The purpose is Jesus glorified. If I was Jesus I would be confused as to why all these humans were running around trying to impress each other when I already did all the work. I can imagine Jesus going through all of that and being like, “what are you guys still working on that for? I did that already.”
Now at this point the other philosophies and ideologies begin to spring up. They say that the meaning of life is just being. That the struggle is life. The journey is life. The pain is life. Becoming a better person is life. Or they say that the point of life is separation from those things. They say you need to
Trying harder means you owe nothing to no-one. Trying harder means ownership. It means comparison. And while you hate being lower than someone, you like being higher than someone else much more.
When I first met my girlfriends parents I was without the job I thought I was going to have and I was embarrassed. I was scrambling for odd jobs that summer. And God provided tremendously. I pulled Honeysuckle out of the ground, cut grass, taught Scripture, stained and repaired a deck, did exterior painting, sold things on eBay and more. I was still embarrassed that I didn’t have the job I planned on having. I was still setting my value on what my job title was. You could say I was just trying harder.
I could tell you all day about God’s grace and what it meant to those who received it, but I hadn’t experienced it. I never needed to. I was moving along in life just fine by just trying harder. I hadn’t experienced that grace is a free and underserved gift from God or at least not in that moment.
Is it hard for you to receive a gift without solely experiencing love? Is it hard for you to experience a gift without feeling as though you deserve it whether by relational status or by the value of the gift itself? There are more indicators, but if you relate to any of those, then you may not be experiencing God’s grace.
I know many Christians who are not experiencing God’s grace. They live Sunday to Sunday trying their best to hold their life together and it’s insane because it doesn’t work.
God has redeemed me and taken me from death into life. Every breath I take is because of the grace of God. He was already sustaining me, but now I’m living. Because of God I not only see my need for a Savior, but in Jesus fully and sincerely have one. The world’s best pales in comparison to God’s best. My family, girlfriend, pastor, and friends are incredible. My life is good because my God is good. My circumstances do not determine who I am in Christ.
Being unemployed does not determine who I am in Christ. Jesus did the job no-one wanted to do or could do for people to freely receive a better life. Jesus isn’t running a pyramid scheme.
Jesus didn’t peak in high school
Two months ago I started coaching high school wrestling.
One month ago I was offered a part-time job working with homeless adults.
Today I had an informal interview for a full-time para-church ministry.
One hour ago I called that part-time job back and asked to work for them while I wait to hear back from the other full-time opportunity. They agreed. That doesn’t make sense.
Most people get out of college with a substantial amount of debt that they spend the next 10 or so years paying off. Most people get out of college and spend years looking for the job they started out studying for. And just like most people, at times, it seems hopeless. It seems like life suddenly shifted from prospects and opportunities to dead-ends and walls. Our bodies are for more than living and our belly’s are for more than food. Our lives, as people who want to follow the teachings of Jesus, are to be gift bearers to the world around us.
When I just try harder to be a Christian to the guys on my wrestling team, I usually end up doing worse. But when I receive the gift of God and give God my glory from the situation, my fame, my name, my reputation, my position as higher than others, then I reflect Christ.
When I lay down my life, I find it. Jesus said that.
When I’m unemployed and have a college degree that the world sees as worthless, I’m not in a bad place in life. I’m in a great place to further disregard my self-image and focus on allowing God to love me and in turn, I can love God and others.
And lots of lots of waiting for follow-up interviews. But that’s okay. So long as we fear God and keep his commandments through the empowering of God’s Spirit that makes it possible.
I didn’t peak in high school and Jesus didn’t give you the only second chance that matters so that you would. Grow with him. Let Jesus sustain you and change you.
*Originally written 2/23/17