Sunday, October 08, 2017

Lessons from the Book of Job


I remember the first time one of my friend's lost a parent.  My friend was grieving, and I didn't know how to help. Not knowing what to do, I basically did nothing. I was worse than Job's friends.  At least, Job's friends showed up.  I still remember my friend sharing her disappointment with me at a later time.  I was not there when she needed a friend to just be there. 

Everywhere we turn there is grief and suffering.  There is war, disasters, disease, and heart ache.  At times it can be overwhelming.  How do we handle our grief let alone help someone else in their grief?

Last month, the First5 devotional app went through the book of Job-one chapter a day.  It was the first time I had ever lingered in Job seeing his pain and suffering up close.  Usually I rushed through Job reading the chapters that needed checked off for my bible reading plan. This time I stayed around long enough to learn a few things. 

1. I am too much like Job's friends.


Job's friends started off well as they sat with him in silence and then they opened their mouths.  They wanted to fix the problem-make it better.  In the process, they went off track theologically.

Too often when someone shares their grief or pain, I want to fix it.   In his book, The Listening Life, Adam McHugh writes about how to listen to those in pain.  He suggests letting people have their pain and helping them to be able to express that pain.  This means listening and asking good questions. 

He also writes how anxiety gets in the way of our listening to those in pain. This anxiety could come from unresolved grief in our life.  Adam says, "If you have not explored the grieving part of yourself, you will likely be ineffective at listening to the grief of others."  If I keep grief bottled up inside, it is not healthy for me and hinders me listening to others in their grief. The anxiety might also be caused from a worry that their pain will be too much for us.  This hit home for me. I am often anxious about what I should say or what I should do that I miss out on what the other person is actually saying!  

In this season, I am trying to let the grief come so I can take time to process things I had pushed aside.  I hope in turn, it is helping me become a better listener and more able to empathize and be there for my friends in their grief and suffering. 

2. Endurance Leads to Hope


This doesn't seem right.  Shouldn't hope come first?  In Job, we see Job's first response to tragedy is worship.  Then he experiences more suffering, and his friends come.  As the speeches go on, Job's pain and despair deepen as he responds to his friends' accusations.  But then... then a glimmer of hope shows up here and there in Job's speeches.  For example in Job 19:25, Job says,
And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last He will take His stand on the earth.
In the midst of his suffering, Job sees the hope of a savior.

Paul in his letter to the Romans also talks about how endurance leads to hope.  In chapter 5, Paul writes that tribulation brings perseverance (i.e. endurance) which builds character resulting in hope.  Our hope is not that our circumstance will get better, but hope in a redeemer who can save.  Paul describes it as "a hope that does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit." (Romans 5:5 NAS)

Endurance is a foreign concept to us in an era where we don't usually have to wait for anything.  When suffering comes, we are okay for a day or two, then we are ready for the suffering to go away and for our prayers to be answered.  We passed the test.  God is good. We move on.  But sometimes the hard does not go away, and our endurance is tested.  In an interview at the 2016 IF: conference, Katherine Wolf talks about her disability and how there came a day she realized that her suffering was not a drill.  This was her new reality.  God was still good, but life was still hard.  Yet in the hard, she found hope.  In fact, she and her husband wrote a book about their life called Hope Heals.  

Looking back on our time in Central Asia, I see how endurance led to hope.  We came away from there with a stronger hope in our Redeemer even when many of the things we wanted to see happen did not.


3. It is in my emptiness that I am most ready to hear God's whisper.


At the beginning of Job, Job was ready to have it out with God.  He wanted answers.  By the end of Job, Job had emptied himself of everything-his pride, his perspective, his need of answers.  It was only at the end in his emptiness that Job was ready to listen and receive God's words.  In that emptiness, he truly saw God. He never got answers, but he did receive a better understanding of who God is.  His relationship with God was also deepened.

Suffering strips us of our pride, our agenda, our plan.   It is in this state that we are finally ready to listen to what God has for me. It is not pretty getting to that listening place, but worth it when we hear God's voice speaking into our lives.  It is in this place that we can truly see God.


What have you been learning from your study of the bible?  What has God taught you about suffering and endurance?








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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I heard this quote last weekend concerning suffering:
"All shall worth together for good; everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds.". John Newton
This gives us a different perspective on our circumstances and reminds us to trust our loving Heavenly Father.
Thanks for sharing what you've learned!
JM

TJ said...

That quote fits perfectly. Thanks for sharing.