Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Job or a Job?

Job or Job?  

Kinda confusing, huh?  It all depends on that silly little “o” in the word—either you pronounce it, “ohhh” or “ah.” 

That equally applies to how we see the people before us—are they like Job in the Bible, who have met with some devastating circumstances and really need some encouragement and help, or are they triggering us, quickly putting us into CoDeMo, and now we have another rescue job before us?

The reason for this chapter is simple:  not everyone who is in dire straits is because of their choices and their sin.  There are times, when out of nowhere, a bomb drops on people, and they are devastated.  They reel in the suddenness of it, and the depth of it.

We live in a war zone.  Ever since Satan became the "prince of this world" (John 14:30) due to Adam wanting his way and not God's way, we have been under siege. The siege is conducted by our fallen and sinful flesh.  Our planet still bears the mark of its Creator, but groans under the weight of sin (Romans 8:19).  Jesus is still King, but His domain is not at peace.  Revelation shows us just how much evil is entrenched on this planet, and how Satan and his army will not go down (which they  will) without a fight. 

Sometimes, bad happens, like a missile hitting a hospital in a country at war.  Let me share with you a personal example.  Believe me, before I launch into this, I can tell you that most of the adverse circumstances I have found myself in had some element of my flesh involved—spiritual pride; not consulting the Lord but acting in haste;  not willing to listen to wise counsel; thinking that I had all the answers. 

But this circumstance just came at me.  I was not adding any fuel to some fire.  I was just living life.  My husband and I were watching a John Wayne movie when he complained of pain in his chest.  I thought he had worked out too hard earlier that day on the treadmill, and that he should take a Tylenol.  (That is the joke in my family.  If you have any pain, pop a Tylenol.)

He said this felt too painful for Tylenol, and said he thought he was having a heart attack.  I was skeptical, for my husband has a very low threshold for pain. But we flew down the highway to the local urgent care center.  Sure enough, he was having a heart attack.  Next thing I know, I am standing in the urgent care parking lot, while medical personnel are loading him into an ambulance and driving off quickly.  I followed to the hospital in a dream-like state.  It all seemed so weird.

The year before my husband had had an aortic valve replacement, and had bounced back quickly.  He was in better health than he had been in a long time, for his heart was moving and a-groovin’.  So, this was just strange. I arrived at the hospital and he had already been checked in and was in surgery.
His cardiologist came out later and said that while on the table, my husband had suffered a stroke.

WHAT?  Time just stopped.

Is he OK?

No.  He is paralyzed on the right side.

WHAT?  I would later tell people that our lives changed in a New York minute.

My husband would go into rehab for eight weeks, learning to walk without assistance, move his arms and function again.  I was with him every step of the way, sometimes even falling asleep on a couch or finding a chair in the hospital where I could crash. 

My husband finally came home and seem to be recovering quite well.  He worked hard to get back to his old self and we had lots of support, love and prayers.
It had been five and a half years, and my husband has for about the last two years, been in a slow but steady decline.  These have been the hardest five and a half years of my life.  My husband has a brilliant mind, and to watch him struggling cognitively is draining on both of us. 

Could sin enter in to such a picture?  Even though we never saw the stroke and its aftermath coming, I have struggling endlessly with anger, pride, impatience, judgment, isolation, and wanting to run away to Montana or somewhere, and just live with my two dogs.

Now, I can hear you sweet CoDeWo’s saying, “But those are all normal caretaker emotions—no sin there.”  It’s not that the emotions are sinful; it’s where they lead me—deep into my head, and wanting to have nothing to do with anyone.  Spiritually, it’s been a struggle as well—I love Jesus deeply, but at times, I act petulantly towards Him and do things that I find comfort in (although only temporary) without Him. 

I am not too dissimilar from those folks in the desert with Moses, constantly forgetting all that God has done, and grumbling and mumbling on how it used to be, and I wish I could go back there.  I so easily forget the mighty ways God intervened into my and my husband’s life:
  • The doctor on call that night in the ER was my husband’s regular cardiologist
  • When the doctor came to the waiting room and told me, a former student of mine was visiting her husband and she was there with me, and put her arm around me as he spoke
  • The Scripture above the hospital doors that I walked through every day was Matthew 11:28: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  • He could have died with this kind of heart attack
  • He did not lose his ability to speak, due to the location of the stroke
  • I was able to visit him every day because it was summer, and I was not working
  • Our kids got really involved and our grandbabies were amazing, bringing pictures they drew to hang on his hospital walls
  • A friend of Clay’s came often to play chess with him
  • He was able to eat lots of pizza
  • The staff were extraordinarily kind, and he said he really saw Jesus in them
  • He started quoting Romans 8:28 a lot: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Wow. Just as the children of Israel were delivered from slavery through miraculous displays of God’s power and love, we too, were blessed with the same love and power.  I was able to speak to some of the patients’ families and even ministered to a mother and father whose son had been in a terrible car accident; God put me right into these verses:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

Sometimes we read the Word, and sometimes we are in the Word, moving it from the printed page into the world around us by having it in us.  

How easily I forget how much He was with both Clay and I in those hard days.  Why do we forget the days of wonder when we are in the days of woe?  Because the immediate overwhelms the past, and can easily take us into sin.  We didn’t ask for this medical crisis, no more than the children of Israel asked to be enslaved in Egypt.  We were not suffering the consequences of poor choices or sinful ways; neither were the children of Israel as they worked under the whip of taskmasters.
But, when we are truly in a Job situation, where the unexpected becomes the new normal, we still have a job to do:  focus on God, His provision and His wisdom to guide us through our circumstances. 

Even the midst of Job having literally lost everything, he would not, even though his wife taunted him to do so, “curse God and die.”  Remember, Mrs. Job had lost everything, too.  What I have learned about Job is not just in the book itself, but that book’s larger context in what is called “Wisdom Literature.”  That should tell you something right there:  The three books, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, are interesting in their relationship to one another, and give us insight to how we view the calamities that befall us, and what is our responsibility in all of it.

Proverbs is basically a Do Right, Follow God’s Wisdom, Avoid Evil and Life Will Go Well With You.  There is truth in that statement.  The Word is full of sound advice that will enable us to avoid many pitfalls in life.  My favorite verses come from there:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)  

I have seen this time and time again in my life, and usually if I am deep in CoDeMo, it’s because I have not leaned on Him for wisdom and guidance on what to do, and my paths end up crooked, full of pain and resentment.

Ecclesiastes is the other end of the How To Live Life Spectrum.  Solomon tries all that the world promises will give him satisfaction and peace—wine, women and song, to name a few.  He is Hollywood, Wall Street and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous all rolled into one.  Guess what?  After sampling all the world’s finest offering, he concludes that all is “vanity.”  John sums it up ever so nicely many centuries later:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Yup.  Solomon would have agreed heartily.  But he also laid down with dogs.  He was covered in fleas by the end, and wouldn’t we all like to say, “I told you, so, King.  For one who sought wisdom from God then got lost in the world’s way of living, you get what you deserve.”

True.  When we watch others plunge into sin, and then they start drowning, although we may be a wonderful CoDeWo Lifeguard, don’t we have niggling doubts that this person we are rescuing seems to jump back into the deep end far too often?  As a CoDeWo in recovery, deep in my heart I wanted to shout, “Stop jumping in that pool!  It’s way too deep and dog-paddling will not keep your nose above the surface!”  But I still jumped in and rescued them, year after year after year.

So, in our Wisdom Literature, we have two views of life:  Stay way from crazy and your life won’t be; don’t lie down with dogs if you hate fleas.  Makes sense. 

Then comes Job.  He’s a Proverbs kind of guy:

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. (Job 1:1)

He was wealthy, with many children.  We would look at such a man and say he was blessed, because he avoided evil.  True.  But something deeper was going on here than a simple equation of Be Good and Life Will Be Good:

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

"Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:8-12)

Satan’s name means “adversary”  and that is what he is doing—wandering around the earth, looking to accuse God’s children, because Satan is against everything and everyone that has to do with God.  Satan argues that the only reason Job loves God is because of all the bounty he has.  So, in order to silence the accusation that Job only loves God for what he has, God allows it to be taken away.
Everything and everyone is Job’s life is removed quickly. Job’s reaction to this overwhelming catastrophe?

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)

The rest of the book looks hard and long at why bad things happen to good people.  It’s not another Proverbs, where if you act good, life is good and it is not another Ecclesiastes where life is empty when you pursue the world and leave God behind.  Job is addressing a real problem of why, even if someone lives a Proverbs kind of life, bad things still happen.  It is not always a moral failure on the part of the person.

So, sweet CoDeWo, I am not implying that every catastrophe that befalls someone is due to a sin or a worldly choice.  There are times where, like Job, a person is pursuing God wholeheartedly, and is living a life that reflects God’s influence, wisdom and love.

In looking back over all the people I became co-dependent with and enmeshed with, not one of them was a Job.  They thought they were, of course. Because they were unwilling to connect their behaviors, actions and choices with the negative outcomes. Or they didn’t see it, because of all the chaos in their lives. Or because they thought a life with constant chaos was normal, and if things were calm, they felt uncomfortable, and went out looking for new chaos.

The Jobs that I have encountered never came to me looking for me to rescue them, carry their burden, or be responsible for cleaning up their lives.  Or, perhaps those people weren’t looking for me to step in, but something triggered me to do so, and in I went.
I believe the Jobs know that no one person can save them.  The predicament they were in are way beyond any human solution, help or guidance:
  • A mother who finally lost a daughter to the fifth attempt at suicide
  • The father who lost his son to suicide after years of battling with severe mental health
  • A woman whose second husband beat her and she knew this time she had to leave
  • A girl serving at church in the children’s ministry who binged and purged, and it finally landed her in the hospital

 These are only a few I can recall.  They reached out, only for prayer, because they knew this was a God-sized journey of healing, recovery and grief.  They didn’t trigger in me a need to rescue them; how could I?  I am not that powerful. 

What I found was these people leaned hard on Jesus; they knew that only Jesus could stand by them at the level they needed; I saw no pity party, no woe is me…only a resolve, like Job, not to curse God.
God was the only Hope they had; He was the only Lifeboat that showed up to their Titanic.

The people who came to me were hurting, yes, but were unwilling to fully surrender to God.  They wanted me to step in and carry their burden, while they continue on their merry way. So, sometimes there are Jobs out there, for whom love and prayer is the greatest gift you can give them.  Job’s friends grilled him on why his life had gone so south; they failed to see that sometimes suffering is from a larger cause and effect, not because the person has sinned in some way.

What I love about the book of Job is how it ends:  God gives Job a whirlwind tour of His creation, in all its majesty and complexity.  God shows job that He is intimately involved in the universe and its operation.  Job’s life would be a testimony to God’s presence, and how evil will never extinguish the good that God gives.  At the end, all of Job’s life is restored.

Evil may prevail for a time and we watch in utter horror as calamity befalls someone whose life radiates Jesus.  That person become a walking testimony of how it is God and God alone who can carry His children in this world where evil lurks and strikes. 

Those who sin and feel its sting are no less part of God’s love.  But they want us to fix it now.  They  refuse to learn the lessons that God longs to teach us about Himself in adversity.  As a recovering CoDeWo, I now want nothing more to get out of the way and do only what God would have me do.  Just as Jesus did.

That’s next.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...