Sometimes you just know when things have been done right. There are obvious signs that you have done it right. There is something external that reflects that truth. The picture for today is one of those. I tried smoking a pork loin for dinner tonight after a total disaster a while back when I tried to smoke something. I am a good griller, but smoking has always been a bit of a daunting thing. So, it was time to try it again. And tonight, it was perfect. When I cut into the meat after taking it off the grill and letting it rest for a while, there was the perfect pink smoke ring around the outside of the meat, just like it was supposed to be. The meat was tender and flavorful and the seasonings on the outside gave it a wonderful crust. It took a lot of work this afternoon but it was soooooo worth it. So, there are times that we can see that things have been done right.
But there are other times that this is not the case. I serve in a vocation that is like that a lot of the time. I don’t have a “product” that is always clear to see how well it has been done. Measurables are difficult (but not impossible) to point to. There are also times when a pastor knows that s/he has been doing things exactly as they should be done but the “measurables” do not reflect it – one of the most consistent sources of conflict and challenges for pastors. There’s a lot of gut-trusting that has to go on for pastors (among other positions where this is the case, but as one who has pretty much only served as a pastor, I can’t speak too well for other vocations). The marks aren’t always there, but sometimes we just know in our gut that we are doing what we are called to do.
Job’s message in chapter 27 here feels a lot like this. The measurables to this point in the story, especially given the worldview of the time, seem to indicate that Job has been unfaithful in some significant ways. There was very much a worldview of the time that bad things happened to bad people and that’s that (this has not entirely gone away in our 21st century world either) and this is reflected over and over in the words of Job’s friends – Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad. Yet, here in chapter 27, Job continues to defend himself and continues to share his unfailing belief that he has been as faithful as he can be. (Of course, us readers are “entitled” to know that God views it similarly (see chapter 1).
Chapter 27:1-6...Job again took up his discourse and said: “As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. Far be it from me to say that you are right; until I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness, and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
Job continues to hold to his faithfulness and that is a powerful thing to read. Its a powerful thing to take in on these pages, but even more so when we see it in the lives of people who continue to stay faithful (and some seem to grow even deeper in faith) through difficult periods of life. Job even hits this point in verses 8-10…
For what is the hope of the godless when God cuts them off, when God takes away their lives? Will God hear their cry when trouble comes upon them? Will they take delight in the Almighty? Will they call upon God at all times?
I am grateful for the times when I can see the marks that reflect the ways that I seek to follow Christ in my life and I am grateful for the ability to trust in my following even when the marks aren’t clear.