Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Purity in the Midst of Pain

"I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl." (Job 31:1)

It seems a bit awkward when you read it for the first time. In fact, Job 31:1 seems to be completely out of place. In the middle of turmoil, suffering, and personal loss, Job includes this important, yet seemingly out-of-place statement. The first time I read this verse I remember thinking, "Where in the world did that come from?" A covenant with my eyes? Look lustfully at a girl?

Just what are you saying here Job?

Job had been devastated. He had experienced more loss and tragedy in the last passing hours than an entire community of families could expect to face in a lifetime. He was in complete agony. He was suffering in physical torment and sickness. Yet here, he turns his attention to purity. Here, Job proves to be resilient. But, his resilience isn't directed toward his physical pain; rather, it is aimed at the temptations of the flesh. Why is this? Why is Job worried so much about purity during this tragedy? In the middle of all of his questions, he guards his purity. In the middle of all of his pain, his focus is on keeping a clean heart.

I believe that this one verse is pivotal to the rest of Job's story.

Although Job doesn't know the answers, he desires to stay pure before the One that does. He desires to stay pure before God, even though others (specifically his wife) had told him to curse God and die. The result of Job's purity in the midst of pain was that God ultimately blessed and restored Job. Because Job remained pure before God, he was restored and blessed beyond measure. Ultimately, Job would understand that God had a great purpose in his sufferings. We can see the same truths through the promises found in Romans 8:28, 29.

Last week, my hometown of Samson experienced tremendous tragedy and pain. And like Job, many people were left wondering why it all happened. During times like this, we often make two major mistakes. The first mistake we often make is that we blame all of the tragedy on God. Just like Job's wife, we desire to curse God for any evil that takes place in our lives. We blame him for tragedy. And although God allowed these things to happen to Job, He was not the culprit. The culprit was Satan. The second mistake we often make during these times is that we often dismiss God's association with tragedy altogether. Though God could not be accused as the culprit, we must acknowledge that God was sovereign over the circumstances. He did, for His perfect reasons, allow these things to happen to Job.

It would be outrageous for us to blame God for what happened in Samson last week. However, it would be just as outlandish to say that He had no control at all over the measure of the happenings. That would be saying that God isn't sovereign. Whatever the reason, we need to understand that we will never truly be able to see God's purpose on the other side of our pain unless our hearts are determined, like Job, to remain pure in the midst of it.

I believe Job understood what Jesus would later teach in Matthew 5:8. Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." We should be careful not to blame God. We should also be careful not to dismiss His purposes. Our sole priority in pain and disaster should be to emulate Job's example. We should desire to remain pure in the midst of pain. We should pour out our hearts to God. We should ask the questions that dwell in our hearts. We should ask for comfort and mercy. But most importantly, we must seek to remain pure before Him.

God give the communities, families, and the individuals involved in this tragedy the mercy and strength to remain pure during this time of pain. And, may they experience your blessings and provisions on the other side of it. Amen.

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