Friday, May 24, 2013

I Am Job's Friend

In my Bible reading recently, I happened to land upon the section where Job is being 'counseled' by his 'friends'. To be honest, I tend to become a scanner in this part of the Book, because you already know the narrative and you know that this is just philosophical back and forth and I want Job to get better... so I just scan until God confronts him face to face and rush to the good part....restoration.

And I know all the commentary about how this advice or teaching from Job's friends doesn't really help. They are telling Him it is sin to doubt God, or that Job must have done something to deserve this, and all the normal things people say in the midst of inexplicable tragedy and suffering.

But as I was reading Job's friends. It wasn't that they were speaking heresy to Job... it was the fact that they were speaking at all.

I am all for long discussion of theological approaches to suffering- but their teaching wasn't much help to a man who had lost everything and was scrapping wounds inflicted by Satan under God's allowance.

Job did not need a lecture. He was merely spewing rhetorical exasperations. He was in pain.

A godly friend, confident in God and His divine purposes, should never feel pressure to defend God during these times- they need to be heartbroken, pray, and serve. The only words that matter here are "I love you" and "I am here".

In the dark of night, that friend would remember Job and reach out to him. And as Job cries out "Why is this happening" the only proper answer is "I don't know, my friend, but here is a cool taste of water and ointment for those wounds."

I get so sad that I always lead with words and rarely with sacrificial service.

The time for truth will come- but in the early stages of loss my friends and family need a shoulder and a servant and a heart of compassion.

God's people understand that.

When 200 mph winds destroy homes and schools- they pack their trucks with chainsaws and water and run to the hurting. They give money to support. They pray with tears of sorrow.

And them some, like me, sit back and pontificate on the problems.

I want to do better here. And it starts with my wife and children.

I have a tendency when some in my family come home- and they have had a hard day- and there are tears of pain or frustration or anger- I tend to work to 'explain' and 'teach' responses. Sadly, there have been times when the lecture begins with "you are wrong which means your emotions are a result of wrong" like that helps one bit.

Lord, make me more willing to say nothing at all and hug, pray, and serve.

Those other conversations will come... in time. But even then- the hug will go to the heart and my words will sound hollow without the love.

In our society right now- as I read the www. there has never been more suffering.

And yes, suffering of this magnitude is often exaggerated because of our distance from God and His gospel promises. Romans 1 is very clear... the consequences of sin are contained in the lawless acts themselves- a type of moral physics. Not all suffering is a direct application of personal sin Jesus and Job said that over and over, but we all suffer directly or indirectly because of sin. And sometimes we are left in the wreckage of natural disaster or providential tragedy- for the Lord allows the rain to fall on all.

But that whole last paragraph- full of truth- says NOTHING if it is not lived out in LOVE and compassion and mercy.

Many of us moralists will retreat and flee when the consequences of sin come full bloom. But God's people never retreat. They bind the wounds of the sinners because that is where we all are in gospel terms. Many, including me, will become teachers of the Law and, in mostly civilized and kind terms say, "see I told you so" and watch the carnage with little sympathy.

This doesn't mean that we never correct or discipline our children. But it does mean that even when we discipline we need to have the HEART of the Father as well. "He whom the Lord LOVES He disciplines".

This is how it should work:

A sinner, despite knowing better, stays in his sin until the hammer finally falls. He receives penalty and punishment. If he is still breathing, God has been merciful- but no one ever realizes that.

God's child steps in and sees a man suffering. He begins to pray, and love, and serve. He does these acts of mercy without expectation of gratitude or payback- he knows that God is his reward. He never PARTICIPATES in the sin, he doesn't enable or become a co-dependent the sin. But he prays, and loves, and helps with an non-condemning attitude.

One day, it is the sinner who begins the conversation.."Why do you do these things? I am not worthy of this!" And the Holy Spirit has now opened the door to gospel truth.

"We are all sinners, but God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. His call is on you now..Come and follow Me."

Now in reality- this is a long and complex process in a sea of rejection and mis-understanding and hearts hardened by sin.

But we should be in the process offering rest for the weary, help for the hurting, and prayers for all.

Today, I am going to stop being a bad friend to Job- I am going to be a godly God's grace.

No comments: