Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22

Job 4:1-7:21; 1 Corinthians 14:18-40; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 21:27

So now we begin with the conversation back and forth between Job and his three “friends.” Thus far, they have done pretty well at being supportive and comforting friends. They sat in silence with him for 7 days and just mourned with him. They probably should have left it at that because they went downhill from there. Now the friends begin conversations that don’t bring healing or comfort, but actually make things worse for Job in his grieving process.  

Have you ever had that happen to you? Have you ever been in deep grief and had someone come up and just say the wrong thing? It hurts, it’s hard. Have you ever been the one to say the word when you probably should have just stayed silent?

Job’s friends probably think they are speaking words of truth to him. In fact, there is a lot of truth in what they are saying. “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8).  Well, I have to agree with that. “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (5:8-9). Yes, also a true statement.

But not what Job needs to hear. And maybe it’s not even totally true to his particular situation.  I am learning, as the years go by, that words, even true words, can sometimes bring more harm than good. The times in my life when I have been most discouraged, or saddened, or deeply grieving, I don’t really remember what those closest to me said, I remember what they did. I remember the tears they shed with me, I remember the touch and the hand-holding they did with me, I remember the feeling of companionship as they entered into my grief and confusion.

I do remember some words. I remember the wrong words people said. I remember the further pain those words brought. They were not harsh words. They were not mean words. They were just the wrong words at the wrong time. I remember thinking, “Why would they say such a thing to me right now, when I know they really do care?”

As a pediatric nurse with oncology patients, I have seen the power of silent companionship in grief. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, you can say to a mom or dad who is watching a child suffer from cancer and chemotherapy treatments. All I can offer is kindness and presence in grief. 

I have a vivid memory of this silent presence in grief I will share quickly. The summer after my last year of college, I was working away at a Christian camp as the camp nurse for the summer. I was unclear where God was taking me next and feeling confused and lost. On one of my nights off, I remember going out to the parking lot to my car to find some privacy (as you know that is something there is not much of at camps for Jr. and High schoolers), and do some praying and seeking. I ended up crying, or rather, sobbing. I wasn’t even sure why then, and still don’t remember the nature of my thoughts or prayers at the time. I just felt lost.  I remember a middle-aged African American woman coming up to the car and asking me if I was okay. I just shook my head yes because I really didn’t want to talk to a stranger about it. Well, she just opened the door and leaned in and gave me a big hug. She held me like that for several minutes while I just continued to sob and cry, and all she said was, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus……” It was one of the most comforting and profound gifts anyone has ever given me. I didn’t even know her name. But, in the midst of my pain and sorrow, she held me in the presence of Jesus.

- Mary Matthias

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Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21

Job 1:1-3:26; 1 Corinthians 14:1-17; Psalm 37:12-29; Proverbs 21:25-26

Esther has written previously about her response to difficult Scriptures: consult a commentary or two in order to unpack what's really going on.  I can't think of many books more difficult than Job.  It seems like God is offering Job to Satan as a guinea pig, and there's so much suffering (I cannot imagine the loss), and there's even a second round of disaster, not to mention an unsupportive wife and, later, unhelpful friends.  So many hard things.  There was nothing else for me to do but go off to the commentaries.

I'm so glad I did.  Some very interesting bits that I'd never have seen or considered:
  • Satan has access to heaven and is in some sort of relationship with God (Job 1:6; 2:1).  I find this disconcerting.  Why would Satan present himself before God?
  • Satan's response to God's question ("From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it" [Job 1:7 and 2:2]) is not a vague answer trying to avoid trouble, like a teenager home late on curfew.  His words are actually more like a challenge to God.  He's boasting of surveying the domain he considers his: the earth and its inhabitants.  Twice.
  • God's next speech to Satan reminds Satan of true reality: the earth is the Lord's and everything in it (see 1 Cor. 10:26).  As an example, he mentions Job.  Though Satan may have dominion over the earth, God's people and plan are yet unpolluted.  Way to go, Job, that you could stand as an example (see Job 1:8 - "no one on earth like him...blameless...upright")!
  • Satan accuses Job of deep, essential selfishness.  He sneers that Job only follows God for what God can give him (Job 1:9-11) and then slanders Job's character further by supposing that his grief over the loss of his wealth and children is mitigated by the relief he feels over his own survival (2:4-5).  How awful.
  • God throws Satan's words back in his face.  The Hebrew word for "without any reason" (Job 2:3) is the same word that Satan uses in 1:9 "for nothing."
  • Job is truly extraordinary.  While his wife (who, let us notice, experiences the same calamities that Job does) fulfills Satan's predictions ("he will surely curse you to your face" [Job 1:11, 2:5]) with her response (see 2:9), Job does not.  He does not ask, "Why me?," but instead considers, "Why not me?"  What a statement to say at such a time: "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (2:10)
  • His friends, for all the bad press they'll get later on, do some very good mourning with Job, as the New Testament urges.  They weep with him, adopt the same mourning distinctions (torn robes, ashed heads), and sit with him in silence for days.
The ultimate question in Job is whether or not Job will worship and trust in the midst of his undeserved suffering.  It is an equally apt question for our world and our lives.

As an aside, scholars think that Job may have been afflicted with pemphigus.  Here's the Wikipedia link for those of you who are medically minded, click here.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.