This series is addressing the question, “How do you, as a believer, relate to God after unexplained pain associated with a personal tragedy?” In the first post, I suggested that we use Job as an example. In the second post, I laid out the importance of preaching the truths of Scripture to yourself in the midst of unexplained personal tragedy. This post points to the importance of practicing what you preach.James 1:22-25 has great wisdom for us to follow in light of our first post:
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
What good would it do for us to continually preach the truths of Scripture to ourselves if we failed to change our attitude and our actions in light of those truths? I know what you’re thinking. It is tempting to be skeptical at this point. Of course we should practice what we preach… but what does that mean?
Change Takes Action
Honestly, it took Kristie and me some time to get to this point. We didn’t realize that we were claiming the truths of Scripture, but failing to modify our attitude and actions. We were living out the negative warning in the above verses. We agreed with the truths: God is infinite in His goodness, justice, and redemption, but we failed to do anything more than affirm that. We found it difficult to pray to God, to enjoy worshiping Him with other believers and to share His love with others. This was directly related to our unwillingness to let go of the “Why did this happen to us?” question. Our affirmations of God’s infinite nature were beneficial in that they kept us from wandering too far from the truth, but we insisted on keeping God on trial. It was this attitude that hindered our relationship with God. A change in attitude only came with a change in action.
Submit to God’s Infinite Nature
Job does exactly this in 42:5. He confesses to the Lord, “Hear, now, and I will speak, I will ask you and you instruct me.” What we find here is a beautiful initiation of the truths that Job had previously preached to himself and prayed to God. Job, rather than playing the role of a prosecutor who has put God on trial, humbly submits to God. He still asks God a question, but it is not as the pot, demanding to know why its maker made it the way he did. Instead, Job, aware of his finite nature, approaches an infinite God like a child and says, “Instruct me Father. I trust in your infinite goodness, justice, and redemption. What would you have me to do?” Job is putting action to his belief. He is practicing what he preached. True change began to take place in Kristie and my life’s only after we submitted to God’s finite nature and stopped demanding that He explain why we had to experience such pain and suffering.
Publicly Confess Your Finite Nature
Once such submission happened, the healing process began and we found that the next natural step was to publicly confess our finite nature against God’s infinite nature. As we forsook our selfish questioning of God and began to listen to His instruction, things became clear that were once fuzzy. Many of the questions asked in the first post in this series were answered. Furthermore, God used our public confessions of His infinite goodness, justice, and redemption to affect those around us. We were allowed to be a blessing to those around us. This is echoed in Job’s story as well.
We find Job’s repentance in 42:6 (“Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust in ashes.”) and we see God using His repentance to bless those around him (He offers burnt offerings for his friends’ sin) in verse 7.
Job’s submission and repentance is a direct result of practicing what he preached to himself and prayed to God. This submission and confession restored his trust in God and allowed God to use him as a blessing to those around him.
Kristie and I continue to confess God’s infinite goodness, justice, and redemption to those around us. Our understanding of God and our trust in Him has been restored even in the midst of never-explained pain and suffering. It has often been tempting to understand this trust in God and blessing to others as a justification or explanation for our suffering. This, however, would be to negate the truth that led us out of that turmoil. Rather than viewing our ministry to others as an explanation of our pain and suffering, we are further awed by the infinite goodness of God.
Even in the midst of still unexplained personal tragedy, God has chosen to make good out of evil. He has created good in spite of the unexplained tragedy. Is this not the gospel in a nutshell? In spite of the unexplained tragedy of the Fall, God has provided us infinite justice and redemption through His infinite goodness displayed in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
Are you in the midst of an unexplained personal tragedy or does your relationship with God continue to suffer due to an unexplained tragedy in your past? Take courage and example from the story of Job. It is God’s Word given to you by His infinite goodness. It is a lesson of perseverance. Do not allow unexplained pain and suffering to negatively shape or hinder your relationship with God. Rather, preach the truths of Scripture to yourself and practice what you preach. Do not forget the infinite redemption of the Father.