A little more than a year has passed since I sat across the table from two of the strongest, most courageous women I know. They both were undergoing treatment for cancer, fighting the good fight of faith. Today, I would be the only person at the table. Both received the total healing for which they believed; it came in the form of heaven. For one, it came just this past Friday.
These women endured major tragedies, even as they fought for their own lives. One lost her daughter to a car accident. The other faced a devastating loss months before her passing, and as her family grieved her death, they were dealt another debilitating blow. Unrelated, that very day, a two-mile wide tornado left a path of death and destruction in Moore, Oklahoma.
I lay in bed that night, and the only emotion I could muster was shock. Numbness. Is there so much death and sorrow that my heart is now unfeeling? Can compassion run so deep that to experience its emotion would drown me? I can’t tell the difference between a hard heart or one that feels so much it can’t feel at all.
I cried out to the Lord: “How? How do you endure such great loss? How do you shoulder such deep grief? How do you lose more than one immediate family member in a short period of time? How do you lose a child and keep going? How do you face piles of rubble that were once your home and everything you owned and stay standing? What are we supposed to do with all this loss and sorrow, Lord? How much can a person take?”
And yes, “Why?”
I thought of Job. I’m not sure anyone in history has suffered more than he did, and for no apparent reason.
Job was a righteous man. He feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). God watched over him, and “by His light (he) walked through darkness…the friendly counsel of God was over (his) tent” (Job 29:3-4). God was with him. He did everything according to God’s laws, and God blessed him (verses 5-25). He had a huge household: ten children, eleven thousand livestock, and servants to tend to it all (Job 1:2-3).
In one single day, he lost it all. As one messenger reported news that raiders stole his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants who were plowing, another came to tell him fire fell from heaven and burned his sheep and the servants tending them. Still another came to tell him other bands of raiders stole his camels and killed those servants, while another reported the death of all ten of his children as they feasted in one’s house (Job 1:14-19).
After losing everything he held dear and everything he owned, Job was struck with “painful boils from the soul of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7). He became unrecognizable. Even sleep did not comfort or bring him relief. He regretted the day of his birth.
All this happened to Job, “although no violence is in my hands, and my prayer is pure” (Job 16:17).
Finally, his wife tells him to curse God and be done with it, and when his friends show up to comfort him, they do more harm than good. One friend suggests his calamity must be because of sin in his life (4:8-9). He concludes Job must deserve his suffering.
Another friend takes the angle that it must be God’s chastening. “Happy is the man who God corrects,” he states, “Therefore, do not despise the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).
Yet another essentially tells him to suck it up and repent, because surely his sin or his sons’ sins brought this upon them, and “if you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty, if you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and prosper your rightful dwelling place” (Job 8:5-7).
His friend Zophar self-righteously asserts, “If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him; if iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then surely you could lift up your face without spot; yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear” (11:13-15).
Something we might hear (and surprisingly Job’s friends didn’t cover) is that our suffering must be the result of unbelief. If we only had more faith, this or that wouldn’t have happened. Maybe things would have turned out different somehow if only we had believed harder or more.
Are any of these legitimate possibilities? What can possibly explain a chronic unraveling of the things around us?
What do we do when we find ourselves feeling like Job?
What do we say when someone we love seems to be reliving Job’s misery?
We can learn a lot from Job, as I’ll share in coming blogs. Join me again?
Lord, thank You for the comfort Your word offers when we don’t understand what’s happening around us. Help us to overcome any unbelief as we look for answers, and to trust You even in the midst of our questioning as we become more wholly Yours today.
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