Your Life Is Not An Equation

by Dec 11, 2014

Many people who read the book of Job love to hate Job’s friends, the three “miserable comforters.” These guys must be the worst encouragers in the world. “Life is bad for you, Job?” they say, “It must be because you’ve done something bad!” Even if that was true, is it really the most helpful thing to say after someone’s just lost all their kids, their money, their possessions, and their prestige?

For sure, there are natural repercussions that come from sin. If you commit adultery, it shouldn’t be a surprise if your wife wants to leave you, your kids don’t like you much, and your whole life goes in the tank. Sin has consequences. And the Bible does say — Old and New Testaments — that God disciplines his kids. So there’s a valid question to ask ourselves when life goes sideways: “Is there some sin in my life that God’s trying to point out?”

But Job has searched and he can’t find any glaring sin in his life. Still, his friends won’t let it go. For 28 chapters! “Who that was innocent ever perished?” his friend Eliphaz asks, “Where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” In other words, “There must be some major sin in your life, Job. That’s the only reason why God would treat you like this!” They dig in their heels so much that they even bring Job’s kids into it: “Your children have sinned against him, so he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression.” In other words, your kids are dead because they were evil too!

It’s a horrendous thing for them to say. But down deep, could it be that most people in the world actually agree with Job’s three friends? We believe the prosperity gospel. We believe in karma. We believe that if good things happen, it must be because we’ve been good. If bad things happen, it must be because we’ve done something bad.

Think about it. When you go to the downtown Costco on a Saturday morning (Saturday morning! Downtown!) and a parking space opens up in the first row, directly in front the entrance, what do you say to yourself? “I have the favor of the Lord! I must have done something good to deserve this!” But then, what if you come back out of the store and a delivery truck has backed into your car and totaled it? What if the insurance company won’t give you anything close to what you need to replace it? What if you’re forced to take the bus or walk everywhere from now on? What do you say then? “What did I do to deserve this, God? Tell me!”

We want life to fit into an equation: “Do this, and this will happen. Do that, then that will happen.” When we can fit life into an equation, then we can control the outcome. And when we can control the outcome, then we don’t need God anymore. Which is exactly what our self-reliant, self-centered hearts are always tempted to seek.

But that’s why we have the book of Job in our Bible. That’s why we have inexplicable suffering in our lives. That’s why so much that happens in life just doesn’t make any sense. God won’t allow us to depend on our little equations. He wants us to depend on him!

Job’s friends couldn’t be convinced of that. They couldn’t stop themselves from pushing their equations: “As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields; he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” God will give you rain and lift you up … if you seek him and commit your cause to him. Just seek him, and he’ll bless you, Job! Just complete your side of the equation!

Job could see right through his friends’ advice: “You have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid.” They were afraid of what they couldn’t understand. They knew that if Job could suffer for no reason, then there could be nothing to keep the same thing from happening to them. They were scared of a universe without their equation. Do good, and get good. That equation guaranteed their own prosperity and security.

But Jesus came to shatter all of our equations. He was perfectly good, but he suffered more than anyone in the world ever has when he took the father’s wrath for our sins on the cross. He gave us God’s good blessings before we could ever be good enough to earn them. As Paul said, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom 5:8-9).

Put down the chalk, and step away from your equations. Trust Christ to complete the equation for you.