In our Singles small group, we are studying the book of Job. It’s interesting, confusing, challenging, encouraging, disheartening, flabbergasting, and exhilarating all at once. The dialogue between the Lord and Satan. Job’s unawareness. His moral fortitude. His understandable despair. His Gospel hope. His discouraging wife. And his “I-wish-I-had-a few-of-them” friends. All the ingredients for a long-running, scripted, primetime TV series are right there. Somebody needs to capitalize on it.
Well, we need to capitalize on it. I need to. That’s why we’re studying it in our small group. I think one of the foundational faith commitments that Job made earlier on in his life is found in Job 2:10 when his wife told him to give up his faith as she had. He replied:
“You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
Good and evil, both coming from God. Job knew it. We should remember it. God gives both at the same time as only God can. Through Job’s experience, he faced moral and natural evils that few people have or ever will have to face. But how much good has come to so many of God’s people from reading the story of Job’s gut wrenching story? It’s been the go-to book for encouragement for many sufferers for many centuries. The same event was God’s means of bringing both good and evil.
We’ve just come to the end of another forest fire season here in Colorado. Every time I hear of a forest fire in the mountains along the Front Range, and sometimes even when I’m able to see one from down here, I pray that God would protect people and homes. But sometimes homes are consumed and people die.
Those are tragic events. But that is not all God is doing. He is also providing for greater forestation in the decades and centuries to come. As fires rid the forest floor of thick layers of organic litter that prevent seeds from germinating, they also produce charcoal that the wind takes and spreads near and far. The charcoal, while posing little to no long-term threat to air quality, provides a fantastic long-term filtration system in our soil that allows plants to thrive. And we need forest fires every so often in order for that filtration system to keep on working so that seeds can keep on germinating and plants can keep on thriving. The charcoal also helps clay retain water better so that plants can survive more plentifully. Charcoal also helps form new wetlands so that plants AND animals AND humans can thrive.
*I’m no expert on charcoal, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn last night. Actually, I read this on the web. On a reputable site that is! An article in Salvo Magazine go me started thinking about this, but you can read here: http://www.eprida.com/hydro/ecoss/background/charbenefits.htm
Regardless, the results of forest fires are at the same time both evil and good. God is doing both. Job knew this. Do you know this?
When evil takes place, it is easy to get swallowed up in the immediate sorrow and loss. The first reaction is to “curse God” like Job’s wife. She just lost her family and her wealth too. I sympathize with her.
But Job didn’t go there. He knew that eventually he’d be able to see the good in the charcoal even though in that moment he could only see the evil of the present fire. And he knew God delvers both, at the same time and in the same event. Job knew this. Do you?
While you are enjoying the benefits of the charcoal, remember that the fire again is coming. I understand that less damage is actually done when fires burn every twenty years than if they were to burn even two hundred years. More frequent fires produce more long-term benefits. Job knew this. Do you?
Take the cross. If ever there were an event that was evil in and of itself, the cross was. But do I have to belabor the point that infinite good has come as a result of the cross. That evil was absolutely necessary for any real good to ever come to anybody. Ever. I wouldn’t wish the cross on anybody. But I wouldn’t wish to live without it either.
I wish nobody would ever lose their home, let alone their life, in a forest fire. A forest fire doesn’t bring the dead back to life, but it is God’s way of keeping others alive. I don’t expect anybody who’s suffered devastating earthly loss to say, “It’s worth it.” But we should be able to say, “Shall we not receive both good and evil from the hand of God.”
In the same event, God is bringing both. One day, only good will come – when the curse is removed and the new heavens and the new earth exist. When plant life will be able to thrive with or without charcoal and the fires necessary to create it.
The cross guarantees it. The greatest evil guarantees the greatest good. One and the same event. The greatest good is coming. We labor and groan and travail until then. But we can know, even in the midst of evil, that God does bring both good and evil in the same tragedy.
Job knew it. Do you?