In the proper tradition of prophets and poets, one of Rich Mullins’s last songs was composed of questions to God, titled “Hard to Get.” Mullins, who passed nine days after recording a rough version of the song, put into words the feelings of loneliness and disconnect people experience along the journey of knowing God. We are just a few days from the start of the Advent season, and there is no better time to consider what it means for God to be hard to get.
Job is a story of searching for meaning amid unthinkable tragedy. The man loses his children, his wealth, and terrible sores all over his body. Readers get an insight into the cosmic challenge occurring here, something that Job is never told about. The question is whether Job is righteous because God has fully blessed him. So, the blessings are removed to see what Job will do. Despite his immense grief and personal pain, Job refuses to denounce or curse God.
When Job’s friends hear about his misfortune, they visit him and offer counsel. However, Job finds their advice hollow and unsatisfying, as each provides a traditional explanation for suffering. The primary reason is: Job, you must have sinned, so you are getting what you deserve. But he knows (and we do, too) that he hasn’t sinned. He has no secret skeletons in the closet. Job has been righteous and continues to be righteous by declaring that he has experienced unfair treatment by God.
Silence and Darkness
Silence and darkness are two of the major themes in the Psalms. God’s followers found solace in prayers and songs that began with big, difficult questions highlighting the human experience: Why do you seem so far away, God? I am surrounded by darkness. I can’t hear your voice. My God, why have you forsaken me? You might recognize the last question as the same one Jesus exclaimed during his crucifixion. Feeling disconnected from God is so much a part of the human experience that poets wrote whole songs helping those who have come before and us now to know how to express our feelings to God. Between the last recorded prophecy of God and the birth of Jesus, there were 400 hundred years of silence from God.
But the Psalms also declare something else. They depict how the world should be if it submits to God’s rule. The righteous prosper as they act justly, seek mercy, and walk humbly. But people during the Old Testament times could, and we can still look around at the nations and find plenty of examples of the unrighteous seeming to prosper. Not only are they prospering, but they seem to suffer no consequences for their behavior. Like the poets and prophets in the Old Testament, like Job, we are still responsible for declaring that evil and unrighteousness do not get the last say. When the world doesn’t align with the Kingdom rule of God, we must speak up. Not just speak, though; we are called to work to usher in His Kingdom rule.
Hard to Get
God shows up to answer Job’s questions. Finally, God will just come clean about the whole cosmic contest, right? No. God shows up and begins to ask questions. And suddenly, Job loses his desire to state his innocence. So, was he wrong to maintain his innocence? Should he have ignored the injustice in his life? Did God show up just to shut Job down? I don’t think that is the case. God’s presence is a reminder of what He is not. He is not human. Our human brains cannot contain, and our words cannot explain the fullness of God. What explanation would have satisfied Job? I know the reason behind his loss, and I am unsatisfied. But I trust in a bigger God who knows better than I do. God is not bothered by Job’s questions or feelings.
Here is how Rich phrased the big question in the last four lines of “Hard to Get:”
I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along
I guess It’s just Your ways, and You are just plain hard to get
But how do we relate to this God who is not like us? Advent. God took it upon himself to create a way for us to know God. We turn to the Advent season, especially when times seem dark and the world is broken. People are starving for the signposts of hope, joy, and love. In Advent, people can hear a loving God’s still, soft voice. He comes not as an incomprehensible being but as a baby. He enters into the silence that generations endured—the light of the world, Jesus, the savior.
Not all questions will be answered. Nor will all wrongs be instantly made right. But Advent reminds us that God is moving. He moves in ways we can’t understand. And where we can’t see. God is still often hard to get. Paul says for now, we don’t see clearly (even with the help of the Holy Spirit). But we can see that God loves us so much that He made a way for us to know Him. That doesn’t get rid of all of the questions. We still need to walk in faith and trust in the goodness of God. Our lives will have trouble, as Jesus said they would, but we can be content knowing through Jesus, we overcome the world.