Thursday, August 20, 2009

2009 – Day 231.Aug 20 – God’s Presence In Suffering

Passage of the Day: Job 2: 11 – 13 … 11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. 12 And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. 13 So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.

My Journal for Today: As I sit here and meditate and contemplate on this passage for another day’s devotional, listening to soothing contemporary worship music, I can feel God’s glory being expressed in the music and this scene where Job’s friends shared Job’s grief and sat quietly with him for several days. And I agree with Pastor Swindoll, who expresses the message from this, that this scene is much more expressive of a true relationship with God rather than what will transpire when these same three compassionate “friends” become the voices of isolated religion and worldly wisdom.

You’ve probably read the upcoming speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, where they move from contemplative compassion to intellectual speculation. To illustrate the difference between these two approaches to our witness when we, as Christians, happen upon a friend who is suffering, Swindoll relates the story told to him by a friend of his, one Joe Bayly and his wife, who were grieving the loss of their third child. They had lost a baby years before, a second child at five to leukemia, and, at the time of the story, their 18 year old boy had died in a sledding accident, from complications of hemophilia. Joe related to Swindoll that one Christian friend had come to him and waxed as eloquent as he could, speculating as to the reasons God would allow all of this to happen. Joe said that he understood, in his head, that everything the friend shared was true. But, after some time, the man left; and Joe reported that he was glad to see him go. But then another friend came to their home and just sat with Joe and his wife. They shared tears. They shared prayers. And they just shared togetherness. Joe said when this friend left, he was sorry to see him go.

And that my friends is the difference between Christianity where a relationship with God is shared, … where God’s love is shared with His grace and mercy being the empowering element of fellowship. However, when religion is the motive for sharing, Swindoll reports that the fellowship shares, “… answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy.” And Chuck extends this word picture with a poignant sentence about today’s passage and the sharing Job would get from his three friends. Swindoll writes, “The answers [that Job’s friends would give to Job] are slapped on Job’s ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle.” And that is very expressive of religion without relationship.

When we share God’s love with another, especially one who suffers, it becomes hollow and meaningless to the one with whom we’re sharing, if they cannot feel the love being offered through the personal relationship we have with that person being shared through the empathizing grace of who we are in Christ. At the moment our story for today ended, Job was likely feeling the love and grace of God being administered by these three friends. However, as we move into future passages in Job’s book, we see Job’s questions of God’s wisdom being sparked by the hard, speculative answers which these same three friends would offer to Job thereafter.

These three had done enough at the point our story ended today. They should have shut up and left Job to seek his “WHY” answers directly from God, which, as we know from the book of Job will ultimately transpire. When we offer religion to a friend who suffers, we offer them nothing. But when we give a suffering friend relationship and the dignity of silence in sharing time in empathy, we share God with another. Let us take this lesson from God’s book on the dignity of suffering and make it reality the next time we encounter the suffering of a friend.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be a real friend and share the tears of my sadness rather the words of my head when I find a friend who suffers dearly. Amen

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