An Even-If Heart: Thoughts On Job 13

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If anything, digging into Job is inspiring me to be a better friend.

I don’t want to be the kind of friend that blows hot air when a hurting friend needs a breath of fresh.

I want to whisper words of hope.

Because that’s what Job needed and it’s what he was desperately clinging to, even if his friends weren’t delivering.

I catch glimpses of it.

It breaks forth like so much promise.

In Job 13, Job defends himself to his friends.

He starts off getting in their faces and I’ve gone from wanting to slap them to applauding Job’s fighting spirit.

‘Cause it’s still in there!

It’s not completely lost in self pity.

It’s not totally hidden beneath self loathing.

It’s not entirely overshadowed by despair.

It’s still there.

And it’s coming on strong,

“Everything you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. Yet I prefer to speak to the Almighty and argue my case before God…If only you would shut up and let that be your wisdom.” vs. 3-4 (CSB)

You go, Job!

Sometimes we need to tell certain people who may mean well or who insist on giving us their two-cents worth without us asking for it to, Shut up.

Or as any good mother who desires to teach her child good manners would say,  Please be quiet.

I know there have been times when I’ve just not known when to shut my mouth.

I look back on some of the things I’ve said to others in their times of need and distress and I’ve actually been ashamed of myself.

I’ve even been convicted enough to apologize.

Because I also remember what it’s been like to be on the receiving end of speeches meant to inspire me, yet have incensed me instead.

They’ve made me like a smoldering wick. Ready to spout fumes.

Maybe that’s what happened to Job.

Something inside him ignited.

Yes. Deep down. Job was a fighter.

It’s that fighting spirit that clings to hope.

Job was really an even-if-kinda-guy.

“Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him. I will still defend my ways before Him.”

Even if He kills me…

I.WILL.HOPE.IN.HIM.

Job wasn’t placing his hope in his friends. Or his faithless wife.

His hope was in God Himself. 

Can you say the same?

These are uncertain times we’re living in.

As a nation, we’ve not really been this way before in our lifetimes.

Not all of us are responding the same. Not all of us are on the same page. Not all of us feel the same. Act the same. Process the same.

But in the name of heaven, those who place their hope in God Himself need to pay attention to what those around us are really feeling and saying.

The NLT translation of Job 13:3-4 is this:

“Oh, how I long to speak directly to the Almighty. I want to argue my case with God Himself. For you are smearing me with lies…That’s the smartest thing you could do. LISTEN to my charge: PAY ATTENTION to my arguments.” 

As a friend, I want to pay attention and learn to listen with my heart.

When I do, I can respond in a way the Holy Spirit leads. Honestly? There have been times when all I’ve known to do is wrap my arms around someone and say with tears, “I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry. I’m just so very sorry.”

But Job didn’t get that from his friends. Somehow, from within that deep, dark place where his sanity was threatened, hope arose like a shining star.

Like Daniel’s Shadrach, Meshaq, and Abednego, Job had an even-if heart.

The 3 Hebrew exiles had told King Nebuchadnezzar,

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if He doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  Daniel 3:16-18 

Job pretty much felt the same way.

This is what an even-if heart does.

The only hope it has when faced with the fiery furnace or the trials of life or the uncertainties of economic strain or viral pandemics is to know that no matter the outcome–complete deliverance or taking that final breath–God is still God and He is still worth every ounce of hope that flows through our veins.

This is a hope that revives the weary.

Comforts the anxious.

Promises the victory.

When troubles and misfortunes threaten to steal hope away, an even-if heart gives a steely resolve.

It endures the fiery furnace.

Outlives trials and hardships.

Outlasts viral pandemics.

It’s what faith in God does for us.

It’s what Jesus died to give us.

Hope that life on this earth is not all there is.

There’s more.

Because of the saving grace of Christ through His death and resurrection, I have an eternity with Him to look forward to. This is my hope.

And it’s worth fighting for in the here and now.

In these days on the kingdom calendar, this is a season of hard things for many.

If we say nothing else, let’s be the kind of friend who whispers words of hope.

Who breathe fresh air into the lungs of those who are struggling.

Who know when to speak and when to be silent.

Who rise up and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

Let’s say to one another,

I know you.

Deep down, you’re a fighter. And this will not defeat you.

So you can count on me.

I will encourage you.

I will walk beside you.

I will even hold your hand.

And you can bet, I will pray for you. 

 

 

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The God Who Gets Me: Thoughts On Job 11 & 12

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In Job chapters 11-12, Job’s friend, Zophar, gives his first ‘speech’ and Job answers.

As I dig into Job I find my emotions on a crazy rollercoaster ride. They’re seriously all over the place.

Zophar makes me a little angry. I think he sounds self-righteous. And I want to give him a piece of my mind which is crazy because he’s no longer living.

To give him a little credit, he did say some truthful things like:

“Can you fathom the depths of God or discover the limits of the Almighty?”

That’s the kind of question that will get in your face and put you in your place.

At least it does me. The answer that bubbles up inside of me is a resounding NO. I can’t. God is in His heaven looking down on all that He’s created and to Him? Well…I am very small and meek and completely at His mercy.

But then Zophar has to go and ruin it by saying,

“As for you, if you redirect your heart and spread your hands in prayer–if there is iniquity in your hand, remove it…then you will hold your head high, free from fault…for you will forget your suffering.”

And the human, fleshly side of me wants to slap him.

He should have stopped talking after he asked the question.

Because how in the world could he think Job could ever forget the suffering he was living out? A suffering that Zophar couldn’t even begin to understand because he wasn’t.

I f-e-e-e-e-e-e-l so for Job. Yes, that’s present tense.

His friends just didn’t get him.

But I’m reminded that when no one else gets it, when they might not understand why I still cry out to God…

when they don’t even come close to saying what I really need to hear…

God gets it.

Because God gets me.

I’ll never forget the time I went into Sheetz for a cup of coffee while my husband waited in the car.

I ordered my usual frou-frou melted candy bar from the kiosk, as my husband calls my java choices, swiped my ticket from the machine, and got in line behind a man waiting for the next available cashier.

When he moved up to the counter I stepped forward and within seconds, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to face a 20-something young man who asked, “Are you with that man?”

“No,” I replied, “Why?”

That’s when he lit in on me like a firecracker. “I was standing right here. You cut right in front of me. I was next in line. I thought you were with that man so I didn’t say anything, but you need to wait your turn.” And on and on and on…

I was so humiliated all I could do was apologize all over myself. I thought about groveling, even getting on my  knees, but what I really wanted to do was cry. I was so upset I couldn’t form the words to tell Him I was hearing impaired and blind in one eye.

This man had been on my left side so I didn’t see him in my peripheral vision and I didn’t hear him moving around, either. I guess he was camouflaged by the coffee bar so he could have been a gigantic vanilla latte for all I knew. For pity’s sake, whatever happened to kindness and respect, anyway?!

When I got back to the car I couldn’t even tell my husband what had happened I was so upset. Those old feelings of shame and guilt I had struggled with as a child because of my disabilities–believe me, there really are a lot of clueless people in this world–washed over me and threatened to steal the breath right out of me.

I beat myself up all day long. Why didn’t I stick up for myself? Why didn’t I have the courage to speak up about my disabilities?

It wasn’t until the end of the day that God opened the eyes of my heart to see it wouldn’t have made one bit of difference to this young man whether I was partially blind or severely hearing impaired. He was clueless in the strongest sense of the word.

Trying to explain myself to this young man would have been foolish. I would have felt even worse if I had tried to make him understand and he still didn’t get it.

To be rejected and ridiculed for being physically impaired is cruel. It makes my heart hurt just thinking about it. I have tears pooling in my eyes as I write because there are people like this in the world. I may experience a small taste of it from time to time, but I know there are others who face this kind of ridicule ever day of their lives. And there are people who actually think they’ve done something bad or wrong to deserve their suffering. People who think God is punishing them. I’ve heard it more often than you can imagine.

But I know the Truth.

I know God gets me when no one else does.

I can cry out to Him because I know He hears me. He understands. He hurts when I hurt and weeps when I weep. He feels deeply the pain in my heart.

Just as Job acknowledged in response to Zophar,

“The life of every living thing is in His hand, as well as the breath of all mankind,” 

I acknowledge this Truth, too.

I know I’m still living and breathing on this earth only because God gives me breath.

My life is in His hands.

Just as Job declared,

“Wisdom and strength belong to God; counsel and understanding are His,”

I, too, believe.

I didn’t ask for that rock to fly out from under the lawnmower and crush my eye when I was just a little girl. I didn’t ask to be born with degenerative hearing loss. In all my years of living I’ve never met one single person who lives with these same disabilities in that exact combination. I’m sure they’re out there, but I’ve never met them. Which would make it real easy for me to say to anyone in my little part of the world, “You just don’t understand. You’re not living this.”

And Job didn’t ask for the Sabeans to raid him, steal all his animals and kill his farmhands. He didn’t ask for the fire to fall from heaven and burn up all his sheep and shepherds. He didn’t ask for the Chaldean raiders to steal his camels and kill his servants. He didn’t ask for a powerful wind to sweep in and collapse the house where all his children were eating together, killing them all. He didn’t ask to be struck with painful boils from head to toe.

In all honesty, his friends just didn’t get it. They weren’t living it.

We don’t ask for suffering to come to us, but it does. It’s the price we pay for living in a fallen world.

And friends are not always going to understand what you’re going through. They may share your burden. They may hurt for you. They may pray for you. But they may not always say the right thing. Sometimes they may disappoint you.

Give them grace.

Not a slap across the face.

Because in those times when my friends may not get my heart, I know God is really the One with all the answers, anyway.

And He will never disappoint.

He will say exactly what I need to hear.

His Word never fails to minister to me in my greatest need.

His Presence never fails to strengthen me in my weakest moments.

And in suffering.

When the grief is real.

He knows I may not be able to forget it, but I can live through it.

Because He Himself breathes for me.

There’s a reason why God allowed that rock to steal my eye. There’s a reason why I lose more hearing with every passing year. And it isn’t really about me. Not really.

I’ve found that each day God gives me breath is just one more day I can live out my faith and declare that even though this is a hearing-seeing world and I don’t hear and see like most people around me, when I cling to Him and cry out to Him He gives me all I need.

Sometimes I have to just stop talking, go back to that question and let it get in my face,

“Can you fathom the depths of God or discover the limits of the Almighty?”

and answer it with Truth,

“Wisdom and strength belong to Him, counsel and understanding are His.” 

I don’t have to figure out the Why’s.

But I can live with the Know’s.

I know God is still in His heaven.

And He’s looking down on all that He’s created.

That’s me.

That’s you.

I am still small and meek and completely at His mercy.

He gets me.

And when no one else does, that’s such a blessed thing to know.

 

 

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