This is my last post for this guest spot, and I hope you’ll bear with me while I get a little less “writerly” and talk about something that’s close to my heart in the faith life. Many of my characters have to hit bottom and wonder where God is in the middle of mess … and so I wrote something to help me think through what my characters need to hear. Of course it’s based on my personal experiences with tough times. Hope you don’t find it too preachy! But here’s an example of the things I say to my characters when they are struggling with loss and pain:
We Christians talk a lot about promises, and we speak often of the promises in the Bible. But we don’t always want to “claim” them all. I know I don’t. You know the ones I mean … the ones that say “in this world you WILL have tribulation” and “WHEN you encounter various trials.” I have a couple of beloved friends who are going through some horrific trials right now. I imagine you do, too.
Years ago another beloved friend of mine who was going through a health trial taught a series of lessons on the book of Job. It changed my life. I didn’t know it then, but those lessons were preparing me for my own season of trial. Oh, it was nothing like Job’s, but there was a year when the dog ran away, my best friend died, my parents died within six weeks of each other, my husband was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, my youngest daughter spent weeks and weeks very ill with mysterious problems that were eventually diagnosed as a chronic disease, and my oldest daughter and I were hit head-on by a driver who had a heart attack and crossed the center line. Honestly, that is all relatively “nothing” compared to what Job endured. But it still made me feel like I was in an ocean of fairly strong waves being drawn out to sea by a rip tide.
Largely because of Job, I hung on. Here’s why:
Was Job an allegory? No. Why not? Because if Job was an allegory, then maybe Jesus was an allegory. The Bible either stands or falls as a whole. It is ALL true truth that we can depend on. What do we learn from Job? That righteous men suffer horribly and that what is "really" going on is far more than we can see with our human eyes and understand with our human minds. That there is mystery and cause and effect beyond anything we can imagine ... and that it all winds up in the same place. With the I Am. Job never got the answers to his questions "why" beyond "I am God and there is no other." I doubt that Job felt that that was enough sometimes. But in the end, it was. Job put his hand over his mouth and went on to live his life, content as far as we can know with the unanswered questions which would only be answered when Job crossed the divide from “here” to “there.” Another thing Job taught me was that we can even get so terribly overwrought that, like Job’s wife, we want to curse God and die. And you know what? God can take it. He still doesn’t let go. I feel sorry for Job’s wife, because the one thing that we know about her isn’t very complementary. She told her husband to just curse God and die. What did I learn from her? That God can take it. And that He still loves us, because Job’s wife was blessed with plenty and family again. Isn’t that wonderful? That gives me hope on the days when I feel like perhaps I’ve been too doubtful … too whiney … too … something. If I belong to God, then He never never never never never never never lets go. Praise Him!
Why did Job and Mrs. Job have to go through that? One of the reasons was to strengthen our faith thousands of years later. When we are at the bottom ... we can KNOW without a doubt that this suffering is NOT because we did something wrong. Because of Job. We can know that God does NOT abandon His children, even though they whine and rail and get angry and cry out "why" and doubt and wonder and weep. Because of Job. We can know that there is a greater purpose. Because of Job. We can rest in NOT KNOWING the greater purpose. Because of Job. Without Job, IMHO there’d be a huge hole in the Word of God to His children. To me Job says, "I am doing a work. Trust me. Be willing to accept the mystery and live with ME as your answer. I will strengthen you. I am you true friend when all other friends fail. I will never leave you." That's what Job's about IMHO. That's what Job shows us in ways that no other book does because of the devastating loss he endured and the fact that he didn't sing through it all about how faithful God was. He felt every loss and cried out to God over and over and over again ... and God heard and answered. Job to me is about hanging on when nothing else makes any sense at all. Job is about the all-out faith that says, "Lord, I believe ... help my unbelief."
So if you are hurting today … if a friend is hurting … hang on. It’s OK to be honest with God about how you feel about things. He didn’t abandon Job and He won’t abandon us. Ever. Now THAT’S a promise I love claiming!