Thoughts

I’ve been putting off writing this for a while but since I can’t seem to forget about it I suppose I should just do it. Here goes…

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed Gd in their hearts.”

This was Job’s regular custom.

I think that most of us know how the story goes. If not, you can find it in the book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible.

I took Job as a class as one of my Old Testament electives in college. And according to my Dad (who is unbelievably biased), I wrote a darn good paper. You know, stemming from all the wisdom I’d accumulated in my 24 years. And apparently there is some debate about whether or not Job was a real person or if it’s a fable. When I heard that in class I had a momentary freak out. It doesn’t really matter though because the story of Job speaks to the human condition. It’s an extreme situation but it’s one that most people can relate to in terms of the tribulation that comes from loss.

I’d like to fast forward past the tribulations themselves because the end result is that Job loses everything. Kids, wealth, health and ultimately his friends. In chapter 3 Job curses the day of his birth. I can’t say that I blame him. Then Eliphaz speaks and starts this dialogue on a collision course of accusations and well, bad theology. The jist of itΒ  is that his friends are determined to make him confess his sin and Job is determined to declare his righteousness.

Bildad the Shuhite says in chapter 8 verse 3 and 4:

Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When Your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.

When they sinned? How does he know that? Was Bildad there? Did he see them sin? The Bible doesn’t say he was. So was it his opinion stemming from the theology that only good things happen to righteous people and bad things to the unrighteous?

Job responds in chapter 9 and I’m quoting from verse 14-17:

How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him?

Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.

Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing.

He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason.

I’d been reading Job a while ago and, honestly, I don’t really enjoy reading it. I enjoy reading it even less because the accusing from Job’s friends and Job accusing God makes me cringe. Really, people, it gets ugly. But mostly I cringed because I recognized myself in Job. Not in the degree of suffering, of course, but in what has come out of my mouth during times of struggling. I’m not gonna lie, the last, um, lifetime has been hard but especially these last 9-ish years. But no matter my struggle, what was in my heart came out of my mouth and it was exceedingly ugly at times. Not always but there were definitely times that it was.

Hadn’t God seen my obedience? Didn’t he know that I studied to be in ministry? Did he remember that I was in ministry? Did he realize that I gave that up because he wanted me to? I embraced uncertainty, moved to two different states and six different cities, cried every single day for his will to be done. And the more I cried and prayed the harder things got. I tried to be perfect in my obedience, perfect in my perspective, perfect in looking on the bright side and perfect in listening for and doing his will. And our finances failed in spite of giving, my health failed in spite of my best efforts to be healthy and my marriage was miserable.

Why would someone offer sacrifices for their kids just in case they sinned? Who does that? I think that Job 3:35 answers that.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.

In my non-theologian opinion, that verse speaks volumes about Job’s motives. Now, before you get ready to stone me, I’m not saying that he didn’t suffer, I’m not saying that he wasn’t righteous. The Bible says he did suffer greatly and was a righteous man. And yet, in his heart, he believed that all his piety would save him from suffering. And in that way, I am Job.

It was a Saturday like any other Saturday. I’d like to say that the Buttons are an incredibly productive lot on Saturdays but we usually aren’t. We had a late breakfast and Travis started going through the bills and once again, our backs were up against a wall and our financial position was going to change and not in a good way. So he and I prayed like we always do in those situations. When it was my turn, I asked God to reveal if we had done something to keep us from experiencing breakthrough in our finances. And after we prayed I decided to take some time and pray by myself. And like a movie, I could see myself over these last several years praying and crying and declaring my innocence. “I’ve done everything the right way!” I declared it over and over. Yes, I did seek the Lord in every area, every aspect, every decision. But why? Yes, I love God with all my heart. But was there something else? Unfortunately there was. It’s the formula, Amy+obedience= God’s blessing. My faith wasn’t in God’s faithfulness or his love or his ability to deliver and heal me. My faith was in my obedience. That if I am faithfully obedient enough, God has to bless me.

When the realization of my sin hit me I was humbled. The Lord didn’t say to me like he did to Job:

Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Chapter 38 vs. 3-4

And for that I am very grateful. Instead he poured his love out on me as I sobbed in repentance. I felt like Paul in Romans 7:24;

What a wretched (wo)man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

To be perfectly honest, I hate admitting any of this. And I’m only talking about myself. I’m not trying to drag any of you down with me. I never really related to Job because his circumstances seemed so severe, who could relate to that? But the book of Job is a book about the human struggle. Everyone struggles in different ways. It’s my response to my struggle that matters. I still find myself wanting to be perfect. I still try to never be anxious or disappointed, out of fear that it will make things worse. I try to find the good or the reason for everything. And then I’m brought to a point or situation that is going to make my circumstances something that I don’t want.Β  But my lack doesn’t change God’s character.

2 Timothy 2:13 says;

If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

And that, my friends, is what I’ve been thinking about.

Addendum…I should add that my marriage is no longer miserable. We’ve really seen restoration in that area and I’m thankful. I just didn’t want to get any phone calls and e-mails from concerned friends and family or freak my husband out.

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10 thoughts on “Thoughts

    • Well, I do occasionally think about more than homeschool, cleaning, making dinner and what color I’m going to paint the kitchen πŸ˜‰

  1. I don’t buy into the formula. Yes, there are times when God withholds blessings based on human sin. But, there are plenty of of examples- Job included- where perfectly faithful Christians have a difficult earthly life. The world holds injustice. Why are sold-out believers in Africa dying of hunger? Why are believers in India burned alive? I am reminded that Christ did not die to give us comfort here on earth. All those spouting the riches and prosperity found in a life with Christ are missing the boat! He is no magic genie, and His people are not automatically given less struggles than the rest of the population. But, He gives us an eternal life, of which our time here is a *sliver*. We are to carry out His mission of love and worship Him through it all, knowing this is but a temporary state of being. It’s supposed to free us up- knowing that we aren’t here long. Loosen our grasp and make us more willing to yell, “My life is not my own!”. Instead, I think many cling to earthly treasures all the tighter because they fear loosing them.

    I’m babbling. I’m not nearly as eloquent as you’ve been here, but God has obviously shown more of Himself to you through your experiences of struggle. That is something to thank Him for and celebrate, as odd as it sounds.

    • I don’t think you’re babbling. I think you’re passionate. And it doesn’t sound odd. I’m happier than I have ever been even though some aspects of my life are miserable. I’m speaking mostly of my health. I just know (now) that my circumstances don’t have to dictate my happiness.

  2. So well said. I struggle with the same thing you have struggled with. Trying to make it all work on a scale somehow. I do A, God is obligated to do B. Right? I know better, but it seems like every time I’m faced (in my own life or with someone else) with God doing C or D instead of B, or worse…not doing anything, I have to run through the same verses and thought processes all over again. Not by works, by grace…not by anything I’ve achieved, but by His great sacrifice. I want it to make sense, and sometimes, when I relax with Him, and hang my idealism up in the closet, it does.

    Thanks for sharing this Amy, it was so clearly communicated. Well done.

    You deserve a cookie. πŸ™‚

  3. First of all, I applaud your courage and humility to share something so personal…but then I believe the Lord expects us to in order to help others…As I wrote in my blog a couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend gave Doug and I a prophetic word many years ago (maybe 15?) that we would go through a Job-like experience…not the kind of prophetic word most people want to receive…The thing is…there is suffering in this world… some worse than others…(I just read an article in the newspaper about Mary Beth Chapman and the tragedy her family went through and are still working through…She said life was just about perfect before that)…Nobody wants to hear that, least of all Christians, because we want to believe as you said that if we do everything right, if we are good enough or carefully obedient…somehow we will escape suffering…But the Bible tells us that there is suffering in this life period and we will experience it and that if we don’t suffer with Christ, we are not worthy of Him!

    The good news is that He promised to never leave us or forsake us and He will see us through…

    Rom. 5:3, 8:17-18, James 5:10, II Cor. 1:3-5, I Pet. 3:8-17, 4:12-19, Phil. 1:29, 3:10, Heb. 2:10 and others…

  4. I know I already commented this morning but I just wanted to add that I could relate to a lot of what you wrote…I have gone the gamut from blame (mostly self-examination) to self pity to despair…despair, because I can never measure up to what I think God wants from me…It’s too much pressure…for anyone…The Lord has been sending help to us…1) The wonderful devotional that Kay and Otis Duncan gave me for Mother’s Day…Jesus Calling…has really helped me (and Doug) to relax and just let God’s love bathe us (and that is a very short synopsis of all it has helped us see) and 2) Joel Osteen…Yes, Joel Osteen…His sermons the last couple of months have been instrumental in us turning our outlook around…We are returning to our roots (and what the Bible says, after all) of FAITH…Now, I realize I risk a lot by saying that but I value honesty above all so there it is…We have been drowning and it was only when we stopped struggling, stopped complaining that we received the life ring that we so desperately needed…
    P.S. Others very often see us differently than we see ourselves…As a famous preacher once said, “God already knows what you are made of…He wants YOU to see what’s inside you…”

  5. I know I’m a few days late…but I wanted to comment too πŸ™‚
    I’m so glad you found the time and the courage to talk about this. You know, I struggle with the same concept, but in a different area. I have always felt that my own righteousness would obligate God to bless me. I suppose that’s putting it a little more bluntly than I normally would, but for brevity’s sake, we’ll just go with that.
    I’ve had my own struggles over the years and am striving to accept the grace that’s offered to me in spite of my failings, not because I’m such a good girl who makes all the right life decisions.

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