Time – Job 7:1-10

Job was the topic of the adult Sunday School class I was leading and at least one attender was suffering over Job’s suffering. This rough terrain had not been plotted on their theological road map. The futility of Job’s life threatened the abundant Christian life as it had been taught him. He proposed a solution; “Ignore Job.” He reasoned, “Since suffering and futility are minor themes in the Bible, we should discount the book of Job.” I almost fell over! I believed all scripture was inspired by God and, from my reading, suffering seemed like a major theme. I reasoned. “Just because we are allergic to suffering, we are not exempt from its presence or relevance.”

Job is a man steeped in emotional and physical pain so intense he had asked God to take his life. His only consolation was that, maybe, if God quickly answered his prayer, he could die before he cratered to the temptation of denying God. Have you ever been this distaught in your circumstances?

I think I may have a low TfS index (Tolerance for Suffering) because I felt like this in 1990 and my situation was a cake walk compared to Job. None of my children had died and my skin was not falling off (yet). I was keeping this option open. 🙂 Here is a brief account of that season. I am telling my story because suffering is an experience we will all share. It cannot be otherwise in a world, that for a time, has been subjected to futility.

A host of problems, which had been gaining momentum, had converged on me. Some were of my own making. Some were beyond my control. The arenas of suffering included; physical health, emotional-mental health, family relationships (almost all of them), a failing business, a collapsed vision of life and huge question marks about the future. Would I find a job? Would I have a wife? Would I have my health? My sanity? My faith? When I lay down, I could not sleep. My life had become a waking nightmare and I had managed this while following jesus!

My beliefs, which I could not just off-load for convenience sake, instructed me that God knew all the details and that he was lovingly involved in all the circumstances of my life. Regardless of its origin, this implied there was a redemptive-point to my suffering. I was to take comfort that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him. In the presence of this beautiful truth, the pressure of those converging circumstances were threatening to crush me. I feared that I might suffocate. What was being squeezed out of me though was not “Hallelujahs” and “Praise the Lord’s.” I wasn’t sure just how much more of God’s intimate attention and lovingkindness I could handle.

Job’s friends were there for me too. I met them face to face, on the radio and in books. They wholeheartedly offered me their patented council for pain relief. Options they presented were: 1) Deny God exists. Relieve yourself of the burden of reconciling your miserable life with some fairy tale you have subsribed to. 2) Deny God is soverign and intimately involved in your life. This way God’s reputation can at least be salvaged; his glory will not be tarnished by the debacle which is your life. 3) For God’s sake, swap theologies for a victorious one that offers a more comfortable track to ride on. 4) Repent more thoroughly of the hidden sins which are obviously attracting God’s judgement. 5) Have someone cast out the demons that have been assigned to destroy you and rob you of the abudnant life. 6) Take the anti-depressents the doctor has prescribed and see a mental health professional. 7) Sing and dance your way to victory as unto the Lord. 8) Pray more frequently (and violently) in your prayer language. 9) Deny your prayer language. It’s a psychological aberration anyway. I came to a place in this season where my deepest conviction was…….. Christians are driving me crazy!

It felt very lonely but I knew I could not ignore Job’s experience. If I did, I believed I would forfeit the encounter with God embedded in suffering. In trying to sidestep it, I would have been guilty of trading Paul’s “all things work together” for some entitlement-blessings theology which worked “all things out for me.” While it had its appeal, I believed I would have been swapping the eternal for the temporal, making a bargain I would regret.

I want to be honest for the sake of those who will come to this same spot on the map. While my scriptural logic might sound noble, there was no sense of heroic faith going on here. My attitude was appalling. I was loosing it. Hoping against hope, I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other, all the while asking, “Why?”  Fast forward 25 years…..

It was not mastery of bible truths that carried me through that period. It wasn’t any of the pat answers offered by pop-Christianity. As messy as it was, I simply trusted that God was a good Father and that he was in those storms with me. I was simply holding on by faith to a truth that I could not feel at all – that he loved me and because of that, good would come from this. Even today, I don’t know if all that was an attack, a trial, a test, or all the above. While that remains a mystery, I do know that all those things have worked to my good as Paul promised they would.

If there is an epiphany to my story, it is that our greatest blessing is currently bound up in our greatest obstacles and heartaches. The train wrecks we entrust to him are the places we will one day meet him. When we arise from the ashes, and we will, we will speak with an authority which allows us to comfort others with the comfort with which we have been comforted.

Father, you are good. You are kind. You are sovereign. In the midst of our trials and tests we are tempted to think otherwise. Give us the grace to persevere and to overcome. Whether we are escorted around or through trying circumstances, be glorified as the world sees us falling more deeply in love with you, more yielded to the soverign, mysterious paths You lead us on. Amen.









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