In this season of social distancing for most, and extreme isolation for others, as we all try to fight for faith in the face of COVID-19, I decided to share one thought a day from my daily devotional time in the hope of strengthening other’s hands in God (1 Sam 23:16), and encouraging friends forward in faith. As a pastor, who cannot gather with the people God has entrusted to His care, my hope is that these devotions, though simple, will be a small way for me to disciple people towards courage in the season of Coronavirus. You can subscribe at the bottom of the page to receive an email for each new post, and feel free to come back daily and share with anyone who might find them beneficial.
I use a reading plan that has me in different parts of the Scripture every day of the week, and so each day’s content will be dictated by the required daily reading of that plan. I am trusting God that He will speak from different parts of His Word, as He always does.
Wednesday, March 18
Reading: Job 25-27
It seems almost laughably appropriate that the first of these posts would be from the book of Job. Job is one of the most confounding – and in parts alarming – ancient texts, which speaks of the nature of suffering, the meaninglessness of trying to assess it as a “karmaic” equation, and one man’s refusal to lose his grip on faith in the face of some of the most cruel and seemingly random suffering that any person could ever suffer.
Most of the middle of the book is made up of a conversation that Job (who has lost absolutely everything he ever lived for) has with three of his friends. His friends say some true stuff about the nature of God and the nature of man, but their desire isn’t to sit in empathy with Job, but rather to explain away his suffering in a way that distances them from his experiences and explains his misfortunes in terms of some sort of construct of Divine consequence. It is convicting to me that we often rush to do this with people in who are in pain. In our attempts to make ourselves (and perhaps them) feel better, we keep ourselves outside of the circles of the experiences of those who are suffering, and we explain away their circumstances in systems that will hopefully protect ourselves from any expectation of experiencing the same fate that has befallen them.
Our deep desire to offer explanation often functions as the opposite of empathy.
We can be too quick to attempt to explain and too slow to lovingly listen. We can be all too willing to analyze another’s allotted set of circumstances while much too afraid to allow ourselves to feel another’s agony. Neither Job nor his friends had any real idea of what was actually going on, but Job’s friends were blinded by their hubris and so jumped to cause and effect implications in terms of their limited understanding of God, and they missed the chance to share the load of their friend Job.
Job warns them to not measure a person’s standing with God through outward appearance. It is a sobering call to us in a time when so many of the things that we look to as the meanings of success in life are being stripped away from us. Job tells us that it was the same then. He concludes that you just don’t know what lies around the bend in life, and so don’t try live a life without God.
Job says, a man might have lots of kids, but those kids could get taken out through violence, poverty, or pestilence (27:14-15). A person might have lots of money and loads of possessions, only to wake up to find that it is all gone, perhaps through no fault of their own (v16-19).
Friends, in these crazy days, let us not be like Job’s friends who put our hopes in the riches and successes of this world, and who miss out on opportunities to sit with the suffering. Let us be people, who like Job, are more content with the mystery of letting God be God, while we live as limited creatures who apply our energies through faith in an unlimited God. A people, who are content to love and serve those God puts in front of us, especially when they are hurting.
Let us not spend all of our energies trying to figure out how to get back to our old measures of success and faithfulness. Let us allow the Spirit of God to soften us, to embolden us and to empower us to be the best friends that those around us could have as they face the mystery of human suffering in this season.
Let us echo the words of Job who said,
“I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go…” – Job 27:6 (CSB)
Courage, dear friends.