Friday, February 20, 2015


The Book of Job, Chapter 42

What does this room tell us about it's owner? Would you say she is sloppy? Disorganized? Careless? Immature?

You'd be wrong. My daughter Debbie is not age 5 or even 15. She is 25. Debbie is one of the most organized people I know. As a girl she would line up her folded socks in the drawer in a single line in color order. Careless? Not a bit! She cares deeply what people think about her to a fault. She is always impeccably groomed; her outfits well put together and her make up flawless.

So, why on earth does her bedroom look like a bomb went off?

Because it's a snapshot, and snapshots only give us a point-in-time view of reality. It is not enough to tell us what is really going on. 

Debbie is a teacher on her winter break. She is in the process of deep cleaning her room and I caught it in the middle of the process. We did this one day together, sorting out her clothes closet. We took EVERYTHING out of her closet, considered each dress, shirt, shoe, and undergarment before sorting each item into save/discard/give-away piles. In the middle of it most of the contents of her drawers and closet were on the bed, on my lap, on the floor. However, when we were done, the room was not merely surface clean. It was completely clean. 

Life is like that. Sometimes in the middle of the process things look like more of a mess than ever, but in fact, buried emotions are surfacing, old wounds are healing, spiritual dullness is being scrubbed away. It may look like a disaster on the outside but that is merely a snapshot, only a slice of the process we must go through to be the best we can be. 

Snapshots only reveal the external of where we are right now, but cannot tell who we will be. Sometimes things stay dormant for a long time, like this ocean front lot. It was an adorable cottage before the waves of Superstorm Sandy splintered it into pieces. The house was removed, leaving this sad little sign.  For over a year the sign sat in the empty lot, a symbol of storm's devastation and the community's struggle to rebuild. 

This past weekend, we were at the beach again inspecting progress of the community and behold, there was the sign but now there is the beginnings of a new home around it. Suddenly hope and the house is blooming like spring. 

The misery we saw in the Book of Job was merely a small segment of his life. Before the story began, the Lord had greatly blessed him. As the story concluded, we see Job received a double blessing.

The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters...After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. 

At first, I could not find peace after the loss of Job's children, even though he did have ten more children later. Now I see I was looking from an earthly perspective. From the perspective of heaven, Job's children were not lost to him eternally, only temporarily. They were waiting for him in heaven. From God's viewpoint, Job was granted a double blessing of children too, because the first, although separated from Job, were never lost. 

Often, my life looks like my daughter's untidy room: disorganized and out of control. Or it resembles the barrenness of the empty seaside lot. But that is only a snapshot, a point-in-time. As God provided incredible blessings for Job, I am trusting God for great blessings in my life. He's just not done with me yet.

He's not done with you either.     

Beloved, even though life has it's bumps, messes, and absolute disasters, help me to remember You have a plan, You are not done, and I can trust You with my life, even when I cannot see and cannot understand.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Purpose of God

The Book of Job, Chapters 31-42

Why have bad things happened to me?

Job has been asking this question. His friends said Job brought these things on himself and God was punishing him. However Job does not agree.

a bad thing that happened to me
in October 2012
Look, I will sign my name to my defense.
Let the Almighty answer me.
Let my accuser write out the charges against me.
I would face my accusation proudly
I would wear it like a crown.
For I would tell him exactly what I have done.
I would come before him like a prince. (Job 31:24-37)

Then an amazing thing happened. God responded to Job, but not with reasons. Instead, God presented Job with questions of His own:

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
Where is the home of the east wind?
Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?
Who laid out the path for the lightening?
Who provides food for the ravens when their young cry out to God and wander about in hunger?
Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar and spread its wing toward the south?

For four chapters God continued His questions to Job, making His point: you are without the knowledge required to question My ways and My motives. In the end Job agrees:

I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me...
I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said and sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.

In summary: God knows best. We cannot accurately discern His purposes. We need to trust that He is good and faithful.

Does this answer satisfy you?

Me neither.

One of the questions I had when we started looking at Job was why it took 42 chapters to get to this simple point. I concluded it is because grief is a journey and we must walk it, not rush it. God speaks up in chapter 38 but He could have answered anywhere in this process. He was not required to answer at all because, as He pointed out so eloquently at the end, He is God and will do as He sees fit. Job needed to ask the questions and go through the gambit of feelings to be able to accept the truth at the end.

God did not rush Job through the process in order for it to be over sooner. As a mom, I am sure watching Job suffer was painful for God as well. Only a parent knows the truth of "this will hurt me more than it does you" intimately. God was angered by the lies told by Job friends and how those who should have consoled Job made it more painful for him. But God did not push to resolution before the time was right.

We can learn by God's example. We can't rush ourselves or others through the process of recovering from pain. The stages of grief: denial, anger, blaming and bargaining are all valid, necessary, and cannot be set aside. We cannot quicken the process by giving a pat answer, even the right one. We must walk the entire journey. Regardless of our feelings, God is there with us each step. God is already there on the other side where we emerge with acceptance and prepared to receive His peace.

We have also seen something very important: the process of grief, when we go through it with faith, provides an insight to God we never would have had otherwise. Job declares, I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes. For Job, this insight into God made all the difference.

Who knows the purposes of God? Perhaps part of the reason for Job's suffering was so we can see the workings of God and be encouraged and comforted.

Beloved, we see Your answer, but it is not one we should give to others too soon. Truth without empathy is not kindness. It is not Your way. Even though You restored Job's health, doubled his wealth, and gave him more children, even this is not enough for a broken heart. A broken heart needs time to mend. Thank You for Your patience with us. Help us show each other patience. Help us to have patience with ourselves. Help us to reach for You as Job did. You did not punish Job for questioning Your ways. You rewarded him with Your presence. You are a rewarder of those who diligently see You.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Withholding Kindness

The Book of Job, Chapters 6-19

Job had already lost his livelihood, his ten children, and his health. With heartbreaking honesty, Job described how his pain increased as even his surviving loved ones scorned and abandoned him.

My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me.
My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me.
My servants and maids consider me a stranger. I am like a foreigner to them.
When I call my servant, he doesn’t come; I have to plead with him!
My breath is repulsive to my wife. I am rejected by my own family.
Even young children despise me.
When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me.
My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me. 

I imagine Job felt like a desolate rocky mountain.
Job was not only hurting and alone, but he was aware of their disgust and rejection. All he wanted was for someone to take pity on him. Job wanted a friend to listen to him. Instead, Job's friends blamed the troubles on his own sinfulness. Others close to him were repulsed by him. By withholding their kindness, they hurt him all the more. Instead of offering comfort, they increased his pain.

How horrid to further injure a friend who is already suffering by withholding kindness!

Beloved, I remember so many times I have avoided loved ones who were hurting. They reminded me of the unavoidable pain of life and the certainty of death. Just the thought of them made me sad and so I ran from them instead of leaning into the situation. I did not want to visit them because I was afraid I had nothing to say or that I would say the wrong thing. I forgot You were ready to direct me and give me the courage I needed. Father, forgive me and help me remember the agony of Job and do better in the future. Thank You for Your forgiveness. 

Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. (Job 6:14)

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.