Buffalo Bill’s wide receiver Steve Johnson settled under a well thrown pass that would be the game winner against heavily favored Pittsburgh. The ball tumbled off the hands of the open receiver. Johnson sat in the endzone with a stunned look on his face. After the game he sent the now infamous Tweet questioning what God was up to.
“I praise you 24/7!!! And this how you do me!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How??? I’ll never forget this!! Ever!! Thx tho.”
A couple of things come to mind. One is that Twitter has officially ended the use of complete sentences for an entire generation. Second is that Steve Johnson may have chosen an odd forum to express his frustration but his response is not uncommon for honest believers. It makes sense in our performance based culture that if you commit to praising and proclaiming God that you should get a little something in return. Shouldn’t it go a little better for me than for that other player who frequents bad places and does bad things? Shouldn’t God have my back?
Johnson is not alone in questioning God. Many of the great men and women in the Bible wondered what God was doing at times.
The classic example is long suffering Job. God describes Job as being upright and blameless and a man who feared God and shunned evil. Despite his exemplary behavior God allows tragedy to befall him. His family is killed and his possessions are lost. Job endures great physical suffering. Job wrote an ancient tweet wondering what God was doing.
“Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?”
Later he “tweeted” this…
“I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.”
What honest believer has not felt those emotions? God eventually addresses Job and explains to His servant that He is God and Job is not. I don’t mean to be flippant but that is the essence of God’s dialogue. Job replies with this insight.
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.”
Some things are too wonderful for us to know. Some things are simply beyond our understanding. Job chose to trust God and not sin. Job did learn from his tragedy although he probably never understood why so much happened.
I remember my bride making a declaration of trust when she faced an uncertain future with her breast cancer diagnosis. Her words inspired me. “I am not and I will not question God.” Joni did not want to go through what she went through. But she knew that God had been faithful throughout her journey and she believed that would not change. It did not.
We have seen how God has used our trials in our lives and in the lives of others through His grace. I read a thoughtful book called The Perfect Loss. Author Chip Dodd begins the volume with these words.
“Life is tragic; God is faithful.”
He concludes one story with this observation.
I wish the story from that point onward could be idyllic, the way we long to have life, but instead God’s faithfulness so often shows most clearly through tragedy. The same way the beauty, the richness, and the detail of a photograph is taken from the negative.
So much of life is like this pattern—tragedy, then redemption to victory—because we rejected God’s freedom in the beginning, initiating tragedy. Freedom seems like such a wonderful thing, but only if we recognize it as a gift and treat it accordingly. The responsibility of freedom humans have failed miserably. We take the gift and use it over and over and over again to refuse how we are made for relationship with our own hearts, the hearts of others, and the heart of God. Instead of finding full life in how God made us, we use our freedom to refuse relationship if it costs us potential pain of hurt or more hurt; we block with fierceness the very thing that can grant full life—a vulnerable heart before a good God.
I believe that God is good. I believe in the joy that’s coming. I believe in a God who used brokenness and hurt to tear down the protective walls of self to learn how to trust Him and others with my needs. I believe I can live in a realm of grace that allows me to see and love others without the judgment that clouded the eye of my heart for so long. And I believe in the outcome of the journey no matter how tough it can be at times.
Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth.
…As God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4, NLT)
I pray that you hold firm to your trust and surrender to God when “life” happens. I will not dogpile football player Steve Johnson for his honest response to crushing disappointment. God’s response to our good behavior is not always green lights and blue skies. Johnson will learn this tough lesson if he hasn’t already through this little media firestorm. Sometimes that is how life will “do you” and part of the journey is learning that God is faithful even in the tough trials.