One of Job’s major complaints against God was that evil people and their deeds seemed to thrive, not be punished as we would expect. It seemed like God allowed it all to happen without any recompense. At the same time, Job also acknowledged God’s certain judgement on the wicked. Note, this question was not coming from a place of unbelief or sin on Job’s part. He didn’t have any trouble believing in God’s power to bring evil to justice. Rather, it was the way in which God practically functioned that made Job scratch his head (probably). God did not (and does not) seem to punish evil in a “timely” manner. Why? How can God, who is good, let guilty people go unpunished?
“Why doesn’t the Almighty bring the wicked to judgment? Why must the godly wait for him in vain?…God, in his power, drags away the rich. They may rise high, but they have no assurance of life. They may be allowed to live in security, but God is always watching them” (Job 24:1,22-23 NLT).
Job is having trouble reconciling God’s justice with God’s patience, or mercy.
God Doesn’t Judge According to Our Terms
For it is mercy which causes the delay between sin and punishment. God desires all of us to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), so he gives many chances. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). Psalm 103:8 says: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (ESV). Even though he would be completely justified to deal judgement as soon as it happens he chooses to wait because of his steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 145:8, Numbers 14:18, etc).
We also know that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8); we won’t fully understand his reasoning for waiting. His goodness is so good and expanse of mercy looms so large over us that we cannot even comprehend how he keeps this tension balanced. But he does. He sees all that goes on and does not forget any iota of offense, tear, or pain. He will deal one day, but that day is not for us to know (Matthew 24:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; 2 Peter 3:10).
What sort of trial are you muddling through today?
Perhaps you are looking around at the state of the world and feeling hopeless, or dealing with sickness, broken relationships, fear… Whatever it is, friend, I promise you that God may seem slow to answer but he will not fail to minister to you right now, inside the pain, and he certainly won’t fail to right all that is wrong, in his timing.
So what shall we do in the meantime, while we wait in the painful place where comfort and peace feel so far away from our present situation? How can we make the jump from pain to joy?
The answer is, we must wait well.
One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books comes from Marmee in Little Women: “Hope and keep busy.” That is what we must do.
Because of Jesus we can ditch the despair and go straight to the joy today. Joy is funny – despite the name, it doesn’t always feel good. It’s a deeper happiness you can feel in your bones, even while experiencing sorrow. There truly is joy in:
The Bible –
Transforming your mind to understand even more deeply who God is and how he is naturally leads to a deeper sense of security in him and assurance in his love for us.
- For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4
- Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
- What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 1 Corinthians 14:15
Loving Him –
As we learn to love him more fully, we naturally want to obey him. Seek his will in all things, his way, not mine. Loving one another as well, and engaging with other believers and loving the Lord together. Nor just on Sundays, but every day. Ask him for the drive to keep going and keep obediently following after him.
- For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3
- But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Jeremiah 7:23
- Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23
We all know plain motivation doesn’t last forever. It’s the reason no diet, no New Year’s resolution, no human-crafted scheme ever goes perfectly according to plan. Perseverance doesn’t come from within, it must come from without. So while motivation is present, use it to praise God. While motivation eludes you, pray to desire him. Even pray for the desire to desire him – he loves to answer this prayer! So with or without motivation, you will remain constant.
- And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
- Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16:11
- And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
Don’t wait to take advantage of all that he has to offer in the trials. Use them as an opportunity to practice the art of waiting well! I’m praying for you, that you would be filled with joy as you seek after Jesus.