Sue suggests listening to this song whilst reading her blog.
This is my lovely husband Nick – he is Missions Director for LifeChurch Manchester. He became ill after a trip to Kazakhstan in October 2010. (Don’t let that put you off going, it’s a great place!). I have watched him suffer over the last four years; he has had major surgery for ulcerative colitis, crohns and various other problems.
The other photo/image is of Job! I am very proud of how Nick has handled suffering, given that he is not as blameless and upright as Job. Yet there have been times when, like Job, I have shouted, screamed, cried “Why????”, particularly whilst out running. Often in my mental anguish I have been trying to relate “our” experience to the unchanging character of God. One doesn’t have to live long to experience suffering and frustration. When unexpected and unexplained things happen and it all goes horribly wrong, where do you run to?
As Christians if we neglect to read the book of Job, it will be to our own detriment. I have discovered that it is a unique contribution to the word of God. I even wonder was Job the greatest believer of all time?
Would I have included Job in the canon? A few more nice psalms perhaps? Job shows us that God allows suffering. There is no escape from His sovereignty, yet He cannot be credited with evil. Is this a test of faith for Nick and I? Does God have divine confidence in us?
Should we take only good things from God and not trouble? (Job 2 v10). We perhaps make God in our image, considering Him as we would like Him to be or how we think He should be. Using our own mind as a compass, we can struggle to make sense of apparent unfairness.
Job has provided both a backbone and a language for our pain. In my darkest moments, seeing my husband suffer, Job’s wife’s words were not far from my tongue. “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Why don’t you just curse God and die?” I am not proud of this and I do not believe we are called to curse, but the emotion was raw and real. God doesn’t condemn Job’s outbursts. Sometimes suppressing our emotions can be harmful.
I have needed great wisdom over the last four years. I’m not sure I have always got it right, but the less said the better when someone is suffering. Mourn, identify, weep, eventually the person has to come to Romans 8v28, but not yet. I have found myself speaking out of my own personal needs, my selfishness because I want to accelerate the process, so I can feel better in tough pastoral situations! Shame on me and those who have done this! Let’s not be too quick to offer an assessment of what is going on in someone else’s life whether it be health, financial crisis, or a rebellious child. It’s easy to say ‘trust God’ when you are not suffering. Job didn’t always complain, he made some faith statements “I know that my Redeemer lives!” “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him.”
This situation has given us chance to count our blessings, to share the Gospel with others, and to rekindle lost connections. We’ve known the kind love of God, we’ve been surprised by ‘God incidents’, and we’ve appreciated our church families more than ever.
Yahweh’s speeches in Job make me smile and refresh me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Who let the wild donkey go free?” (Job 38:44 – 39:1)
God reminds Job He is still in control in the midst of his disillusionments, doubts, despair. God deals with Job’s ignorance and arrogance just as He will deal with ours.
Nick and I have been humbled and broken through this process. We don’t even know why God created the ostrich and yet we think we can understand suffering.
God is ultimately sovereign; no plan of His can be thwarted. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. Apart from the mercy of God we could have been wasted long ago.
God doesn’t promise to protect us from suffering (Jesus in Gethsemane, Paul’s thorn in the flesh, 2 Cor 12 v 7-9), but He will be there. Mystery is part of who God is, secret things belong to Him, sometimes revealed to sons of man.
God is trustworthy when we are in the storm. Kim Walker-Smith’s song “I still believe” has become quite special to me over this year. At one point Nick had a bad reaction to morphine and I ended up playing it very loud and declaring that even if he does die, he will be with Jesus. It was a moment which took me beyond myself and helped me to worship God in the pain. The moment was powerful as God came by His Holy Spirit and I was surprised at how I managed to dig deep at this point. God’s goodness is non-negotiable. He is for us.
God is faithful, the magnificent Creator, He matures us, teaches us obedience and trust. Nick’s worship has been inspiring. In worship we can release our “why” questions, or else our joy is stolen.
When we meditate and reflect on the “who”, we are led into worship and wonder as we seek His face. We can start from what seems a long distance away, but come to understand the reaction of Job (1v20-21)
“Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.’”