Also, I know the title is lame. If you've got a better idea, let me know.
Lately, I've been reading the book of Job for my devotions. Job is a powerful story of a humble man who was willing to give God everything, and ended up doing almost that. He lost everything he owned and even his children. His own wife told him to "curse God and die". But in everything that happened, he trusted God through all his trials.
Job has a faith that I dream of having--that I pray for, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to get there. Through everything that happened to him, he never gave up on God.
His wife says to him in Job 2:9, "Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die". I was thinking (hence, I'm blogging again...) There are different responses to trials. I had never considered this before, but Job's wife was in (almost) as much pain as Job was. Everything he had lost, she had also lost. Her children were also killed in a tragic "accident". Everything they owned, everything that they depended on, was taken from them. She didn't know what was happening anymore than Job did. They couldn't see the heavenly conversations between God and Satan that we can read. They didn't know what God was doing, because God didn't choose to show them. (Actually, the bible never says that God revealed to Job why He had done what He did, but that's another blog post for another day). Through out all the pain, Job continued to trust God. He retained his integrity. He looked at what was going on and said "My God is bigger than this, and I can trust Him. I know He is still good. He is still my God. He still loves me. And I can trust Him."
Mrs. Job did not. She looked at the same situation, the same pain, and she reached the conclusion that God could not be trusted--that He was out to get her. Basically, the whole "Why do bad things happen to good people?" argument. We don't know much about her--there aren't details pertaining to her character. But she was married to Job, a man God described as "a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil" (Job 1:8). And she knew of His integrity. They had 7 adult children--they'd been married for a while. She had seen his response over and over again, and knew that He loved His God. But when this, the biggest trial they could imagine happened, she decided that God could not be trusted--she had been hurt too much. There came a point where she could no longer see God for who He really is--good, loving, close, and just. She saw vindictive, hurtful, and unreachable. And she couldn't serve a God like that.
When we do not see God for who He really is, of course we aren't going to want to trust Him. People who view God as a dictator, distant, or "out-to-get-me" don't trust Him. They fear Him. I can trust my God because I know that He loves me, He cares about me, He wants a relationship with me, and He wants what's best for me. Even if "best" hurts, I know I can rest in the fact that He sees everything that is going on. I, like Job, have a limited viewpoint--I only see right now. I don't see what God is doing. When I loose sight of that, I start to get angry at God. When I forget Romans 8:28 (We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose), I'm afraid of what God might do and fear the pain of what He allows into my life. Job did not lose sight of God's character. He had experience God's faithfulness in the past, and knew that, even though he did not understand what God was doing, He knew God was still in control. Job could continue to trust God. Mrs. Job could not, because she forgot what she knew about God. Job was focused on his God. Mrs. Job was focused on her pain and what she had lost.
However, I was also thinking about something else. When we think of amazing, perfect examples of people who loved God in the Bible, Job is one of them (along with probably David, Daniel, and Joseph). And yes, Job is an amazing example of responding to trials, of integrity, and of faithfulness to God.
But Job was human. And he's hurting. Maybe I'm reading into the text, and I shouldn't. But what he says sounds to me like he is in incredible pain. He asks "Why was I born?" (Job 3:10) He was questioning, struggling, and hurt. It didn't help that his own wife was telling him to curse God and die, and that all his friends were telling him that everything that happened was somehow his fault. He knew this wasn't his fault. He knew he hadn't done anything to somehow cause God to take everything from him, including his children. But he didn't know what God was doing. I read through what he says, and how he talks--he's confused and hurting. He doesn't understand what God is doing. He cannot see, and his faith is being tested in a way he never imagined.
But Job kept trusting.
He kept looking to his God. He couldn't see through the darkness of the pain around him, so he looked to the God who created light. Instead of looking around at all the hurt, he looked up to the Savior who promised to always be with him.
So often, when something goes "wrong", and I can't see what God is doing, I want to fix everything and make it better. I hate waiting. Patience is not something I'm great at. I need to work on that, I know. Because in pain, God is still with me. When something happens I don't like or understand, my God is still good. He is still my God. He still loves me. and I can rest in that.
One final thought, then I'll stop. I have heard people say that Christians shouldn't struggle. They should let God take the hurt and go on through life with hurt. I've been told "You shouldn't struggle with ________. Let God handle it and go on with your life." I've been told that hurting is sin. Because I know God works things together for good, so I need to let Him take control and not worry about anything. I need to let go of hurt and pain and let God take control. I need to shut up and let go of the pain. Because real Christians don't hurt or struggle.
May I respectfully say that is not only unscriptural, it is very damaging to someone going through a trial? Jesus Christ himself was in pain. He struggled, He wept. We are called to be like Him. There is nothing wrong with pain. Often through pain, we are brought closer to God--we see Him shining brighter in our darkness and hurt. God uses trials in our lives to draw us towards Him. He wants us to be like Job (not Mrs. Job). Trust in God through the trials. Respond rightly. It's ok to ask "why", as long as you're willing to listen to the answer and apply what you learn. As long as you're actually trying to understand what God is doing.
"Come to Jesus"
Sometimes the way is lonely,
And steep and filled with pain.
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain,
Then cry to Jesus,
Cry to Jesus,
Cry to Jesus and live.