This past weekend I had the opportunity to talk to a good friend who 18 months ago lost both her father to cancer and her daughter to Trisomy 18. It was the most difficult year of her life. Listening to her talk about her journey over the last 18 month brought both tears to my eyes and new found respect for this woman. She shared with me some council from Jeremy Nettles, the preacher in Lincoln, NE that I wanted to pass along to you.
Job is usually considered the quintessential example for what it means to suffer. The man went through more pain and sorrow that most of us can begin to imagine. He lost all of his wealth in a single day. His possessions were taken and destroyed and if that were not bad enough, as he was coming to terms with the reality of what just happened he learned that a storm came and destroyed his son’s home where all of his children were dining. All of his children, all ten of them were now dead. A few years ago Dawn and I had a miscarriage. I know how much that broke me. I cannot even imagine the heartbreak it must be to lose all of your children in a single instance. For Job to drop to his knees and worship God really is a testimony to his faith. From there, Job’s story continues with his health being stripped from him. His wife tells him to curse God and die and his friends show up only to tell Job if he would repent that his troubles would pass. What we don’t read about in the story is what perhaps the most important part of the story.
Typically when we read stories in the bible we forget to read about what is really going on. We like to separate facts from emotions and try to tell the story by just revealing the facts. Job suffered. Job didn’t sin with his lips. Job eventually demanded on answer from God claiming that he was owed an explanation. For this he repented after God did answer him and condemned his friends for their “advice.” Then God restored Job possessions and he had more kids and he “lived happily ever after.” Sounds overly simplistic. Ask anyone he has lost children (or a child) and they will tell you that there is no comfort in knowing that you have other kids and would later have other kids. To this day I still mourn the loss of “tiebreaker.” Yes, I still have the other four children, but their living does not make his/her death easier to deal with. It does not make his/her life less valuable. His kids died! All of them. He didn’t just “get over it” nor should he have.
I mentioned what we don’t read about. We don’t really read about his wife. We have one verse mentioned in the entire book. She told Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9). Job then called her foolish. We tend to do the same, after all Job was a righteous man that loved God. But, didn’t Job’s wife also lose all her wealth? Didn’t she also lose all of her children? Job’s wife was a grieving mother. She was a mother who was struggling with the realities of losing all of her children in a tragic accident. She was a mother who was absolutely heartbroken. In God’s rebukes handed out in chapters 38-41 he rebukes Job. He rebukes Job’s friends. Do you know who he never rebukes? His wife. Now, I am not trying to justify her comments. Her comments were wrong. Her comments were ill advised. But why did she say them. It was not because Job was suffering. It was because she was. They were words said by a woman who was struggling herself with all that had happened. Her possessions were gone, her children dead and now her husband looked like he might be dying. I know she shouldn’t have said that, but let us not pretend that even godly people see their faith struggle in times of dire distress. David wrote Psalm 22. It begins with “My God, My God why have you forsaken me.” Even Christ said those words from the cross. Job rebuked his wife for being foolish, but it was her sorrow talking and God knew it. At the end of Job, it was not just Job restored, but Job’s wife as well. She had new children, she had new possessions, she had her husband’s health back.
Let us stop pretending that hardships don’t hurt. Let us stop saying “get over it” to those suffering. Let us understand as our God in heaven does. People are hurting and rather than chastising them for hurting, let us offer a helping hand. Let us sit and listen. Let us encourage. Let us be the good friend that Job’s friends were not.
Grinnell church of Christ
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God Understands It Hurts
Volume 8 Issue 15