My father, a strong athletic man, could do 100 pushups in his 70’s. Mid-70’s he was struck with Lewy body dementia. Within a year from the hint of his symptoms, he was dead. One day he said, “I feel like I am losing my mind”; and he was. He started stumbling and falling hard. Quickly, he progressed from walking with a cane, to a wheelchair, to being bedridden. He lost his ability to speak clearly and to swallow. At that point, my mother and I had to make a decision to let him go naturally or medically prolong his suffering. The why questions mounted, and I became angry at God.
May I share my musings on intense struggles and suffering from today’s reading? (Hopefully I will not sound like Elihu.)
While Job is in turmoil, Elihu, with arrogance (35:1-16; 36:4) and shadows of concern (34:4), condemns Job’s unjustly questioning of God’s actions or non-actions, claim of innocence while carousing with sinners, and nonsensical speech. He shows insight into humanity: “In times of trouble, everyone begs the mighty God to have mercy” (35:9, CEV). He professes, “Hard times and trouble are God’s way of getting our attention!” (Job 36:26, CEV). Elihu claims God rules over individuals and nations in love, justice, and fairness. He conveys “how great God is—God is more than we imagine” and expands about God’s character (Job 36:26). During Elihu and his friends’ dissertations, God was silent. Oh God’s silence when we struggle is deafening, but He is very present. He is present even when friends’ advice and concern is not always comforting.
Psalm 44 is Israel’s lament over an enemy defeat. And, (if I may steal from tomorrow’s reading) “All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path” (vs 17-18). Their pain is compounded by confusion and frustration because they feel God has rejected them and they were faithful! How can that happen? Both the good and evil suffer.
A vulnerable Paul relies on God’s power to face the boiling issues of the Corinthian church. He declares “We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again” (II Corinthians 4:8-9, CEV). He draws attention to the treasure inside the jar clay, “our glorious Christ, who shows what God is like,” rather than on himself (II Corinthians 4:4b, CEV). During difficult times hold on to God and get to know Him.
Oh, let me finish the story about my father. He sensed my anger and, with jerky arm movements, he was able to grab my arms. Then, looking up, he made a wide swooping move with his arm and said, “Gena, someday He will make this all clear.” He did not lose his faith through the ordeal and he learned to really know God; and he shared Him with me.
Question of the day: What issue (covid-19, pain, depression, unknown future) can you submit to Him today and focus on knowing Him.
Abba Father, I do not like to feel emotional or physical pain. I do not like to suffer. However, I know you suffered immensely when you died for my sins. Help me learn from You, Job, the prophets, and others in their suffering. May I lean into you and know your character, love, power—just know you.