Everyone is getting ready to Trick-or-Treat. Scary ghost stories about right next to Snoopy and The Great Pumpkin. For some odd reason, we as a collective body, have decided that it’s entertaining to see people suffer. But what does it truly MEAN to suffer?
Everyone seems to think that they suffer like no other human being. My pain is deeper than yours. You stub your toe, and the next morning you still feel the pain, and instantly groan and moan about how you have “probably broken it” to everyone who will hear. There are so many levels of suffering, and it’s difficult to realize that what we are feeling is nowhere near the shallowness or depth of another. Is a mother who has lost her infant suffering less than a mother who lost an adult son or daughter? Is someone who has been robbed suffering more than a person who lost his/her entire life savings?
I’ve been grappling with this since starting this week of The Quest with Beth Moore. This week, we tackled Job, and let me tell you, some parts of it were well below fun level. The heaviest moment came when we tackled with the surface realization that God gave Job to Satan. Just handed him over. Job was COMPLETELY innocent. God just handed him over to show Satan that he was wrong. So Job lost all of his stuff. That’s too bad. Then he lost all his sheep. Wow. Hope he had insurance. Then he lost all of his kids and grandkids and servants. Dang! That sucks! Wait for it… God then let Satan take Job’s health. Wait- WHAT?! So, then Job’s wife loses her faith in God. And he has lost his place as a pillar of the community because he’s covered with yucky pus-filled and oozing boils and nobody wants to be around him. The final blow is probably the most painful. His three “best friends” decide to give extra long speeches. Without end, they blame Job. And they JUST. KEEP. TALKING. One guy, Elihu, decides he’s so smart he can even talk for God. Cuz he’s just one of those kind of guys who knows everything. They don’t stop until God actually steps up and tells them to shut up. Throughout all of this, Job doesn’t curse God. The closest he gets is when he says it doesn’t really matter what happens in this life, because good or bad we all die anyway.
God gave Job and his friends a real what-for. Basically, He said, “Who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks do YOU THINK YOU ARE?” You should read it. He really gives those guys a smack down. Job 38-41. Read it in Liam Neeson’s Zeus voice. Pretty cool stuff! Job gives the most heart-felt apology, so eloquent and humble that I just wanted to give the old guy a hug. It was then that I had my moment of clarity: Job was only apologizing for himself. Not his friends who were being idiots. Not for his wife who gave up on God. He said he was sorry for saying things he didn’t understand. That’s pretty amazing. The guy who did nothing wrong, apologizing for not understanding. Let’s just add some icing on the cake here- God yanks on the friends, and tells one of them “you knuckleheads should count yourselves lucky you have Job.” They were only spared getting zapped with lighting or swatted like a fly by Job praying for them.
Now for the epic topic: what kind of God would intentionally hurt people? God does let bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people. The most important thing for ME to remember is true suffering- like Job’s suffering, or the suffering of a parent who has lost a child- is beyond what I can comprehend. I know now that I can’t just give you words, explanations, or platitudes. I can give you what Jesus said I needed to give you: a hug, food, and a shoulder to let you talk. I can be there the day after, the year after, and the decade after should you need me. You will never hear me say, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Because I’m not going to challenge God, and you don’t need to hear that. I will pray with you for God to bring you through this difficult time. And I will probably find one or two hymns or songs to help your pain.
See, the suffering of someone may be about the growth or journey for that person, or it may be so those of us on the outside can learn about Jesus’ teachings about loving one another. Because let me tell you, stepping up to give a hug to old, pus-oozing, and depressed Job would take LOTS of faith and whole lot of Jesus in my heart! To those who are suffering today, my heart aches for you. Truly. Please, please, please, have patience with me if I say the wrong thing, or don’t say what I should. I’m learning from you, just like God planned.
May all who read this have ears to hear, and eyes to see…