Have you ever had a fight with God? I’ve had a few over the years, and they’ve all stemmed from the fact that the world isn’t the way I want it to be.
I want the world to be fair. Justice to always be secure and true. The good to win and the bad to lose. For the kind and generous to be rewarded, the cruel and capricious punished. I want love to move mountains and hate to wither and die.
I don’t want a world where hunter and hunted is a matter of perspective. Where ‘luck’ seems to govern the most sacred of affairs. Where a good man, with healing in his hands, love in his heart, and teachings that have lasted for two thousand years should be nailed to a cross and left to die.
God and I have had a few fights. Some humdingers actually. And they invariably end the same way. The same way it ended for Job.
The bible book of Job tells the story of a man who loses everything except the most tenuous hold on life. Wealth gone, health gone, family gone, and four friends that offer explanations that are as insulting as they are naive. As we go through the story Job tries to work out why all this has happened to him. What could he have done that God would allow all of this? Any of this? As the reader we’re able to see the truth, that Job has done nothing to deserve any of it, except perhaps be an exceptionally good man. Seriously.
At the end of the story Job meets God and God tells him and his friends off a bit for their rubbish dogma. God tells them that there’s no way anyone could possible work out what is in God’s mind and it’s foolish to try.
And suddenly everything changes for Job. He gets everything back,and more. Health, family, wealth, joy. The story seems like nonsense and the reader struggles to make sense of it all. It seems like nothing changes for Job but suddenly everything is OK. How can that be?
Job experiences the presence of God, and in that holy immense presence he finds his answer. Nothing that he could share with you and I, he doesn’t have the vocabulary to do so. This is an experience that falls outside of the range of his intellect. It engenders a humility that brings him to his knees before God, and in the face of the absolute he has no choice but to surrender. In that submission he finds what was missing all the time, and like a child falling into the arms of a loving mother finds safety, contentment, and a peace beyond anything he could have imagined.
Of course we don’t need to wait until we get to the end of our rope or into a blazing row with God for that to happen. We come to church where we surrender what we can. The preacher surrenders their words, the prayers draw us into one voice, and communion is the red pill that offers to take us down the rabbit hole. (a Matrix reference).
In the early church the contentment and awe Job experienced would enter the worship space and be passed around from person to person; It was often called passing the peace. Churches still repeat the ritual today, although I doubt many have experienced the truth behind it. Because of Christ, the congregation itself becomes a hole in the fabric of reality through which the eternal becomes one with the temporal. Everything that is real comes from this and in comparison everything else is a shadow. God enters in. With us. Amazing.
Sometimes it’s good to fight with God. It can help create the mechanism by which we surrender. There’s lots of examples of this in the pattern of the Psalms. But it’s easier to come to church, be willing to be vulnerable, and allow the Holy Spirit to touch us.
Unless, of course, church has always been about having control. In which case, at some point, expect to fight with God. And pray you lose.