Job 16:12-17 Psalm 34
Many of you will remember Murphy Brown, the hard hitting, overbearing, driven, lovable reporter for the Washington D.C.-based TV magazine “FYI.” One of the running gags for the show was a dart board that Murphy kept on the back of her office door. It always had on its target some sign or object of her displeasure. Some of the more memorable:
“Wait Here for Next Teller”
“Have a Nice Day”
“We Welcome Your Suggestions”
“Severe Tire Damage, Do Not Back Up”
“This Dressing Room Under Surveillance”
“Geraldo Book Signing 2:00 PM”
“Limit Two Trips to the Dessert Bar”
“Please Pay Before Pumping Gas”
“ATM – Out of Order”
“Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Perot”
“Santa Will Be Back in One Hour”
Perhaps more than once or twice we have had something we have targeted for our wrath. In today’s passage, Job claims that God has singled him out as a target. “Have I sinned?” he cries, “What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, so that I am a burden to myself?” (Job 7:20) Later in the book he says of God, “I was at ease, but He shattered me, and He has grasped me by the neck and shaken me to pieces; He has also set me up as His target. His arrows surround me…” (Job 16:12, 13) The image is of some cosmic board with the darts of affliction sticking out from the midst of it. The board is in the shape of a heart.
Does God delight in seeing us squirm? To teach us spiritual lessons does he cause: illness, job loss, the death of a loved one… etc. When one faces financial reversals, failing health, car problems, in-law battles and the like, he or she is tempted to feel as though God has their picture on His private bull’s-eye.
As hard as it is to accept, sometimes there is no answer as to why some events occur in our lives. God can very easily use a bad experience to teach us a valuable lesson and help us grow, but that doesn’t mean he caused that event. And often times we discover that God was there when tragedy occurs not to punish us but to comfort us.
I once counselled a young woman that had been horribly abused as a child. During our conversation she asked me forthrightly: “Why do you think God allowed my father to do what he did to me?” and again: “Why is it that God has singled me out for trouble?”
I cleared my throat and took a deep breath and then proceeded to give her the standard answer I learned in seminary. “Man has free will, and God allows man to choose evil as well as to obey Him. When we come in contact with another’s immoral choice, we get hurt. God does not prevent that because in doing so it would eliminate the whole concept of free will, and then man would not be able to willfully choose to love Him. Man’s freedom of choice was so valuable to God that He would run the risk of their choosing evil in order to provide it.”
I stopped for a minute and contemplated my stale answer; then, in fairness, I introduced a snag into my own theory. I added, “The only problem with all of this is that we have recorded in the Bible events in which God entered history and intervened on behalf of individuals. If he chose to intervene then, he made a choice not to intervene for you while you suffered at the hands of your father.”
She was quiet for a moment, taking it all in. Then tears began to cascade down her cheeks as she softly said: “But He did.” She paused for a moment to regain her failing voice, and then recounted a memory of a day in her childhood when she felt that for some reason she should not go directly home after school. She went instead to the home of a friend. Later she received a call from her sister urging her NOT to come home. Her father was waiting by the frontdoor with a shotgun threatening to shoot her as she walked through the door. After recalling this story she went on to remember story after story where she felt a divine presence had stepped in and shielded her from additional pain.
It may appear to you as though God has abandoned you to the hands of fate, or an abuser, or to the devil, or whatever,… but the Bible will not support such a notion. Psalm 34:18 tells us: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He may not choose to take away the free will from the person causing you the pain, but He also hasn’t marked you for affliction. If you are God’s target at all, you are the target of His affection.