Tag Archives: Job

Barren

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It is not a question of God allowing or not allowing things to happen. It is part of living. Chip Brogden.

The question of suffering is, really, the only unanswered Question that really matters. Every theological construct unravels in the face of undeserved suffering. Even truth feels trite in the teeth of deep pain. Those who live long enough to see darkness overshadow glory wonder if it can really be true that a world exists that can make fallenness un-true. Is there really an eternity where I will not be defined by my Question, my loss, my suffering? We all ask the Question differently, with our specific queries, like –

Why do I miscarry my babies somewhere in the fifth week of pregnancy while all around me mothers procreate at will?  

That is my Question. Well, one of them.

I used to cling to Bible stories.  Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson’s parents, Hannah, the Shunammite woman, Elizabeth.  The Bible bloats with barren women who gave birth to miracle babies who advanced the Kingdom of God. I used to pray with flamboyant boldness to be a Hannah – to birth my miracle baby then a family full.  Lord, I know you have given us two miracles, but, O, Lord, I cannot let go of my strong belief that our family is not complete. There is a hole in our family.  An emptiness.  After four miscarriages, I started to dwell on other stories.  A planet distended with childless women who never held a miracle.  Instead, they wept the empty, unanswered tears of a Question. To them, perhaps I have no right to my Question, and I do not blame them.

Why do I miscarry my babies somewhere in the fifth week of pregnancy while all around me mothers procreate at will?

One Daniel rescued from the den of lions; forty Roman catacombs swollen with the decayed bones of martyrs fed to the lions.  Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the Widow of Nain’s son raised from the dead; millions of lost loved ones buried in dust while Jesus walked out His mission.  Half a million people miraculously saved from Egyption slavery; half a million people perished in the wilderness without laying eyes on the Promised Land.

There are more unanswered Questions than intervening miracles.

What are we to learn from this? That our response to what happens is more important than what happens. Here is a mystery: one man’s experience drives him to curse God, while another man’s identical experience drives him to bless God. Chip Brogden.

I read Job in my quiet times now.  Job is bloody, slashed with gaping theological wounds, like raw meat. There is no book like Job for Questions.

 My complaint today is still a bitter one,
and I try hard not to groan aloud.
If only I knew where to find God,
I would go to his court.
I would lay out my case
and present my arguments. Job 23:2-3.

Everybody deals with the Question of suffering in their own way.  Cynicism, idealism, political justice, personal vengeance, nihilism, suicide, addiction, a cause, denial, grief, rage, hedonism, philosophy.  What I love about Job is that its haunting archetypal Question does not end with answers.

It ends with worship.

It ends with God revealing Himself, and Job responding on His face.  Job has just flamed endless savage rage, and God simply acknowledges his pain, then tells Job Who He Is.

Isn’t that how the cancer of suffering heals?  Not with resolution, but with recognition.  The stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  We cannot un-suffer; our story is what it is.  We make our peace with the grief of our story in our own ways.  I cannot make your peace for you; that was Job’s friends’ mistake (well, one mistake among many).  For me, I choose to worship.

Job’s wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Shall I accept only the amount of miracle children I desire, but not less than that?  Shall I accept the story of Hannah, but not the story of a barren mother?  Shall I accept the miracle, but not the emptiness?

Why do I miscarry my babies somewhere in the fifth week of pregnancy while all around me mothers procreate at will?  

Shall I accept the Answer, but not the Question?

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Grace

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If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than the one you accepted, let him be condemned!  Gal.1:9.

This year I am reading through the Bible with a group of rock star ladies from Vanguard Church.  We are the Journey Girls, a little band of women who made a mutual commitment to read the greatest love story ever told in 356 days.  (We have a facebook page, so we are legit AND connected.) Many of the women are reading straight through, but Dreamy Scott and I (he is not a Journey Girl, but he’s allowed to read the Bible too, we decided) are on a different plan.  We, being iChristians, put One Year Bibles on our e-readers.  We read a bit of the Old Testament, a bit of the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb or two together every night before bed.  Its a splendid system and we might just do it again every year.  Thank you, iNation.

Right now I am swimming in the depths of Job.  Have you read Job lately?  It is a wild storm story, wave upon heavy crashing wave of turmoil and chaos, swirling madly into a vortex with a center deep and still.  It is a book of ferocious mercy.  Some scholars believe that Job is an allegory, a parable about how to suffer righteously.  I remain unconvinced.  Job is too turbulent, too complex to be an allegory.  It is too raw.  Parables are straightforward, one-dimensional.  That is just fine, because parables exist to teach moral lessons.  Job has no moral lesson – except grace.  Grace is, at heart, the opposite of a moral lesson.  Grace is undeserved.  Job was a man who raged against the full power of earth and hell in order to plant his embattled feet on grace. Have you read Job lately?  Read Job if you are fighting to believe in grace.

The story of Job is this:  Satan presents himself to the Lord with a taunt:  There is none righteous.  None who seeks for God.  God replies, Have you considered my servant Job?  And thus begins the story of fathomless loss in a righteous man’s life.

Satan, with God’s permission, takes everything – Job’s livelihood, his reputation, his wealth, his glory, his family, his health.  He is left with a smoldering crater of a life, a body pocked with festering boils, a decimated wife who urges him to curse God and die.  And his friends.  They started well. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud…Then they sat on the ground with him for 7 days and 7 nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.  Job 2:12-13.

If they had stopped there, I might believe that Job is an allegory.  Just skip 38 chapters, land on Job 40 and tie it all up with a big red bow.  The end.  Job = good guy, bad life, God intervenes, God re-blesses because we have all learned a valuable lesson here.  Ta-DA!!

But instead, those three friends open their mouths and they spew out the same graceless razor-lies that the people of God speak over each other to this day.  This much suffering must have a cause.  A good and gracious god would not allow this unless there was a reason. There is no smoke without fire – let me help you trace the lines of sin in your life.  Then god will fix it all.  Let’s control and manage this suffering together, because, somehow, this is your own fault.  Has anyone flattened you with that before?  Worse, have you rolled over anyone with it?

Lies.  And Job, bleeding his shattered life, rejected their self-righteous vapor with the vigorous fist of a passionate faith.  Weeping in agony, Job railed against his suffering, against his friends, even, at times, against God.  He begged God to kill him, to vindicate him, anything to escape the teeth of loss and grief that were chewing him alive. Yet Job knew that God was not punishing him.  He rejected the cobweb lie that suffering = condemnation.  He held on to his integrity; he gripped the mercy of God with tentacles of trust.  When Eliphaz smugly oozed, AsI have observed, those who sow trouble reap it. Job 4:8, Job countered, He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the Almighty. Job 6:14.  Boo-ya.

Job’s friends clung with hooked claws to their cracked theology for 38 long chapters & 3 rounds of dialogue.  They believed that we earn either suffering or reward.  No room in the Inn. Paying customers only.  No room for undeserved suffering. Therefore, no room for undeserved mercy. No space for grace.

If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’ and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’ be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment. Job 19:28-29.

What brings the wrath of God?  Those who oppose grace.  If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than the one you accepted, let him be condemned!  Gal.1:9.  God’s ire flames against those who preach against a merciful salvation.

Do you have any of Job’s friends?  I do.  It hurts.  So I have a choice to sink into their expectations or stand, like Job, under the shadow of my Redeemer.  For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold Him, and not another.  Job 19:25-27.

Beth Moore says, Some believers have the maturity to help free us from our grave clothes, and others just keep picking up everything we dare to shed and handing it back to us.  God Almighty has dressed us in dazzling white linen, bright and pure, which is the righteous acts of the saints (Rev.19:8).  Do not wear the clothes of the dead; stand in confidence, wearing the Redeemer’s living linen.  He has bought us back from the grave.  Stand, like Job, on living, breathing grace.