Lessons From Job – It’s OK To Cry When It Hurts
Job is often considered a contradiction and debated. Some people find it comforting and others think Job was a complainer, someone who whined too much.
People who do not like Job will point to the many examples of Christians in the New Testament rejoicing as they suffered. Paul and Silas sang while sitting in the jail after being beaten. In Acts 5, the apostles are brought before the council and beaten for preaching the word of Jesus and they rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for Him.
So, many state we should smile and rejoice when we suffer, when we are tested. These people will point to the New Testament examples and claim that if we don't welcome our trials with joy then there is something wrong with us, that we're weak and our faith is lacking.
However, Job didn’t do that. Job didn’t celebrate and Job didn’t sing or rejoice. Job cried and prayed for death. He cursed the day he was born. He moaned and mourned for most of the book of Job.
Yet, the patience of Job is a common saying and is mentioned in the New Testament.
So, how was Job patient? How is he an example for us to follow rather rejoicing in the New Testament?
First, we need to understand: the suffering of Job was very different than the suffering of the apostles.
The apostles knew exactly why they were being beaten. The pain they bore was from human hands, caused by human fear. They were suffering because the council and the leaders were afraid of losing their power and used the beatings to try to silence the apostles and New Testament Christians. So, these people knew exactly why they were hurting and they willingly chose that pain. All they had to do to stop the pain was to stop preaching.
They chose to preach. They chose to suffer.
In contrast, Job didn’t know why he was suffering and he did not choose it.
Satan asked God for permission to test Job and God said yes but no one told Job about this.
Then, in one day, Job lost his wealth and his children.
Think about that.
We talk about the horror of a parent outliving a child, of a parent having to bury a child. Job buried 10 children in one day. TEN. In ONE day. From a sudden freak accident that had nothing to do with Job’s choices or even the children's choices.
I’ve seen and read about parents who have railed and screamed at God for one child being sick or in danger or dying. Yet, Job lost 10 children and his response was, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
When I read that phrase, I hear the agony and confusion in his voice but there is faith there. There is an acceptance that everything he has is God’s to do with as God chooses. That strength from a man suffering financial destitution as he stands at the side of ten fresh graves...that should give a person pause, make you think. Could you do that? Would your faith in God stand firm or be buried in the graves with your children?
Job still held to God. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Standing penniless beside the graves of of his children, Job has suffered more than any one person should suffer in a lifetime...But, it wasn't over.
Satan, angered by Job's faith, makes an excuse. “He still has his health.” So, God gives permission for Satan to inflict more suffering, anything Satan can devise short of death and Satan takes full advantage of that permission.
Job is now in constant pain, covered in sores.
Think back to the last really bad headache or toothache or backache you had. How did you feel? Were you able to sleep? Eat? Do anything except hurt? Do you remember praying for it to end, the misery as you waited for some kind of relief? Job hurt worse than that. Every inch of his body was in pain with no relief even as he scratched himself with a pottery shard.
This poor man is mourning ten children and is in such pain that he probably can’t sleep, maybe only barely eat. He can’t work and try to distract himself. He can’t take joy in watching his children or hire someone to distract him because he is financially destitute.
Now, remember, this was a good man. Job has done everything right. He has not just lived a good life. He was living the most righteous life of that time. There is no earthly reason for this to be happening to him...but it is.
He probably thinks it can’t get any worse...But, it does.
His wife, his partner, the person who committed to a life beside him urges him to curse God so he can be struck dead.
At this point, as far as he can see, as far as he can feel, he is alone and suffering and there is no earthly reason why.
But, he does not rail or scream or curse God. Even in his pain and mourning, he answers his wife, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)
He challenges his wife and us, should we only love and rejoice in the Lord when everything is going right then curse Him when things suddenly don’t go our way? Job is calling such an attitude foolish because he understands that either God is always in control, good times and bad, or God is never in control.
But, it’s as bad as it can get now, right? No.
Society in the form of his friends shows up. They intended to bring comfort but, instead, they have no words. They look at him and are so horrified at the sight of him that they are speechless for seven days and nights.
Job is alone even surrounded by people. There is no earthly source of comfort. His friends only reflect his pain. He has nothing. And now, only now, Job cries out. He curses the day he was born, lamenting that he has a life because, now, all breath is pain.
But, it gets worse still.
Once his friends find their voice, they encourage him to confess his sin. They tell him he must have done something to deserve this because bad things don’t happen to good people. They insist he is hiding some sin.
This harmful belief is still in full force today. We repeat it with simple, thoughtless statements: What goes around, comes around. He/she will get his/hers some day. I can’t wait for karma to kick in.
Each of these statements support the false belief that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.
So, his friends believe Job must have done something evil to deserve this but Job says he hasn’t because...well, Job hasn’t.
Job even challenges them to look through his life, question everyone and see if they can find the answer to their own question. He begs them to tell him when he has done wrong because he can’t remember having done anything. He is so desperate for relief, for a reason for his suffering that he is asking the people around him, “What have I done? Please, if you know, tell me so I can make it right.”
No one can think of even one small thing that he has done wrong because he hasn’t done any evil.
These horrible things are happening to a good man who is now isolated from any earthly support by the belief that bad things just don’t happen to good people.
Only now, when he is alone and isolated and rejected, when he is being told by those closest to him that he is secretly evil and that he should curse God and die, when he hasn’t slept in who knows how long, when he hurts so much he probably isn’t eating right if he even can eat through his misery, when he has been condemned by all around him only on the evidence that he is suffering, only now does he scream to God.
But, note this, he doesn’t scream AT God. He doesn’t rail and condemn God. He cries out TO God. He begs to know why. He prays to die, for the suffering to end, even for just an answer to explain why. In an earthly existence now void of comfort or support, he cries out his pain to God begging for something, anything, that might bring him some relief.
And, here’s the most important part, God responded. He did not condemn Job for a lack of patience or faith. He did not condemn Job for crying out, for begging for it to end, for mourning his loss, his existence, for giving voice to his pain. God responded and spoke to Job.
He didn’t give Job the answer Job wanted and He didn’t lessen Job’s suffering during this interaction. But, God let Job know that he was not alone, not abandoned.
God reassured Job of His power and His control. He reminded Job that God is God and, because of that, His reasoning can not be understood by humans. Job just needed to remember that God is in control and He knows what He’s doing and should be trusted to do what is best for us whether we understand it or not.
And Job...accepted this. Job took reassurance in God’s power. Without an explanation and without the removal of his suffering, Job found peace in God’s presence...and never, once, not even a little bit, not even for a moment, did Job rail at God or challenge God’s will. He pleaded and begged for that will to change but he never cursed God. He never turned from God. He never gave up on God.
And God rewarded Job’s faithfulness, his patience, with more than Job had before.
In modern times, we equate patience with smiling and singing and being pleasant through trying times. Job shows us, that’s not true patience. Patience is being at the very end of your rope without even enough left to tie a knot, and holding on anyway.
Through it all, Job held onto his knowledge that God had the power and the authority and the right to do whatever God chooses.
Job shows that bad things happen to good people and we shouldn’t judge someone’s heart and soul by the circumstances of their lives. We have plenty of popular, rich, successful men on trial for vile behavior and we have good people who worked hard all their life struggling to make ends meet. God’s ways are not our ways and if He decides that the best thing for a Christian is to suffer a debilitating disease or lose a young child...It is His right to do it. He has a reason and we may never understand it but we must accept it and hold to our faith in God's wisdom and greatness.
But, we don’t have to accept it with a smile and a stiff upper lip.
When it hurts, we are allowed to cry out in our pain to God. It’s OK.
Job did it and received comfort.
Someone else did too.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, the perfect man, the spotless lamb, cried out to God in tears and emotional agony. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew the pain and the abandonment that was coming. He wasn’t looking forward to being beaten bloody. He wasn’t rejoicing that He was going to be nailed to a cross. He wasn’t thrilled that he was going to be buried in all of humanity’s sin so He cried out to His Father and asked “Let this cup pass from me”.
Jesus cried out but he also accepted that it wouldn’t pass. That this was God’s plan. That His suffering was necessary and He bowed to God’s will. Now, He sits on the right hand of God in Paradise.
When you’re suffering and you don’t know why, you can cry and ask that it go away. You can ask God why and tell Him how much it hurts. You’re allowed to.
But, after the tears dry, when it’s time to rise from your knees and face the world, it must be with the understanding that God is in control and this pain, whatever it is, will be used by God for good if you remain patient and faithful.
Job’s suffering is used for good when it reminds us that bad things happen to good people, that we should not judge a person’s heart by their success or trials, that it’s OK to cry when it hurts but, even through the dark times, we must continue to obey even when we don’t understand.
God gives and God takes away, blessed be the Lord.
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