One of the most commonly misused verses in the Bible, slightly below Jeremiah 29:11, is Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” Where we often mess up is in the definition of “good,” or at least our application of it.
We, especially here in suburban, middle-class America, have this bizarre notion that God owes us something (partially due to the prosperity gospel from our friends like Joel Osteen) and that “good” means we will be happy, healthy, and wise. That’s one issue. The bigger issue is that this completely perverts the way we view God: God is not our servant. We serve Him, not the other way around. There’s a weird idea called Cat-Dog Theology that kind of explains this idea. “A dog may look at you and think, ‘You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me — You must be god!” On the other hand a cat can look at you and say, ‘You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me — I must be god!” There’s a reason the idiom is “fat cat” and not “fat dog.” In America…we are all fat cats.
In our class on Sunday morning we’ve been doing a brief, rough overview of Job. I used to hate that book…it seemingly goes against everything we know about God being merciful and benevolent. Most of that theology comes from verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28…God is merciful, God is benevolent, but also, GOD IS GOD. And we forget that a lot. Reading Job with a mind that you need everything good to happen to you leaves you uncomfortable and unhappy. Reading Job with a mind that God is in charge, always, and does things for His definition of good…that’s an entirely different ballgame.
Job spends 37 chapters in a kind of nebulous state between anger and confusion and contentment and depression, finally letting it boil to the point where he asks God why all this stuff is happening to him.* God’s response (side note: how awesome and terrifying would it be to have God directly answer your questions? I think I would simultaneously be in rapture and soil myself. Which seems accurate.) to Job is, in essence, “Put on your big boy pants. Let’s talk.”
The verse actually reads: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:2-3) God never directly answers Job’s questions. He never explains Himself. He never apologizes for the chaos He’s thrown into Job’s life. He just…is.
He reminds Job that He created the world. That He “laid the foundations,” “marked its dimensions,” “shut up the seas” and “made the clouds.” God answers Job’s complaints with the ultimate “Because I said so.” For the longest time this frustrated me, but it was because I wanted God to answer me…I mean, Job.
That’s what this all boils down to, isn’t it? We want God to answer for the unsavory things that happen in our lives, and when He doesn’t apologize to Job we feel the sting personally…that He won’t apologize to us either. But God never has to apologize for what He does or does not do in our lives. He created us, He sacrificed for us, He gave us life and life eternal…because He said so.
Because in God’s eyes, its good.
*For a better idea of what “stuff” means, read Job 1 and 2. It isn’t pretty.