Jeffery Adams submitted a thought provoking comment on the post, “What Makes Bad Language Bad.” I believe it is important to discuss because it is true that there are events in life when appreciation for the sovereignty of God appears to collide with our difficult experiences in the cursed creation that we inhabit. Jeffery is raising this question: Is there a word or phrase that is appropriate to say in response to such situations? For example, the headlines this morning are filled with the story of the shooting deaths of women at a fitness center near Pittsburgh. What do we say to this event? The Bible says that God is sovereign over even the out-of-control rage that leads a man to murder. Jeffrey describes the pressure of “life and death situations,” perhaps the kind that a medical professional might encounter, where even though the best human efforts were made, things still do not turn out well. What do you say? I have copied Jeffrey’s comment below:
Thanks for your article. While I agree with your point, I wished you had addressed instances where cursing is appropriate. Obviously every situation in the NT is not a happy one even if we know that Romans 8:28 applies. Imprecations are still widespread. The Pauline “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” concept that John Piper frequently teaches seems to warrant an English word that expresses real, extreme disdain for a clearly evil event. From a personal standpoint, I’ve increasingly pondered this issue as my job has moments of extreme & sudden stress where life & death are literally at stake, and I have found myself uttering words that I later regret. My best conclusion at this time is that the word “damn” summarizes my hatred of something bad without demeaning the supremacy of God in all things. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
I appreciate Jeffrey’s frankness and earnest thoughts. I have given this comment some thought because I believe it is an important one. One thing that must be continually upon our minds in such situations is that even though things may look totally random and chaotic to us, they are not so for God. Nothing takes God by surprise. He is maintaining his covenant faithfulness to his people. His promise to care for his people and to work all things for good to those that love him is never in doubt, even in the most horrific of events. As Christians, we must cling tightly to this biblical view of reality; we must always be in awe of the God that has saved us. In light of this, I have looked again at the opening chapters of Job. The first chapter describes the staccato beat of disaster as Job hears of calamity after calamity–first his flocks, possessions and servants are destroyed, and then his children are taken from him. Job was reeling from the overwhelming news that literally turned his world upside down in the space of a few minutes. From the narrative, it is obvious that these events must be ascribed to the will and plan of God. Job is devastated–yet notice his response:
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Job 1:20-23 ESV
The things in life that Job held dear were gone in a moment. Job was a man of great faith and he had a deep love for God. He was in daily prayer for the spiritual well-being of his children. Because he feared God with a holy, reverent fear, his emotional response to evil was to turn from it rather than consider it or embrace it. In other words, Job’s emotions worked for him rather than against him. We see this developed in the passage above. Notice carefully the emotional progression in Job’s response. His first response is to rise and tear his clothes and shave his head. These actions show the depth of his grief. These actions are something that any of us could easily identify with. Then he falls to the ground, something else that resonates with us. But the next thing he does, given the context, is shocking–even unreal to us.
God was the God of his all his life. God himself says as much in his commendation of Job to Satan:
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a
blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Job 1:8
Worship is not a common response to searing pain in life. But Job’s love and awe of God was deeply engraved upon his heart. The very idea of not honoring and worshiping God was abhorrent to him. This awesome fear was something that Job cultivated in his life, and at this moment of his greatest hurt and emotional pain, his life-long fear and love for God drove him back to God. Job’s emotions worked for him rather than against him.
The next thing that Job did was to speak. But what did he say? Did he utter curses? Did he stammer and cry out that he could not bear this awful tragedy? No, again Job’s emotions were working for him. He knew the source of the good things that he had been blessed with. He knew that he deserved none of these things. He acknowledged the sovereign power of God over all of his life. His words were not words that could have been manufactured on the spot. His words came from a deeply emotional response that was firmly grounded upon his confidence in the unshakable character of God. Job’s emotion flowed from his faithful understanding of the truth of God. So, Job repeated the thoughts that sustained him to this point and would continue to do so in the chapters ahead. Job stated reality as it is–naked he came into the world and naked he would return. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. These truths were not platitudes to Job. These truths were precious to him. These truths were at the core of his being, deeply implanted in his heart. Then Job responded to these sustaining truths with a heart that was broken and full of emotion: Blessed
be the Name of the Lord.
There are still more events to consider in Job’s life in chapter 2, as Job’s body comes under attack. In chapter 3 the personal devastation in Job’s life leads him to curse the day he was born. Yet in all of this God says that he did not sin, but did what was right. So in the next post we will look at the suffering of Job in his body, and we’ll attempt to find the right perspective from which to look at chapter 3. But from this first chapter we can learn much about how we are to value God in our lives. There is a wonderful truth here for God’s people, from which we should view all the events of life. We are to fear God and shun evil with every fiber of our being. This is the closest we can come to viewing the world that is real, both the seen and the unseen.
Jeffrey, here is a phrase that I believe you can use to describe these events of life that are overwhelming. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away – blessed be his name.
More in the next post. Let me know your thoughts.