Job had his three ‘comforters’ who, in the spirit of trying to be helpful, rubbed salt in his wounds, piled on, and kicked ash in his face.
Yesterday and today, I’m sharing two of my own pseudo-comforters that stand out. You read about Angry Lady yesterday. Today I want to tell you about Arrogant Lady.
One Sunday, our campus church had let out and myriads of students were spilling into the streets, either heading for fried chicken in the cafeteria or piling into cars for picnics on Lookout Mtn or dinners with families and/or friends.
I had just popped a wheelie off a small curb, laughing and yukking it up with friends on either side of me, when a young married couple stopped me cold.
Mind you, the college we attended together was a conservative Baptist university and any talk of miracles was either in the Apostolic Age or the Millennial Kingdom to come. But this couple, ostensibly, were not buying it.
As my school was fairly large, I didn’t know every student – particularly the ones who were married and lived off-campus – and this pair was definitely not familiar to me. The wife’s challenge to me that day was so abrupt I had to pause to see if she was kidding.
“You’ve given up,” said she.
“I — wha-? I what?” I stammered, the smile slowly vanishing from my face.
“You’re not even looking to be healed,” she said flatly.
“You seem to like all the attention the school’s lavishing on you. What if this (waving her hand, like a palm frond, over my, uh, situation) is not all God has for you?”
I stared blankly, then cocking my head, still not sure if I was being “punked” or not, asked:
“You’re serious? You actually think I’ve quit.”
Her hands-on-hips posture showed she was quite serious, and dared me to explain otherwise. I was pretty much still thinking there were some hidden cameras somewhere.
The heat rose from my neck and my ears blazed red. No way was this able-bodied woman going to school me on the how’s why’s and wherefore’s of my situation. I gave a parting salvo as I wheeled away:
“you do not know about my faith – that I truly believe I can be healed whenever God chooses, so I leave it to him…and accept His plan with joy until then.”
“Until then” was spoken as a punctuated getaway. Between my run-in with Angry Lady (previous post) and Arrogant Lady, I was beginning to assemble my very own band of pseudo-comforters, much like a hero of mine in the scriptures.
In fact, I’ve spent a lion’s share of my time in the pages of Job. I’ve heard preachers say he was faultless, never took issue with or questioned God, but even a cursory reading of this book – possibly the earliest of the canon – shows that he had as many as seventeen questions for God, and in my favorite discourse – Job’s seventh speech – he’s actually pretty blunt in his anger.
While his so-called comforters had him pegged wrong, God had Job right – and was drawing it out, like dross.
Today is my complaint bitter…(Job 23:2)
It’s a strong enough word in English but in Hebrew it is fraught with detestation and rebellion. That’s very real in Job, yes indeed. He is ticked and even tempted to turn away altogether. But that’s not the end of it. In fact you can see him wrestle his inner demons in the next verses and by verse 10 he’s finding his footing. He’s finding faith.
“But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.”
We like to quote his “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him” declaration in chapter thirteen, but there’s still a “but” and “nevertheless” attached to it. He stubbornly holds to his innocence. But in the 10th verse of the 23rd chapter, all the buts and maybes are on the way to being redeemed out of his talk…burned like dross from his heart.
In the “slay me” lyric he qualifies it with his intention to not change a thing, continue as usual, steady as she goes. But by the end of this EPIC stanza – again, Job’s seventh – he’s beginning (not yet completely – that won’t come until the end) to open his heart more to the impressiveness of God’s inarguable power and unquestionable sovereignty.
His comforters judged him for what wasn’t there. God wanted to guide him to see what was. Put simply, his belief needed an overhaul. Like many of us, his belief was contingent on answers he could live with and so long as life followed his script, it was all rainbows and unicorns.
Oh yeah? Always?
What if you behave with all decency and purity and your world falls apart anyway?
What if God’s blessing comes disguised as a bummer of a deal?
God wanted Job to believe in HIM, not in ‘belief’.
Jerry Bridges’ great book, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts helped me more than almost any other book of similar topic see how the blending of three immutable qualities of God gives us greater hope – thriving faith – in the time of great trial:
- His Sovereignty tells us He is in control, but it’s always held in balance with His
- Wisdom that tells us not only does God have the right to be God and do as He pleases in our situation, but He knows exactly what He’s doing, and yet these two are not enough for the suffering saint, so that’s why God
- Dresses it all up in the regal garments of His Absolute Love that encourages us to trust His heart…always
By the end of the book, Job holds to these three truths. These become his true comforters. As for the other three? Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar? They had to repent and swallow their anger and arrogance and watch Job come forth as gold.
Me? I’m still on the way —
Pray tell, saint, what comforting truths have seen you through your dark times?