handling trouble in a godly way

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish[b] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job 2:9-10

Job lost everything except his wife: his livelihood, his seven children, and then his health. And the rest of the book is well worth reading, rereading, and pondering. But Job did not abandon his faith in God. He was up against it, at his wit’s end. The story ends well. But part of what can be instructive for us upfront and right away is Job’s initial response to all that happened.

It’s interesting how some seem to go along in life without little care. And that includes those who are responsible. While others of us seem to be chomping at the bit to descend into fear and the fretting that ordinarily accompanies that.

How much better to trust the heavenly Father, just as Jesus taught us (Matthew 6:19-34). To leave everything into God’s good, more than capable hands. To trust that the Father will see us through. And to learn to live in that prospect with the peace that accompanies it. So it’s a matter of trust versus fear.

Paul gives us what perhaps is the most direct, specific direction in dealing with trouble and troubling thoughts when they come:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Seems like an impossible command, I say loving directive, not to be anxious or worry when trouble comes. But instead, in every situation we’re to pray, and tell God our concern. And thank God for the good in our lives. With the promise that God will give us peace, a peace that goes beyond our limited understanding. That our hearts and minds will be guarded in Christ Jesus. I have thought that worse than nearly any problem is my own reaction to it. We do our best, but in the end, God is the one from whom all blessing flows. This world is not trouble free, even as Jesus told us. We simply need to submit ourselves to the Father’s care.

I wonder if this is a part of the spiritual warfare we’re up against as Christians. I’m sure the spiritual enemy does try to exploit whatever weakness we have. We do well to go back to Ephesians 6:10-20 and ponder that in prayer.

What is crucial for us is how we react when trouble comes. Job initially does well, and then we see the rest of the book, how he responds further. Of course he didn’t have all the revelation we have now, or the person writing the wisdom story, one of the oldest if not the oldest writings of the Bible. It’s not like there’s going to be no wrestling or anxious moments. But whatever we’re experiencing within or without, we need to commit ourselves to growth in doing so in a godly matter, depending on what God’s word tells us. In and through Jesus.

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the evil of fretting

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Psalm 37

There is nothing easier than letting oneself get in a stew over the supposed and actual lack of love in other people. This is particularly true when one ought to expect better. At the same time we have to be aware of the accuser of the brothers and sisters, the evil one, Satan, who not only accuses them day and night before God, but to each other, so that we might be wise and not fall prey to his schemes.

Psalm 37 itself is likely talking more about those who are enemies, or at least are not friends, namely the rich, who may seem to be doing well while the righteous are suffering perhaps even by their hands. The idea in the psalm that life is unfair and one is agitated and upset, even angry at God over it (see Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, Psalms 1-50).

To fret has the idea of being rubbed back and forth to the point of agitation where something in particular is either on one’s mind almost all the time, or is easily recalled. And it seems akin to not only turning into anger against God, but also to grumbling against him, cardinal sins of God’s people in the old covenant which his people in the new covenant are warned against.

I have to reject such thoughts by ongoing prayer, and from that, replacing my thoughts, words and actions with those which are counter to the grievance at hand, even while I continue to bring all my cares and concerns to God. The Lord does not look kindly on us judging others, particularly those who are our brothers and sisters in him. We are all one family in Jesus, and we’re accountable to God and we ought to be accountable to each other, to the church to love one another not only by profession, but in tangible, sacrificial ways.

We are called to judge sin, what is displeasing to God in ourselves, to deal with it ruthlessly. If we don’t, sin will do us in. We are told that fretting leads only to evil doing. And that evil doers will be cut off from the land, or from God’s blessing. Just as anger or lust can lead to an evil act, and certainly affect our character for ill, so fretting as in being agitated and in anger and worry can make us think and act in ways that do not indicate trust and obedience and devotion to God.

And so I need to learn better to put aside all fretting and worry. Instead to do what Psalm 37 tells us to do (read the entire Psalm, click the link above). Not to be bothered by what can be so bothersome, but trusting in the Lord for his goodness and blessing so that we might be a blessing in and through Jesus.