Where Were You?
By: Tom Norvell

Vol. 15 No. 09 | February 27, 2012

Sometimes when life is not going my way, or the way I think my life should be going, I offer God my assistance. He has not asked for it, but I offer my help just the same. Maybe a few simple examples will help you understand what I mean.

When I have difficulty getting some of the people around me to behave the way I think they should behave, I sometimes ask God to straighten them out, to make them get their act together, and cause them to behave in a way that is more in line with my thinking.

When circumstances in my life, according to my way of thinking, are not what I deserve, or how I would prefer them to be, I sometimes inform God—the Creator of the Universe—that He has somehow miscalculated and would do well to make the appropriate adjustments.

When I find myself in what I consider to be a less than ideal situation, feeling restless and discontent and I begin to think that if I could do life my way (I hear Old Blue Eyes singing in the background) it would be much better. So, with all humility and respect, I present my plan to God.

It is in times such as these that God takes me back to Job’s story. He had suffered great loss, he had grieved, and he had listened to his friends explain the ways of God to him. Job was a really good man and maintains his innocence. If anyone had a "right" to demand an audience from God, Job would probably be one of those people. In the latter part of the story (chapters 29-31) Job recounts his life as it once was and compares it to the way life is, then, he calls God out. Job wants God to show Himself and answer his questions.

(“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
I would give him an account of my every step;
like a prince I would approach him.)—

"if my land cries out against me
and all its furrows are wet with tears,
if I have devoured its yield without payment
or broken the spirit of its tenants,
then let briers come up instead of wheat
and weeds instead of barley."

The words of Job are ended.

(Job 31:35-40, NIV 1984)

I love that last line, "The words of Job are ended." (That was probably a good place to stop.) His friends, however, continue to talk. Eventually Job gets a response in chapter 38, 39, 40, and 41. God asks...
"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me." "Where were you when I...?" (38:2-4)
God proceeds with the questions: "Where were you when...?" "Can you...?" "Who...?" "Have you ever...?" "Do you...?" "Will you...?"

Finally, with what appears a safe place to respond, Job says,

"I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more."
God is not finished. The questions continue until chapter 42:
Then Job replied to the LORD:

"I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

"You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes."

Thomas Merton said it well: "What is the use of prayer if at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?" (Thoughts in Solitude. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux: 24)

Jesus and Peter have a similar discussion Matthew 16:21-24:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"

Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

You may be cruising along with the wind at your back. Or, you may be struggling to stand against the wind. Regardless, let God lead the way. He is in charge. Acknowledge Him and trust Him. Rest in Him. Let Him give you the plan. Before you suggest a "better" plan, ask yourself: "Where were you?" Then, let it be said that your words were ended.


© Copyright 2012 Tom Norvell. All rights reserved.