"Listen to me, you guys! I totally get it. All these years of ministry experience have taught me a few things..." Pastor Tom leans in to address the small group of ministers. He's successful, a can-do mover-and-shaker who has the respect of his peers.
"On the one side, here's Ken, whose life is a disaster. He still claims he's done no wrong. On the other hand, we have God, who promises to bless those serve him and do right."
He turns to the broken ruin of a pastor sitting across from him. "Ken, we've watched your church go downhill.Your marriage is in shambles. Your kids died last year in a car accident. (Except in our hearts, we know that probably was no accident. Most likely, God's judgment.)
"We understand that God uses everything to reward and punish his people and build his Church. We can tell there's something you're not admitting to us. Something is very wrong in your life, but you either have a blind spot or refuse to confess it."
Ken insists wearily, "Guys, we've been over this before. I know what it looks like from the outside. Believe me, I've lain on my face before God for answers, searching for anything that might explain this. There are no sins or hidden failures to keep from him... or from you. Everything's out in the open."
He shakes his head and runs bruised fingers over the sores covering his face, "I have no idea what's going on. God is not answering. He seems so distant. My prayers stop at the ceiling. I still can't believe I've lost my family and everything I worked for."
He whispers. "But there's nothing. Nothing at all between God and me."
Tom isn't buying it, and neither are Ben or Gavin. They surround Ken and get ready to pray for him one last time. They wish he would confess his wrongdoing, turn back to God, and accept his punishment. And be restored, of course. Ken used to be such an effective pastor. What a waste.
"Look, God promised prosperity and blessings to good people. You call this living in prosperity?" The group looks around the seedy apartment, with its stench of dirt, incontinence, and medicines. "But if you confess your secret sins, Ken - whatever it is that you've done wrong - God will help you fix the mess you're in. We've seen this before. Trust us. Our wisdom comes from years of study of scripture and work with people."
Ken has nothing more to say. He's tried to explain his predicament - his clean life, a responsible ministry. Followed by loss, grief, and suffering like nothing he's ever experienced.
"Ok, we're not coming back again until you follow through. This is it. Call us when you're ready." His friends walk out the door, closing it without looking back. Theirs is solidarity, based on the wisdom of ministry experience and sound theology.
Ken knows it's not the end of the story. He opens a tube of antibiotics, winces as he gently applies ointment to his skin. Glances at his calendar to confirm the next doctor's appointment in a week. There's no point in calling his wife. She won't pick up this number.
He limps over to his desk, feeling the blisters on his soles ready to pop. Flips open the Bible to Job. Tom (Elihu) and his other "friends" have apparently had their final say.
The future is up to God. Ken cries in pain as he falls on his knees and pleads once more, "Please intervene. I worship you, for you are able to do anything. But you know I will love and serve you, no matter what."
*Read Job 34-42 (in a new translation)
*And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV