Once again, I have to beg a “leave of absence” from you. I’ll try to make it as brief as possible. I feel pretty good right now, and don’t think I have anything contagious or terminal. . . but it has been a bit uncomfortable. With that little distraction and a couple of others, I’m probably not going to have much time to read or write the next two or three days. Fortunately, being indisposed doesn’t keep us from being able to think or to pray.
And you know doctors. They aren’t going to quit until you get the point! Get it? Thass a poor attempt at humour. O.K. A VERY poor attempt, we agree, Awright, awready!
If I’m not back here in just a few days, send out a search posse or one of those big St. Bernard rescue dogs. If you see the buzzards circling the Island, grab your black suit and join the wake!
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I’m not at all certain whether I can walk away from Job at the moment. My main quest was to find out how he managed to recover from such loss. It seems to me we hit on the major reasons for that, but I still want to know your thoughts. There are other lessons I can learn from this book, one of which is to not be guilty of pre-judging anyone who’s suffering or give superficial, pious answers to such tough questions. I hope I don’t ever come across as one of “Job’s comforters.” Same for you. If we catch ourselves stepping into that role, how about if we just hush!! It cannot possibly hurt you or aggravate your friend’s problem if you just offer quiet love and comfort and prayer. No advice is necessary and if it is unasked, is usually unwelcome and worth about what it costs! If, by chance, the Lord is trying to teach someone a lesson, He does not need help from us amateurs!
And, just so we don’t make this an empty exercise in intellectual accomplishment and simply increase the size of our bank of facts. . . Have you considered making practical application of some of the truth you learn as you consider this man’s life? Someone you know is probably, at this very moment, in need of your friendship, love, prayers and encouragement. Can you name one? Do they have to ASK you for your compassion?
Another lesson in Job, of course, is his patience in suffering. Obviously hurting too deeply for words, he kept quietly about the business of trying to be a good man. A Godly man. What an example! What a lesson for each of us!
Then, too, there’s the mystery of suffering. That question has stumped me, along with many very devoted, intelligent scholars whom I’ve read. And, by the way, I will shortly visit the Piper’s study held recently in Texas on the story of Job.
Somewhere earlier I mentioned James Stewart, great Scottish Divine from Edinburgh and his book of sermons: The Strong Name. Stewart wasn’t a philosopher or a metaphysician. But his is one of the most thoughtful, practical and beautifully eloquent treatments I’ve ever read on the problem of human suffering. It’s out of print now, and I’ve given my copy to a young minister, but if you find a copy I’d suggest that you get it and read it. You will thank me.
On the perplexing problem of suffering, perhaps I can add only this: When I first learned that my Mother had inoperable cancer that was approaching its final stages, I was incredulous. As you would surely be. Not Mom! I thought she was invincible. That sparkle in her eye would never go out. It couldn’t be extinguished! And at first I prayed: “God, please don’t let my Mom suffer. Please!” I would gladly have taken her place.
As I reflected a bit and considered my “moorings,” I corrected myself. Or perhaps I got corrected. I thought, “if God didn’t spare His own and only Son, but allowed Him to suffer and be crucified in my stead, how could I ask that we not suffer? Is a servant greater than his Master?
Once I’d wrestled my way through that, I began to pray something I knew could properly be prayed with an expectation of a “yes” answer. Instead, I asked: “Lord, please always be close to her and let her know You are always near.”
On the morning of her operation, I made a crude poster containing the words written in Joshua 1:9, emphasizing where God told Josh: “The Lord your God is with you everywhere you go.” It was posted right at the foot of her bed, always visible. And we claimed that. And we later read together and remembered other places in Psalms and the Gospels where that same promise was given. She was reminded that her dear Lord Jesus had said He “would never leave us nor forsake us.”
From that time, until the night she died quietly, peacefully as I held her while we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and recited the Twenty-Third Psalm, I never doubted for a moment that the Lord had kept His word. His presence was right there. I had not a doubt but the He’d taken her gently by the hand and stayed with her “THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death” and into the Promised Land.
But, still, what about the problem of suffering? Life forces us to face it sooner or later, and our burning minds cannot help asking: Why? There were a couple of thoughts which occurred to me in the wake of my own struggle, and for whatever they’re worth, may I share them with you for your own thoughtful consideration?
1. Suffering is Instructive. You learn from it. It always hurts, but once you stick your hand on a hot stove you’ll know never to do THAT again. You don’t need any more explanations. Suffering taught you something. Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned in my life have cost me dearly. I cannot tell you how often I’ve said: “Lord, if you’re trying to teach me something, help me please to be a quick study. Pain hurts! Don’t let me be dumb and have to learn this lesson again!” Suffering has also conditioned me to be kinder and more understanding when a friend fails, or falls or is hurt badly. I can’t really sympathize and understand another unless I, too, know something of what suffering is.
2. Suffering is redemptive. At this very moment, while I sit quietly in dry, warm comfort, listening only to the wind and rain outside, our Soldiers are suffering, perhaps dying, far away. I realize they’re giving themselves and by their suffering they’re saving others’ lives. I really don’t understand why that is, but I do know that is HOW it is. I do not begin to have a mind or heart large enough to understand why God would allow His only Son to suffer as He did. And through that suffering He made the truth of John 3:16 the means by which our estrangement from Him can be ended and our redemption accomplished.
I’m very interested in what your thoughts are about Job’s “comeback.” If you haven’t found yourself mirrored in his, or Moses’ or Joseph’s lives, stay with me as we continue our study of God’s Comeback Kids.
And, just for the record, if you and I learn from the “Comeback Kids” and apply the same principles in our own situations, you and I can become one of them!
God’s servant, your friend, brother and fellow student ~donkimrey
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