Sunday, February 01, 2015

those who long for death

the Book of Job, Chapters Three-Five

What do you say to someone who is suffering so greatly that they long for death? How do you comfort them?

As we join Job in Chapter 3, he is so distressed that he curses the day of his birth and moans,

The white of winter is like a sad soul
For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water.
What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.
I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.

As we looked closer, we realized that Job had not lost his faith in God. Job believed death was not the the end, but there was a paradise and a peace waiting for him on the other side, where

Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout.
The small and the great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners.

At first Job's friends come and silently mourn with him, but when they start to speak, they tell him that his situation was caused by his own wrongdoing.

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal. 

Although this scripture is truth, it does not apply to Job, because God has specifically stated in chapters 1 and 2 that Job was a righteous man. This was not helpful to Job. It actually made his anguish worse! Job needed a friend who would listen to him, and not condemn him. Even if sin was the issue, comfort must come first, especially to someone so depressed.

By nature, I am an impatient fixer. However, I have learned not to minimize the problem ("it's not so bad"). I have learned that one conversation will not be enough, and simple solutions do not help.

Instead, I have learned to LISTEN and be present, be patient, be prayerful, be loving. Remind them of the people who love them and need them. Remind them the situation, while it looks overwhelming now, may pass over time. In life there is hope and death is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If they are extremely depressed and talk about ways to end their life, seek professional care immediately.

As we talked about this, one of the women reminded me of a time when she had shared her turmoil with me and I prayed with her and encouraged her to read a Psalm a day. She told me this was a turning point for her, because as she read the Psalms and prayed for God to reveal His direction to her for each day, she made progress towards healing. I remembered that night distinctly and that I had no idea what to say to her. But I prayed for direction and God was merciful.

Each person and situation is so unique. We must seek God when we want to comfort others. Only He knows why tragedy happens. Only He knows what will comfort a person. Only God knows what He plans to accomplish in this person's life and other's through this hardship. He wants us to be His hands, His voice, His comfort. As we seek Him, He will direct us.

There may be times when God may lead us to confront even the hurting with their own contribution to the problems they are having. We must lead with tentativeness, tenderness, and humility, never condescending judgment.  
Father, lead me to be quick examine my own life for sin and to be slow in judging others! Jesus, You entered into our suffering. Lead me to enter into the suffering of others in ways that will comfort them and guide them into a deeper relationship with You.  

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