After years of reflection from a “sick-bed,” I have found some basic fun conclusions in God’s Word. After all of my whining, complaining, blaming, despair and distress, there is still great hope. Life simply is not going to make sense at every turn but God will always make a way. He is always there through the things we cannot sort out for ourselves and in our questions of life. Lately I have enjoyed what the Bible has to say about the reflections of the miseries of life. As always, it ends on a hope-filled note.
The books of Job and Ecclesiastes are not very popular places but very fascinating once I got my focus there. I have read both before, several times, during prior tough times. This time was different.
I moved through the commentary of how tough life is, how we question everything, even our own existence and why God would bother creating us in the first place for this kind of misery, and moved on to focusing on the conclusions of both Job and Ecclesiastes.
This time around, it became clearer. In the helplessness of intense chronic illness, pain and effects of trauma, I was able to focus on the conclusions, not the current state of affairs. I found some “fun” in the process and certainly great hope!!!
In the Book of Job we learn of his distress over losing everything. He lost all ten of his children, his livelihood, his servants, his land, his possessions, his home and then his health. He temporarily lost communication with God. His lamenting sounded too familiar to me but it was the conclusion that brought me right back to God, where I belong.
“7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch.15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” ~ Job 42:7-17 NIV
Even through the worse of what life has to dish out, things can get turned around because God allows it to be so. We cannot expect the exact outcome that Job received but we can learn how to handle these kinds of trials.
Anger: First Job was angry at Job’s friends for not speaking truth about him or God. Then God was angry at Job’s friends for not speaking truth about him. That tells me that anger is acceptable at times. Never to be the norm, but boy are there times when things are so wrong that speaking up in anger is appropriate.
Prayer: God tells Job to pray for his friends who did him wrong. Yep, Job is the victim in all of this and yet he is the one who needs to pray for the friends who did him wrong. This is a tough one but can be done. The results move the anger through us and love into us.
I always have to remind myself that the only way I can sincerely pray is in the state of forgiveness. It is impossible to pray sincerely for someone I refuse to forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful weapon against the wrongs of this life.
Blessings: It was only AFTER Job prayed for his friends, during his state of intense agony, that God blessed him.
Forgiveness: Not only did Job forgive his friends, he forgave his wife who earlier in the story said, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” ~ Job 2:9 NIV Accepting that others live their own sufferings allows us to stand in their shoes and forgive and move on. Job’s wife had also lost greatly and was overcome with grief.
Full of Years: The extreme trials in our lives do not need to be the end of our lives. As we move through and past these times of sorrow and pain, we can truly find great joy in our remaining years. We can be “full” with Jesus Christ which covers anything and everything that happens to us.
My daily walk:
I know I want the blessings that are specific to my life. So…. back to dealing with the anger and keep practicing forgiveness and pray repeatedly for the offenders. Only with the grace and mercy that God has shown me can I even begin to attempt such a thing.
In such a depressing book, God shows us how to move through and out of pain and suffering in our lives. In the end, it really did not matter how it all happened, or who did what. God shows us to let go of that kind of stuff. Instead focus on growing closer to him.
The author of Ecclesiastes also lamented over the misery of life. After repeatedly, and in great detail, being reminded how meaningless life is, the author gets to the glorious conclusion.
The Conclusion of the Matter
“9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd.12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.” ~ Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 NIV
Wisdom: The “Teacher,” who is the author of Ecclesiastes, had something of value to say both here and in the Book of Proverbs. He did not just spew out words in his time of lamenting on life, he truly pondered (with God) and searched out (with God) to find the right words therefore making them upright and true.
Through our pain and suffering we too can seek God for the wisdom that can come from such intense trials.
Warnings: Do not add to the wisdom of God!!! There are many current and past wise philosophers who have great insight. That is not the same as God’s wisdom and we are to remember that so we do not fall into the hands of misguided philosophy.
Duty: Keep it simple: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” What is the greatest commandment…. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:34-40 NIV
Judgement: God is in charge of all judgement, good and bad. Letting go of judgment can free us to live more fully for him. He can judge more harshly than we ever could. He also can bless more abundantly than we can imagine. Let God be the judge, not us.
My daily walk:
I want to find the wisdom that God can impart on me through my suffering, I desire to only seek truth so I need to keep MY nose in the Bible, I am to keep the greatest of all commandments of loving God then man and I have got to STOP judging. When I break it down like that it is not about my trials, it is about God.
Moving into Overflowing Joy of Generosity
Out of the Old Testament, into the New. Paul writes to the Corinthians about “overflowing joy” in the midst of severe trials.
“1And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” ~ 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 NIV
My daily walk:
How do I get to this “overflowing joy” when I am so severely wracked with my own troubles? Through giving!!! I have always been a “giver” but it is time for me to dig much deeper in that giving and find a rich generosity that can only come through Christ.
I have always used “giving” to relieve some of my immediate pains of life. In that giving, much good has come from it, some for others and some for me. Yet, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can reach deeper and find more meaningful generosity to share with others.
It is in that generosity that I will find overflowing joy, because it is only in the generosity of Christ that I am capable. His riches are ours for the taking, to pour on to others so we may all have the opportunity of overflowing joy.
God’s Word is Fun
Odd way to use the depths of despair to get to overflowing joy through generosity but it worked for me. As always, God brings us through those humbling experiences to see him more clearly.
As I wake every morning to a new day, I am faced with the knowledge that I still have opportunity to grow. Daily I want to find an eager willingness in serving others. Moving away from the grumbles and helplessness and into eager willingness to share the rich generosity that has been given to me by Jesus.
One never knows where God will take us while we are in his Bible and asking for revelations and insights. Daily he reminds me where he wants me to go for the day.
Today, I can feel the overflowing joy that will come as I learn to give with a greater generosity. He is so willing to share his riches as I learn to give more richly. I will practice that greater rich generosity starting today as it is so fresh in my mind and heart. How fun is that???
Are you gaining wisdom as you move through pain and suffering? Is God’s Word nourishing to you daily?
Dig Deeper, Grow More:
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Maribeth Baxter, MBNC (Certified Mind-Body Nourishment Coach)
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