God is with you in your storms, with the world in all our storms, and will bring you peace. Not answers. But real peace.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Lect. 12 B
Texts: Job 38:1-11; Mark 4:35-41
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“Don’t you care that we’re perishing?”
That’s the disciples’ desperate cry to Jesus. Raging wind and rain, water filling their boat: even these experienced fishermen were terrified. But their Master slept on a cushion in the back of the boat. Didn’t he even care?
“Don’t you care that I’m perishing?” Job cried out. He’d lost all his possessions, all his children were dead, he was covered in sores. Job denied that he deserved all this, and desperately wondered where God was.
“Don’t you care that I’m perishing, God?” is your cry when the waters of depression and anxiety wash over your boat and you’re going under.
“Don’t you care that we’re perishing, God?” is the cry of people of color in this country who are forced to live under different rules than those of white people, suffering daily hardships in a system we’ve built that helps some of us while crushing others. It’s the cry of people we blithely call “aliens” who are beloved children of God looking for a better life among us and who are often treated as less than human.
“Don’t you care that I’m perishing, God?” is your cry when someone you love has died and you can’t make any sense out of it.
“Don’t you care that we’re perishing, God?” is the cry of so many who share our grief at how we’ve destroyed our environment and damaged the creation, longing for God to step in and fix what we’ve done, since we won’t get together as humans and do it ourselves.
“Don’t you care that I’m perishing, God?” is your cry, and the cry of millions like you who struggle with fears of the future, or a diagnosis of illness, or a loss of livelihood, or daily oppression, or loneliness, or addiction, or broken relationships, the cry of all God’s children who feel overwhelmed in the whirlwinds and storms of life.
But today God almost sounds annoyed at the question.
God says to Job, “who are you to challenge me? Were you there when I made the creation?” We heard the beginning of a magnificent four-chapter-long speech where God delineates in rich detail the breadth and beauty of the creation. But it feels a little like God’s irritated to have to answer puny old Job.
Jesus, God-with-us, does still the storm, yes. But God also seems a bit annoyed here. “Why were you afraid? Don’t you trust me yet?” Never mind that the disciples haven’t had much time with Jesus at this point to learn to trust. Is God’s Son irritated that they woke him up and made him do his God-stuff?
But look deeper.
Many have tried to tell us for centuries that God’s answer to Job is to give everything back. He gets a new family, is restored to wealth and health. But that’s nonsense, and we know it. A new family, no matter how much love that brings, cannot replace the tragic loss of the first family. That can’t be the point of the book of Job.
Job proves that by admitting he asked what he didn’t understand, and by accepting God’s answer before any restoration happens. Job does this for one simple reason: God answered. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,” Job says after God’s speech, “but now my eye sees you.”
What Job needed, Job got: God showed up. Job admits he can’t understand the complexity of the creation or the Creator. But in his grief and suffering, he just wanted to know if God cared enough to answer. The actual answer wasn’t as important. The Answerer was.
Like Job, the disciples got relief of their terror and danger; the storm ended.
But, like Job, the important thing isn’t the ending of the storm. It’s Jesus’ questions that help them find Job’s peace.
“Why are you so afraid? And why is it hard to trust me?” The disciples will face those questions the rest of their lives. Including on the worst night of their lives, that terrible Thursday through Friday, where the storm broke over Jesus and swept him away in terrifying death and they were drowning in confusion and grief.
Why are you afraid? What makes it hard for you to trust? In the end, Job finds his trust and sets aside his fears. Eventually, so do the disciples.
Today, God still answers “Don’t you care?” by asking about our fear and our struggles to trust.
It still might not seem like a great answer. But neither do the attempts of others to answer for God.
Job’s friends piously tell Job that he must have deserved this, and he needs to man up and admit it. That’s the pattern we fall into ourselves when we’re with someone crying out to God, “Don’t you care that I’m perishing?” Somehow, rather than just being with and loving those who suffer, we look for pat answers to where God is in human suffering. But that just piles more grief and pain on those who suffer.
God’s answer to Job today makes it clear there’s no easy answer to understand the Creator of the universe. But God’s answer to the universe in Jesus the Christ tells us the real answer we need to let go of our fears and learn to trust: God enters into the heart of the storm with us.
God on the cross took all human suffering into God’s own heart.
Even after the resurrection, the disciples didn’t get all the answers to what God is doing when bad things happen. But that weekend they did get the answer to their first question, “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” God says, yes, I do. More than anything in the universe. I will perish with you and bring you into a new life that cannot be drowned or crushed or broken, even if you actually die.
And after the resurrection, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the rest (with a lot of help from the Holy Spirit) learned to set aside their fears, learned they could trust God with their lives.
But here’s the hard part.
At this point you might expect me to explain what God will do about your pain or the world’s pain. You’d like answers. But I can’t give you them. Glib, simple answers just don’t exist for human suffering. What easy answers are there to cancer? To racism? To mental anguish? To devastating loss? To loneliness? To tragedy?
But I do trust this, with all my heart: God is with you in whatever storm, whatever suffering you are facing. God is with the world in all its suffering, with all who are oppressed, all who are beaten down, all who deal with tragedy and pain. God cares, and God shows up in the storm and brings peace and stillness. Abundant life.
I trust this because I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. I can show you countless ways the Scripture witnesses to it, countless believers who were able to set aside their fears and learn to trust God.
Trust this: God cares and is with you. With all of us. With the world. Even if you think the boat’s about to sink. Nothing, nothing can separate you – or the whole creation – from God’s love in Christ Jesus.
In the name of Jesus. Amen