I have been tasked with discussing the tension between suffering and blessing as it relates to life on planet earth and God’s so-called control over both. I say so-called because many of us look at the atrocities in the world and wonder, “How can a loving God allow this?”
I don’t pretend to know the answer to this question. I am, however, at ease with the lingering mystery of it. A haunting mystery really.
I will not repeat the discussion around suffering and blessing. You and I know the questions and the lack of answers and the debates. I want to look at how God built a transcendental framework around an ostrich.
In Job 39 God responds to Job’s impassioned inquiries regarding his suffering. Interestingly we don’t find God shoving Job further into the ashes after Job spends much of the book screaming out to him, demanding God answer his questions, and cursing the day he was born. We don’t find a cosmic, “How dare ye!” from God. Rather, we find a God who willingly condescends to a crushed and confused man. That God, then, expounds upon himself.
In verses 13-18 God describes the ostrich. She flaps her wings joyfully, but doesn’t seem to realize how puny they are in relation to, say, the stork. So, she’s a bit silly. She’s also not very smart. She lays her eggs in the sand where any wild animal can trample them. She’s not a good mother either; she treats her young harshly as if she’s forgotten that they are hers. All that work to bring her young into the world and she could care less.
Why did God create this foolish and ridiculous bird?
Through all her silliness and apparent idiocy, she does still shine. “When she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.” One envisions this idiot bird cackling with glee along the desert plain—like an overgrown Roadrunner—passing horse and rider in an effortless gate. Beep-beep!
God of the Ridiculous
If we follow the ostrich’s dust trail we find in this quirky Old Testament passage a sideways view of a God. He gives us the ostrich for no other purpose than to marvel at her groundspeed.
This passage also lists the eagle and hawk, bloodthirsty displays of avian glory living to themselves, for themselves and God. What can you do about the eagle? You spot one and, in youthful exuberance, can do nothing really but grab your binoculars and marvel.
It’s the same with the leviathan and the behemoth; one symbolizing chaos the other ferocity. What can we do with them? Nothing.
What is God telling us about these ridiculous and glory-laden creatures?
I am the God of the ridiculous. I am the God of chaos. I am the God of awe. I am the God of the bloodthirsty. I am the God of the ferocity.
God’s Pulling Mystery
Perhaps God did not intend to for us to argue for prosperity or suffering. Perhaps God intends for us, his crowning creative jewel, to rest in his mystery.
Mystery can be exhilarating. It can also be dark and frightening. We love mystery because it draws us in towards the light of resolution—that moment of epiphany when we say, “I finally understand.”
But with God it’s always a “further up and further in” kind of pulling. The more we discover, the more he unravels; the more mystery we must live with.
God’s mystery draws us towards him. We all of us respond differently to this drawing of mystery. Either we will deride God because of his mystery or we will praise him, clinging to the unknown. We do have a choice.
I think we choose praise when we learn to live in contentment. Living content, however, does not mean that we live emotionless. We can, like Job, rip our clothes and heave ash upon our heads and wail when we encounter affliction—all while praying, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away.”
The reason why we can be content in the midst of suffering, though, is because we live captivated by the mystery of God.
Life looks different from the vantage point of mystery. An ostrich runs, an eagle soars and the hawk hunts in view but out of reach. No point, just glory. Our suffering stamps around like the ostrich, dumb and idiotic but ready to spread its feathers and run. And here is where we choose. We choose either to pray, “Lord save me from this!” Or we pray, “Lord, save me through it.”
In the garden Jesus asked for the cup to be passed from him. And yet, he ultimately drank deep the cup of the cross. And there, on the other side of the gory wood, the brilliance of his salvation shone for each of us. His glory came through the cross. His glory yet comes, through you and me. Through the soaring and the stamping, his glory comes—through the contented life, through the wailing life.