Sitting with Our Pain

When Job when through the worst time of his life, some of his friends came for a visit and sat with him while he grieved. They cried out in lament, ripped their robes and dumped dirt on their heads to show their grief with poor Job. They sat in silence with him for seven days, saying not one word that entire time. It’s remarkable to think they not only stayed for a whole week but didn’t talk at all.

The other amazing part of this story is Job having three such dedicated and selfless friends. It’s rare to have friends or be a friend like that. The only friend I know who would sit with me in my pain, for days on end or even months or years, is Jesus. I learned something about my friend and my pain – he won’t force himself into my pain, but I can invite him to sit with me.

In Self to Lose, Self to Find, Marilyn Vancil suggests we can invite Jesus into the middle of whatever we’re experiencing, be it negative emotions and feelings, pain or grief. I guess I can be a little slow, as I hadn’t thought of doing this before, but I tried it last time I went through a tough day and found it quite uplifting and encouraging. To know he shared my suffering, with no guilt trips or recriminations, lifted my spirit and my burden. What a friend we have in Jesus indeed.

God restores

“So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10b, NLT).

Suffering is a part of life we’d rather do without, but unfortunately, like death and taxes, it’s here to stay. Two famous stories of suffering and loss are those of Job and Joseph. Job woke up one fine morning, thinking it was going to be another beautiful day, only to receive one crushing blow after another, learning his family and everything he owned was wiped out. Joseph was ripped from everything he knew and loved, sold into slavery, falsely accused and put in jail. Both were sent reeling: unexpectedly and inexplicably devastated.

We know the end of their stories: everything was restored to them and then some, happy endings all around. That doesn’t happen in real life. Most of the time it seems we suffer loss and that’s it. But what God restored to Job and Joseph gives us a glimpse into the heart of God. He knows what we suffer, he feels our losses and he will make right all the wrongs we’ve experienced. No, probably not in this life, but that’s the hope we have in Jesus: life after death, joy after mourning, peace after war, strength after weakness and restoration after loss. We will not be left desolate when our strength and hope is in him.

God’s tenderness and mercy

“We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy” (James 5:11, NLT).

This verse must have been the inspiration for a popular quotation from the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end (close anyway). The line is amusing but also true. The Bible talks a lot about enduring to the end and the story of Job is a classic example of someone who did just that.

English: U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps shows off...
English: U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps shows off his Olympic gold medal as he stands on the victory podium at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Watching the Olympics brings this home in a whole new way. Not only do the athletes have to endure years of training, they also have to work through the pressure of the final performance and make it through the difficulties they encounter in their big races. Sometimes they crash or fall or are injured, but if possible, they keep going. For many, just finishing the race is all they can do.

That’s all most of us can do. If we can just hang in there and with God’s help, either limp or drag ourselves across the finish line, God will make sure everything will be alright in the end. He will be waiting with our gold medals and will hang them around our necks with more tenderness and mercy than we can even imagine.