Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Job which describes the suffering of Job the servant of the LORD, and the struggle and conflict in the midst of the suffering. More specifically, today’s passages is found in chapters twelve through fifteen of this Old Testament book. THE CONFLICT IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! THE STRUGGLE IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! THE CONFUSION IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! THE QUESTIONS IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! “Why died I not from the womb?” “Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?” “Why did the knees prevent me?” “Or why the breath that I should suck?” Where is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?” Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass?” “Or loweth the ox over his fodder?” “Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt?” “Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” “What is my strength, that I should hope?” “And what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?” “Is my strength the strength of stones?” “Or is my flesh of brass?” “Is not my help in me?” “And is wisdom driven quite from me?” “Did I say, Bring unto me?” “Or, Give a reward for me of your substance?” “Or, Deliver me from the enemy’s hand?” “Or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty?” “But what doth your arguing reprove?” “Do you imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind?” Is there iniquity in my tongue?” “Cannot my taste discern perverse things?” “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?” “Are not his days also like the days of an hireling?” “When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone?” “Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?” “What is man, that thou should East magnify him?” “And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?” “And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?” “How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?” “I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men?” “Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?” “And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?” “But how should man be just with God?” “Who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?” “Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him?” “Who will say unto him, What doest thou?” “How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?” “If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?” “If not, where, and who is he?” “If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain?” “Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked?” “Hast thou eyes of flesh?” “Or seest thou as the days of man?” “Are thy years as man’s days, that thou inquirest after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin?” “And wilt thou bring me into dust again?” “Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?” “Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb?” “Are not my days few?” “Yea, who knoweth not such things as these?” “Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?” “Doth not the ear try words?” “And the mouth taste his meat?” “Will ye speak wickedly for God?” “And talk deceitfully for him?” “Will ye accept his person?” “Will ye contend for God?” “Is it good that He should search you out?” “Or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him?” “Shall not his excellency make you afraid?” “And his dread fall upon you?” “Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand?” “How many are mine iniquities and sins?” “Wherefore hi Dest. Thou thy face, and boldest me for thine enemy?” “Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and for?” “And wilt thou pursue the day stubble?” “And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?” “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” “But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” “If a man die, shall he live again?” “Dost thou not watch over my sin?”
THE QUESTIONS IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! THE COMPLAINTS IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! THE CONFUSION IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! THE DEBATE IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! THE CONFLICT IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN GOD IS SILENT AND YOUR FRIENDS ARE LOUD? WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN GOD IS SILENT AND THE WORDS OF YOUR “FRIENDS” SEEM LIKE WORDS FROM AN ENEMY? WHEN COMPLAINTS IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING ARE MET WITH CONDEMNATION! The more I read the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament book of Job, the more I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the reality that while this book is indeed a book about the suffering which Job faced and experienced in the midst of his life, it is also a book about the tremendous conflict in the midst of suffering. We would like to think that our suffering quite honestly is the only thing we can and will face within this life, and yet the truth of the matter is that if you read and study the narrative of Job you will find that this simply isn’t the case. The Old Testament book of Job is the first of five poetic books found in the Old Testament, and in all reality, it sets the tone and sets the stage for the book which comes immediately after it. If and as you read the words which are written and recorded within the book of the Psalms you will find that a vast majority of it was written by David—not only during the days when he was king over the nation of Israel, but also during the years leading up to his being king over the nation of Israel. In all reality, the Old Testament book of the Psalms is a powerful narrative about the struggles, the conflicts, the trials and troubles David and the other authors faced within and throughout the course of their lives. You cannot read the book of the Psalms and not be almost immediately confronted with the fact that it is filled with desperate cries and desperate pleas in the midst of the suffering and struggle which the psalmists faced. You cannot read this Old Testament book and not be immediately gripped and captivated with and by the fact the psalmists and authors who penned much of the Psalms wrestled within their souls, wrestled within their hearts, wrestled within their minds, and wrestled within their spirits while experiencing and being in the throes of what they were facing. We tend to think that our suffering only touches the outward and external being, and yet the truth of the matter is that Scripture seems to indicate something else altogether and entirely different from that reality. We dare not, we cannot, we must not allow ourselves to get caught up in the external nature and manifestation of suffering and not be directly confronted with the very real impact that suffering has within our inner beings.
As I read the words which are written and recorded within the Old Testament book of Job, I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the fact that while it was indeed true Job suffered in the flesh, there was this intense struggle and conflict which was experienced and faced within his heart and within his soul. Upon reading the words found within the Old Testament book of Job you will quickly realize that while the first two chapters describe the suffering which Job experienced within his flesh, and even within and in the midst of his maternal possessions and family—the remaining chapters almost seem to describe something else entirely. When we come to the third chapter of this Old Testament book we find the initial manifestation of suffering having taken place within the life of Job, for not only did he lose virtually all his possessions, and not only were all ten of his children killed in a freak accident, but so also was Job’s physical body impacted and affected by suffering as Scripture reavers how Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with sore boils from the crown of his head to the souls of his feet. When you come to the end and conclusion of the second chapter of the book of Job you will find Job with a potsherd with which he used to scrape himself, and sitting down among the ashes. By the time you come to the end of the second chapter you will find Job—not at the altar of sacrifice where he had made sacrifices, nor even within his own house and home, but rather sitting among the ashes. What’s more, is that when you come to the final verses of the second chapter of the book of Job you will find that Job had three friends which made an appointment with each other to come unto Job to mourn with him and to comfort him. What is so incredibly interesting about this narrative is when you consider the fact that as they lifted up their eyes afar off, and did not know or recognize Job, they lefties up their voice, and wept. Moreover, every man rent his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. If you continue reading, you will find that these three friends of Job sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights without anyone speaking a word unto him. Please note that the reason and purpose for their sitting with Job upon the ground in silence for seven days and seven nights is that they saw that his grief was very great.
The second chapter of the Old Testament book of Job finds Job sitting among the ashes, and his friends sitting with him on the ground. Before Job’s three friends would sit down with Job on the ground—perhaps even among the ashes—they lifted up their voices and wept, they rent every man his mantle, and they sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. What a powerful sense of transition and transformation had taken place from the opening verses of the first chapter to the final verses of the second chapter, for in the opening verses of this book we find that Job was a man who was perfect and upright in the sight of the LORD his God, and a man who feared God and shunned evil. What’s more, is that we learn and discover that Job was a man who had much possessions, which the LORD had blessed him with, as well as ten children which were born unto him by his wife. The final verses of the second chapter, however, describe a man who not only seemed to have lost everything, but whose physical body—perhaps the one thing he felt he had left in this life—was also touched and effected. By the time you come to the end of the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Job you will find Job in the place where he believed that he had but one thing left in this life, and that was his own life. Here was a man who had lost all his possessions, here was a man who experienced the sudden and tragic deaths of all his children, and here we also find a man whose physical body was touched by physical sores and boils from the top of his head the soles of his feet. What’s more, is that the suffering of Job—in all reality—came without warning, without any type of advanced notice, and without any declaration that it was going to come. Please don’t miss this reality, for Job had absolutely no time to prepare himself, nor make himself ready for that which he would face. This is something which we cannot and must not miss and ignore, for more often than not—when suffering lays hold of and comes upon us within this life, it comes upon us suddenly and without warning. Very rarely—if ever—does the LORD our God speak to us and prepare us for the suffering we are going to face and experience in this life, and although Scripture indicates how the LORD revealed and spoke unto Ananias how much Saul was going to suffer for the sake of the name of Christ, there is not indication the LORD immediately revealed that to Saul whose named would be changed to Paul. We know that from the time of the conversion of Saul he was destined to be an apostle unto the Gentiles, but we also know that he was going to suffer much for the sake of the name of Jesus the Christ within this life.
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for while it is true that suffering more often than not comes without warning and without advanced notice, we find in the first epistle which was written by the apostle Peter that we are almost to expect and anticipate suffering and struggle within this life. What’s more, is that through the words of the apostle Peter we find him emphatically instructing his audience and his readers to not be surprised when they face and experience suffering in this life, as though it was something strange that was happening to them. I have to admit that the words which we find written in the first epistle which was written by the apostle Peter is a tremendous challenge to us concerning our mindset and our perception in the midst of suffering, for the apostle encourages his readers and his audience to not be surprised, to not be caught off guard, and to not be taken back by the suffering they face and experience within this life, but rather they should almost expect and anticipate it. In fact, if you remember correctly, it was Jesus the Christ who emphatically and boldly declared unto the twelve disciples that in this life they would face many trials, but not to fear, for He had overcome the world. What’s more, is that when Jesus was preparing to depart and return unto His Father, He set forth to prepare His disciples—not only for remaining within and upon the earth, but also to face tremendous and intense suffering, opposition, affliction and persecution. As Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure, He did not prepare them for a life of comfort, nor a life of ease, but rather, He prepared them to be hated of all nations for His name’s sake, and for tremendous and intense persecution. It might very well be said that Jesus prepared His disciples to face and experience suffering within this life, and to not be surprised by it as though something strange were happening to them. Moreover, Jesus would go on to reveal that He told them of these things in advance that they might know that He had indeed spoken to them, and that they would be prepared for the suffering they would face. With that being said, I invite you to consider the words which are written and recorded in the fourth chapter of the first epistle which was written by the apostle Peter who heard these words which were spoken by Jesus:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoers, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
As you read these words which the apostle Peter wrote unto the saints which had been scattered throughout the nations, peoples and lands during that time, you will find him emphatically instructing and encouraging his readers and his audience to not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try them. Pause for a moment before moving any further in this section, for with these words the apostle Peter would instruct his readers and his audience to not look at the suffering and affliction they are facing and have faced, and consider it to be something strange, or something unusual or out of the ordinary. It’s important that we recognize this, for the words which the apostle Peter almost seem to suggest and speak of suffering as a normal way of the Christian life, and something which we should be surprised if we don’t face or experience it. There are those who mighty very well be surprised when they face and experience suffering and affliction, and yet the truth of the matter is that the words which the apostle Peter wrote seem to suggest and speak of a great reality of our being surprised if we don’t experience and face suffering within his life. Stop and consider that reality—the reality that rather than be surprised if and/or when we face and experience suffering and affliction we are surprised by it, we are surprised if we don’t experience or face suffering and affliction. A thought I can’t help but be arrested by right now at this very moment is whether or not we might need to take a good, long and hard look at ourselves if we are not experiencing suffering in this life, and ask us if we are truly and indeed Christian. Please note that I am not in any way suggesting that our entire lives in Christ, and our entire walk with Christ needs to be characterized by suffering. What I am instead speaking of is the reality that if we profess to walk with and follow Jesus the Christ and we aren’t experiencing and/or facing any type of suffering—we might have to ask ourselves whether or not we are truly walking with the Lord whom we profess to serve and worship. One of the things you will notice about the suffering of Job is that not only did Scripture describe Job as a perfect and upright man who feared God and shunned evil, but we also find the LORD emphatically proclaiming and declaring Job to be perfect and upright in the earth, and a man who feared God and shunned evil. What’s more, is that you will go on to find and read concerning Job that not only did the LORD speak of and declare Job to be perfect and upright once, but He would declare this to be true of Job a second time. Moreover, we find the LORD making this declaration unto Satan the accuser and adversary, as well as before the sons of God who came and appeared before Him.
When we read the Old Testament book of Job we have the benefit of knowing the whole narrative and account of the life of Job, and we have the advantage of having the first two chapters of the book which describe for us that the source of Job’s suffering wasn’t even merely Satan attacking his possessions, wasn’t Satan attacking his family, nor was it even Satan attacking his physical body with sore boils from his head to his feet. In all reality, we might very well say that the source of Job’s suffering was his own righteousness in the sight of and before the God whom he served. Though Job did not know that it was his righteousness that was the source of his suffering, we, however, have the advantage of knowing that it was truly and indeed his righteousness that served as the grounds and the foundation for the suffering which He faced and experienced within this life. I fully and absolutely recognize and realize that this goes against everything we have been taught to think about and believe concerning suffering, for we have been taught to believe that our righteousness is somehow a safeguard from suffering within this life. We have been taught to believe that our righteousness—or our perceived righteousness in our own eyes—is somehow a barrier that exists between us and affliction, trouble and trials in the midst of this life. The truth of the matter, however, is that more often than not it is our righteousness which is the foundation—perhaps even the very source of our suffering and affliction. Job didn’t suffer because there was sin in his life, nor did Job suffer because the LORD had weighed him in the balances and found him wanting. Job didn’t suffer because he had somehow sinned and transgressed against the LORD, and was now being punished by the LORD for his sin(s). Despite the fact that Job’s three friends seemed to think and believe that Job was suffering because of some secret or presumptuous sin within his life—we learn from Scripture that Job suffered because he was indeed and was in fact righteous before and in the sight of the living God. In other words, it’s almost as if righteousness was the invitation for suffering. WHEN RIGHTEOUSNESS INVITES SUFFERING! THE INVITATION OF SUFFERING THROUGH RIGHTEOUSNESS! The book of Job is actually truly astonishing and remarkable when you take the time to think about it, for within this book we seem to encounter and come face to face with the reality that Job’s suffering seemed to be a direct result of his righteousness in the sight of the living God, for it was the LORD Himself who acknowledged his righteousness before Him in this life. With the accuser standing before him with and among the sons of God—not only did the LORD ask Satan if he had considered His servant Job, but the LORD also professed and proclaimed in the hearing of the accuser that Job was indeed a perfect and upright man who feared God and shunned evil.
Perhaps one of the greatest things that so amazes me about the narrative that is found in the Old Testament poetic book of Job is that the suffering of Job not only came as a result of his righteousness, but it also came without advanced warning and without advanced notice. Job had absolutely no time to prepare and make himself ready for the suffering he was about to walk through, for it would come upon him suddenly and quickly. It’s almost as if Job didn’t even have time to think about—much less process that which he had faced and was facing in this life. If you read the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Job you will find that Job received one report after another report, and while he was still speaking with the one who had brought him one report, there was another who would come with a different report. If you begin reading with and from the thirteenth verse you will find that there was a day when all of Job’s children were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house that a messenger came unto Job and declared that the oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them, and they were taken away by the Sabeans. What’s more, is that not only did the Sabeans take away the oxen and the asses, but they also slaughtered the servants with the edge of the sword, and the one who brought the report was the only one to have escaped. You’ll notice something taking place beginning to read with the sixteenth verse, for the opening words of the sixteenth verse describe how “while he was yet speaking,” thus indicating that while Job was still receiving the initial report of his oxen, assess and servants, a second report would be brought unto him. As Job was still listening to that first report, there was a second servant who came and declared that the fire of God had fallen from heaven, and burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them, and he was the only one who escaped to bring report to Job. While this second servant was still speaking, there would come a third servant who declared unto Job that the Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and carried them away, and slaughtered the servants with the edge of the sword. While the third servant was still speaking unto Job concerning his report, there would be a fourth servant who would come unto Job and declare that his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, and there came a great wind from the wilderness, and struck and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead. FOUR SERVANTS, FOUR REPORTS!
WITHOUT WARNING! WITHOUT ADVANCED NOTICE! WITHOUT TIME TO PROCESS! As you read the words which are written within the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Job you will encounter and come face to face that not only does, and not only can suffering more often than not come without advanced warning and without advanced notice, suffering can also come without allowing us time to process what we are hearing and what we are facing. Have you ever been there? Have you ever found yourself walking through a certain degree and a certain measure of suffering, and while you are perhaps still trying to deal with and cope with what you’re presently facing, something else seems to rise up and come upon you suddenly and without warning? Perhaps the key phrase that is found in the second half of the first and opening chapter of the Old Testament book of Job is “while he was yet speaking.” Three times within the second half of the first and opening chapter of the Old Testament book of Job you will find it written how while Job was still hearing the words and report of a previous servant there would come another servant who would bring a new report, and who would bring additional news concerning something else happened. There used to be (and might very well still be) a late night informercial which had at the very heart of it the statement “But wait, there’s more.” While this phrase has indeed become popular ever since it was first spoken, I can’t help but consider this phrase in terms of what we find and read concerning the reports which Job received from four of his servants. There was that initial servant who would bring Job a report concerning the oxen, the donkeys, and some of his servants, and while he was still speaking—not only would there be more, but there would be an additional report of calamity that would strike within the life of Job. While that first servant was still speaking there would come a second servant with a new report—one that was entirely and altogether different from the first report. A third and a fourth servant would also come unto Job, and each would come while the previous servant was still speaking unto Job concerning their own report which they had brought before and unto him. I can’t help but wonder if all four of these servants were in the company and presence of Job at the same time, as they each came into his presence with their own unique report concerning events which had taken place and consumed all that he had—including his ten children who were killed within the house of their eldest brother. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous and incredible reality, for it reveals something about suffering that we more often than not don’t want to talk about—much less speak about.
WITHOUT TIME TO PROCESS! WITHOUT TIME TO UNDERSTAND! WITHOUT TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING! The words which we find in the latter half of the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Job is something that must be carefully considered, for the words which we find in this section of Scripture brings us face to face with something concerning suffering we would rather not talk about—much less even think about. The words found within this passage of Scripture reveals and brings us face to face with the fact that more often than not suffering can come without warning and without advanced notice, thus not giving us time to prepare and make ourselves ready; but more than this, suffering can also come in waves, as we aren’t even given time to process the first wave of suffering before a second wave of suffering seems to crash upon the shores of our lives. Here we are still dealing with and trying to process the first wave of suffering which has crashed upon the shores of our lives, and the shores of our heart and soul, and yet a second wave of suffering comes without warning and without notice, and without us having any chance to process what we have already experienced and have already gone through. As if that weren’t bad enough, there comes yet another wave of suffering without warning and without notice, and without allowing us to process what have heard and experienced from the first two waves which crashed upon the shores of our hearts, souls and lives. What’s more, is that there might very well come a fourth wave which seems to crash upon the shores of our hearts and souls after we have already experienced three initial waves of suffering. It was that fourth and final wave of suffering that didn’t merely touch Job’s possessions, but actually touched Job’s house and Job’s family, for all ten of his children were killed in a freak accident while eating and drinking within the house of their eldest brother. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this reality, for not only does suffering come without warning and without advanced notice, but so also can suffering come without giving us time to process—much less think about and deal with what we have already experienced within our lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that while Job was still trying to process what he heard and received from the first report there would come a second report that would bring additional news concerning something else which happened. While that second servant was still speaking there would come a third servant with a third report that would reveal unto Job additional suffering and something else which would take place at that time. Finally, there would come a fourth servant who would come unto Job while that third servant was still speaking, and would bring yet one final report—a report that would detail and describe the lives of Job’s ten children.
GOD, I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TIME TO DEAL WITH THE INITIAL SUFFERING! GOD, I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TIME TO PROCESS THE INITIAL SUFFERING YOU ALLOWED ME TO EXPERIENCE, AND NOW HERE I AM EXPERIENCING SOMETHING ELSE! GOD, I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH MORE I CAN TAKE! GOD, I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH MORE I CAN HANDLE! Have you ever been there? Have you ever found yourself in the place where suffering seems to come within and upon your life in waves, which seem to crash upon the shores of your heart and soul one after another? Have you ever found yourself in the place where suffering seems to strike within your life without warning and without advanced notice, and while you are trying to process what is actually taking place within your life, there seems to come a second wave that brings even more suffering, even more affliction, and even more anguish. Have you ever found yourself in the place where you have begun walking through suffering within your heart and life, and in the midst of that suffering something else seems to come upon you suddenly and without warning. What I find so incredibly intriguing about each of the reports which were brought into the hearing of Job in the first and opening chapter of this book is that none of the servants seemed to be aware of the report which the other servants were bringing into the hearing of Job. It would appear to me that each of the servants was in their own place and their own location witnessing and beholding something taking place where they were, and upon beholding what had taken place, they made their way to Job to explain what had happened. Four different servants each with their own report would come unto Job and speak unto him concerning that which would take place in the midst of the earth—in all reality, that which would leave Job without most of his possessions, and which would leave all ten of his children dead and removed from this earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that Job did not have a chance to process the initial report that had been brought to him before a second report was brought to him, and perhaps while trying to understand and cope with the first two reports there would come a third report that would be entirely and altogether different from that first report. Finally, there would come a fourth and final report that would describe and speak of the death of his children in a single freak accident that would take place.
As I sit here this morning, I can’t help but wonder if by the time the fourth servant came unto Job—not only did Job wonder how much more bad news he could take, but also whether or not there would be a fifth servant, and a sixth servant, and a seventh servant, and so on and so forth. There is not a doubt in my mind that Job undoubtedly thought within himself and wondered if there would not come another servant, for at one point in time he had four different servants who had escaped with their lives in order to bring Job a report concerning what they had witnessed and beheld. It’s almost as if these four servants were divine instruments in the hand of God to bring unto Job the report of his suffering, and the report of his loss—and that one after another after another. When I read the narrative of Job within the latter and second half of the first and opening chapter of this Old Testament book I can’t help but wonder if by the time Job came to the fourth servant with their report, he wondered how much more he could take. It’s worth noting that it wasn’t until after the fourth and final servant had made his way to Job that he arose from his place, rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground and worshipped, speaking and declaring unto the LORD his God, saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Please don’t miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for it brings us face to face with something which we might have experienced within our lives. If perhaps we have been fortunate enough to not have experienced this reality within our hearts and lives, we might very well find ourselves experiencing at some point within our lives. For Job, he found himself being confronted with four different and four distinct reports which were brought unto him concerning suffering and loss which would be experienced within his life. The question that I can’t help but ask when writing these words and considering the reality of what had taken place within the life of Job is whether or not you have found yourself in the place where suffering seemed to have gripped and taken hold of your life, and left you wondering how much more you could take. I can’t help but wonder if you have ever found yourself in the place where you wondered how much more you could take and handle, and even if you could handle anymore. If we had it our way Job would have perhaps only received report from that first servant, and that would have been the end of that first round of suffering and affliction within his life. If we were able to control and manipulate the situation we would have allowed that first servant to have brought his report, and would have found a way to prevent the three other servants to come unto Job with their own report. In all reality, we would think and believe that the report which the first servant would bring unto Job would be enough, and that there would be no need for anything . Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which James writes in the first and opening chapter of the epistle found in the latter portion of the New Testament:
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavelets is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the LORD. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass way. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the LORD hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:2-16).
Perhaps one of the greatest truths found in Scripture is that the living and eternal God can never and will never give us more than what He knows we can handle. Would it shock and surprise you to know that God is fully aware of and understands your breaking point? Would it shock and surprise you think about and consider the fact that the LORD does in fact know how much you can handle in this life, and how much you can handle before you finally give up or give in? When we think about and consider suffering it’s important for us to recognize that the LORD knows and is exactly aware of how much we can handle at any given time, and He can never and will never give us more than what we can handle within our hearts and souls. The LORD is fully aware of how much pressure can be applied within and upon your heart and soul before you might finally crumble under the weight and pressure of what you are experiencing. For Job—he received four different reports from four different servants describing events that had taken place in the earth which left him without possessions and without children. What’s more, is that Job would even find his physical body being struck with sore boils, and would sit upon and among the ashes upon the ground scraping himself with a potsherd. YOU MUST THINK I’M STRONG! YOU MUST THINK I’M STRONG ENOUGH! The more I think about and the more I consider the words which are written and recorded within the book of Job, the more I find myself considering the fact that the living God knew exactly what Job could handle, and how much Job could endure before He would finally respond by declaring “That’s enough! No more!” Would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the fact that the LORD knows and is fully aware of our breaking point, and is fully aware of how much we can handle within this life, and cannot and will not allow us to suffer and experience more than we can bear. The LORD can indeed, and the LORD can in fact allow us to face and experience a certain degree and a certain amount of pressure within our lives, however, the LORD knows at what point that pressure can and will break us, and cause us to give up and give in. Oh, I am sure that there might have been times within your heart and within your life where you felt as though you weren’t sure how much more you could handle, and if you could even handle anymore. Perhaps Job felt that way after the second or third report was brought unto him, and yet sure enough there came that fourth servant who we would think would have delivered the death blow within the heart and soul of Job, for although the first three servants brought report of his possessions—their reports only touched his possessions. At least with the reports the first three servants brought unto Job he would still have the lives of his ten children—that was until that fourth servant would make their way unto Job with the report that not even his children would escape the suffering and affliction that was appointed for Job.
What I find to be so absolutely remarkable when reading the Old Testament book of Job is that the LORD knew exactly how much Job could handle, and He would not allow Him to experience more than he was able to handle. What’s more, is that as you read the words which are written and recorded in the book of Job you seem to get the indication and understanding that the LORD must have thought Job was strong enough and capable enough to handle and experience everything he went through, for it would seem that suffering and affliction would continue to be poured upon him. It’s worth noting that while it was true that suffering and affliction seemed to continue to be poured out upon Job, there would come a point when there would be nothing more that would come upon Job. After Job was struck with sore boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet there would be nothing else that would take place within the book of Job. By the time we come to the end of the second chapter we find Job having rent his clothes, having shaved his head, having falling down upon the ground and worshipped, sitting among the ashes on the ground, and scraping himself with a potsherd. What’s more, is that when the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Job ends and concludes we find Job sitting on the ground among the ashes with his three friends who had come to mourn with him and to comfort him. For seven days and seven nights Job’s three friends would sit on the ground with him without speaking a single word unto him. For seven days and seven nights Job’s three friends would simply sit with Job without saying or speaking a word, and it would be Job who would finally break the silence on the eighth day. Oh I can’t help but think about and consider this reality and find something absolutely critical and vital—not only concerning Job, but also concerning those who are presently experiencing suffering and affliction within their lives. The more you read and the more you consider this latter portion of the second chapter, as well as the opening verse of the third chapter, the more you will find that Job’s three friends sat in silence for seven days and seven nights, and when the silence was finally broken, it was broken by Job himself rather than one of his three friends.
WHEN THE SUFFERER BREAKS THE SILENCE! The more I consider the narrative of suffering the more I am finding myself encountering and coming face to face with the reality that there is a great need to possess a willingness to mourn with those who are mourning, and to mourn with those who are suffering. There is a great and present need among us within and in the midst of the suffering of others to have a desire to comfort them, and to seek to be a source of and seek to bring encouragement, strength and support during their times of great affliction and anguish. What’s more, is that there is a great need to be able to sit with those who are suffering—perhaps even sit with them in the midst of their suffering without saying or speaking a word. Would it surprise you to think about the fact that you can actually minister to someone in the midst of their suffering by simply sitting with them and not speaking a word? I fully realize that this goes against the grain of everything we think and everything we believe, for we seem to think that we need to have something to say, or even something to pray in the midst of the suffering of another. The truth of the matter, however, is that we don’t always have to have something to say, nor do we always have to have something to pray for that brother or that sister who seems to be walking through an intense period of suffering and affliction within their lives. We seem to think that if another is suffering and hurting we need to have words to say—perhaps even the right words to say—and even words to pray. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are times within our lives, and there are times within the lives of others when suffering seems to lay hold, and there is absolutely no need to say anything, nor is there any need to pray anything. We seem to think that when our brother and/or our sister is walking through suffering that we need to have something to say, and yet more often than not silence is the greatest thing we can do within the midst of the suffering which that person or person(s) is walking through and experiencing. In all reality, I would dare say that there are times when we can do more damage by opening our mouths and speaking to those who are suffering than we can by remaining silent and simply sitting with and/or walking with those who are suffering. This reality is evidenced and manifested in the midst of the narrative of Job’s suffering and his three friends who had come before and unto him during this time, for while Job was the one who broke the silence on the eighth day after seven days and seven nights of silence, his three friends would begin to do more damage and more harm by opening their mouths than by simply remaining silent
Does it shock and surprise you to think about and consider that if you make the decision to sit with, or to walk with another who is suffering that it is necessary to allow them to break the silence? Does it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the fact that in the midst of the suffering of another brother or sister—sometimes the greatest thing you can do is simply walk with them, or sit with them in the midst of their suffering, their affliction, their anguish, their sorrow, their hurt and their pain? It’s imperative that we recognize that we don’t always have to have something to say, nor do we always have to have something to pray, and that there are times when the greatest thing we can do for that one who is suffering is to simply be there—even if being there is in silence without any words which are spoken. If there is one thing the narrative of Job’s suffering and the company of his friends points to and reveals, it’s that Job’s three friends did more for Job with their lips sealed and shut than they did with their mouths opened. Although Job was the first to break the silence after seven days and seven nights with his anguish and grief, Job’s three friends would begin to unleash a flood of condemnation and judgment toward and upon Job in the midst of his suffering. Despite the fact that they were silent for seven days and seven nights, and despite the fact that they rent their clothes, lifted up their voices and wept at the sight of Job in the midst of his suffering, they would open their mouths to “instruct” Job in the midst of his suffering. Oh, how many times do we attempt to “instruct,” and to “teach,” and to “guide” another in the midst of their suffering, and yet in all reality what we are doing is nothing more than sinning with our lips, and sowing confusion, chaos, and condemnation into their hearts and souls. Job’s three friends thought they had the answers, and had wisdom enough to speak to and instruct Job in the midst of his suffering. What’s more, is Job’s three friends each seemed to speak as though they were able to explain the nature, the purpose and the reason behind Job’s suffering, and were qualified to speak to him concerning what they “knew” and “understood.” PRESUMING TO TEACH IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! PRESUMING TO REACH IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! I can’t help but get the strong sense that there might be times when we are presuming to teach others in the midst of their suffering, and yet what we are really doing is presuming to reach in the midst of their suffering—and not merely reach in the midst of their suffering, but also overreach therein. We presume that we have the answers, and we presume to have the wisdom that is necessary and needed in the midst of the suffering of others, and yet in all reality what we are doing is overreaching and moving beyond our boundaries and what we are actually qualified and capable of doing.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities surrounding the suffering of Job is that when you read the narrative concerning it you will find that after he and his three friends sat in silence for seven days and seven nights, it wasn’t his three friends who broke the silence. If you read the narrative which is found within this Old Testament book you will find that after seven days and seven nights of silence it was Job himself who broke the silence and began to express his grief, his anguish and his sorrow. After seven days and seven nights of silence with Job and this three friends you will find Job breaking that silence by expressing the anguish and agony within this heart and soul, and I can’t help but find this to be something worth thinking about and considering, for more often than not when we find ourselves in a similar place with someone who is suffering we feel the need to break the silence with our own opinions, with our own wisdom, with our own assessment of the situation, with our own advice, and with our own words. How many times have you attempted to walk through suffering with someone else, and in the midst of that suffering you have felt the need to break the silence and insert your own knowledge and your own wisdom in the midst of the situation rather than allowing the other person to speak? How many times have you made their suffering about you, and you have aptly demonstrated that by opening your mouth casually and without any concern for the one who is suffering? How many times have you seemed to show and demonstrate no compassion, no empathy, no affection, to tender mercies, no care, no love for the other individual in the midst of their suffering, and you have sought to open your mouth and spew out your own words which you think are what is absolutely necessary and needed within their hearts and souls? The narrative concerning and regarding the suffering of Job is actually quite astonishing when you think about it, for the presence of his three friends would begin with them making an appointment to mourn with him and to comfort him, and would transition to their sitting in silence with Job for seven days and seven nights. Oh, it was indeed true that Job’s three friends would in fact sit with him in silence for seven days and seven nights, however, the minute Job opened his mouth they broke their silence with their own seeds of confusion, chaos and condemnation. In all reality, I would dare say that when Job’s three friends heard the words which Job had spoken unto them in their hearing, they disagreed with and didn’t approve of what he said. As a direct result of this thinking they felt compelled to speak up and correct Job’s thinking.
If there is one thing the interaction(s) between Job and his three friends proves and reveals, it’s that not only did they not know how to handle the suffering of another, but they also perceived themselves to be wise teachers of understanding and knowledge concerning Job’s situation and circumstance. Have you ever done that before? Have you ever attempted to walk with another in the midst of their suffering, and in the midst of their affliction, and you have professed yourself to be the expert on suffering—and not only the expert on suffering, but also the expert on what they themselves are going through? What is so incredibly dangerous about the narrative of Job’s three friends in the midst of the suffering of Job is that they were unwilling to allow Job to express his grief, express his sorrow, express his anguish, and express the agony of his soul. When they began hearing Job speak—it’s almost as if they were offended by and with the words which came forth out of his mouth, and they felt the need to correct his line of thinking, as well as the speech that came forth out of his mouth. Oh, this actually brings me to an absolutely incredible truth—namely, that it is possible for you and I to become and to grow offended with the sorrow and grief of another. It is possible for you and I to somehow grow offended with the anguish and the affliction that is present within the heart and soul of another, and to respond to that offense with anger, with resentment, and with an attempt to somehow correct their line of thinking, and the speech that comes forth out of their mouth. Even during the days and generation in which we are living in—during times of such great unrest, times of such great brokenness, times of such great anguish and affliction, times of such great hurt and pain—I fear there are countless men and women who have been and who are offended with the cries of anguish that have been pouring out from the mouths of those who are expressing emotions, thoughts and feelings which they have experienced before, and which they are experiencing once more during the times in which we are living. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are countless men and women—perhaps even those within the pews of our churches—who are offended with the cries of the hurting, with the cries of the broken, and even with the cries of the angry and the frustrated. Permit me to ask you whether or not you are willing to sit and listen to the cries of the hurting and the cries of the frustrated without growing offended within your heart and soul. Are you truly capable of sitting down with others who are hurting and truly listen to the words which proceed from their mouth—even if you might not agree with the words they are speaking? Are you truly capable of sitting down with those who are angry and frustrated and allow them to vent everything that has been pent and bottled up inside for so long? Are you able to sit in silence as you allow the cries of the unheard and those who feel neglected, marginalized, broken, ignored, despised and rejected, and to do so with compassion, with empathy, and with tender mercies and bowels of love?
The more I read the words which are written and recorded in the poetic book of Job the more I can’t help but come face to face with the strong reality that not only could Job’s friends handle and deal with the struggle and conflict within the heart and soul of Job, but they also grew offended with the words which came out of his mouth. In all reality, I would dare say that Job’s honesty and vulnerability offended their sensibilities, and offended them within the depths of their heart and soul, and they felt the need to correct and even condemn Job’s thinking and speech. Let me ask you who are reading these words—does the honesty and vulnerability of others offend you? Are you truly capable of listening to the honesty and the vulnerability of others as they express their frustration, their hurt, their pain, their anger, and perhaps even their rage? Are you able to sit back without feeling the need to immediately rise up and confront the words you are hearing? How many times do you attempt to listen to the cries of others as they express their hurt and their pain, and you chomp at the bit anxious to speak up and speak your mind? I know that for the longest time—perhaps even for a long time—I have been one such individual who has always had something to say, or who has always wanted to speak up and say something. There have been countless times within my own heart and lives when I have been unable to truly sit back and listen to the hurt, the pain and the frustration of others. There have been times within my heart and life when I have been unwilling and unable to simply sit back and let the other person know that I see and hear them. There have been countless times within my life when I have been offended by the expression of hurt, pain, anger, frustration and rage that is present within the hearts and souls of others.
THE GREAT OFFENSE IN AMERICA! As I sit here right now I can’t help but think about the fact that there are countless Americans—regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of ethnicity—who are offended with what is taking place right now in our nation. There are countless Americans—even regardless of religious demonization and affiliation—who are somehow offended with the cries that are being echoed in the streets of our cities and our towns. Please note that while I do not agree with, nor do I condone or commend the violence, the looting, the violence, and the damage that is taking place within our culture and society during this time, I wholeheartedly commend and appreciate the expression of hurt, pain and anger. I am convinced that we expect people to express their anger, their pain, their frustration, their brokenness, their rage in a mild manner, and perhaps even the way we think they out to or should. SUFFERING NEVER HAPPENS IN A BUBBLE! SUFFERING NEVER HAPPENS IN A VACUUM! We expect those who are hurting, those who are broken, those who are angry and frustrated have had enough to express themselves the way we want them to, and perhaps even the way we think they ought to. The truth of the matter is that when you’re hurting, when you’re broken, when you’re frustrated, when you’re in pain, when you’re suffering, and when you are feeling and dealing with a host of other emotions, thoughts and feelings, you are going to express yourself—perhaps the only way you know how to. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand during this time, it’s that not everyone is going to grieve the same way, and not everyone is going to mourn the same way. No two people hurt the same, and no two people break the same way. No two people suffer the same, and each and every one of us deals with suffering our own way and according to what we have been taught, or what we have been experienced. I do not believe that violence, robbery, vandalism, looting, and the like are the answer during this current time, but at the same token I firmly believe that there needs to be an expression of the anger and the frustration others are experiencing right now, and have experienced for quite some time. Let me ask you who are reading these words whether or not you have gotten before the LORD and asked Him to not only allow you to walk with these individuals during this current generation, but to also feel what they feel. Oh we can show solidarity and unity by walking with them in the midst of protests, however, do we truly understand, and are we truly able to feel what they are feeling and what they have been feeling for days, for weeks, for months and for years now? Are we able to truly allow ourselves to feel what they feel—to feel the pain they feel, to feel the anguish they feel, to feel the anger they feel, to feel the pain hurt they feel, and to feel the emotions they feel? There is the great need in this generation to not let the cries of the hurting and the broken go unheard during this time, and to not only allow their cries to continue, but to do something with those cries.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE CRIES OF THE HURTING? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE CRIES OF THE BROKEN? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE CRIES OF THE ANGRY AND THE FRUSTRATED? I am absolutely and completely convinced that right now during this current culture, this current society, this current generation in which we are living there is a great need to not allow ourselves to become and grow offended with the cries of the hurting and the cries of the broken during this time. The danger I feel is that the true cries of the hurting and the true cries of the broken are being drowned out by a much larger picture that is being painted and portrayed—namely, all the violence, vandalism and looting that is taking place during this generation. I sit here this morning and I can’t help but get the strong sense that what we are witnessing and experiencing during this culture and society is a longstanding suffering that has been permitted to remain for far too long now, and America is finally having to deal with and confront one of the original sins of this nation. I truly and wholeheartedly believe that what we are experiencing right now is an invitation to change and an invitation to be transformed during this time. I truly and honestly feel that we are being given an opportunity to right wrongs and atrocities which have been committed for far too long now, and we are being given a chance to set things right, and to truly turn a corner within this nation. With that being said, I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we are indeed experiencing is preparation for the events which the Bible speaks about in the prophetic book of Daniel, in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and even what Jesus Christ Himself spoke about while He was still upon the earth. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, and we must allow ourselves to be confronted with the tragedies and atrocities that have been committed, and which continue to be committed in the midst of this nation and country of ours. We cannot allow these events to go overlooked, and to go unpunished in this nation. I am convinced that two of the greatest sins—original sins if you will—of this nation are racism and abortion. If you look over and examine the history of this nation you will find that racism is indeed the true and original sin of this nation, while more recently (over the past fifty years or so) abortion has become another sin this nation has been guilty of. We know and understand that men and women are crying out within this nation and country because of atrocities which have been committed against those of color and different races and ethnicities. The question I can’t help but wonder is what would happen if not only did you have those of color, race and ethnicity crying out during this generation, but what would happen if all the unborn babies which have been murdered and killed over the past half century began to cry out and were given a voice in the midst of this nation and generation. What would happen and what would this nation do if not only racism, but also abolition began to be exposed among us, as we were forced to not only deal with and confront the sin itself, but also to hear the cries of the unborn and the mistreated? We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss out on what the LORD is seeking to do in the midst of this nation and country. We are truly living in volatile and hostile times, and we have to be men and women of discernment to understand—not only what is taking place, but also why what is taking place is indeed taking place.