The Lord blessed the latter days of Job ...

And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. (Job 42:10-12 ESV)

I love the way that Job's story ends. He forgives and prays for his friends. He is healed. His fortunes are restored. Sometimes we get a second chance at life after grief. You know it was funny how Ann and I met all over again. We had been acquainted for almost 20 years but had not seen each other for about five years. One day we, by chance, ran into each other at a sidewalk sale in south Kansas City. I wrote this poem at the onset of our courtship.

Love at Second Sight

What drew me to her I do not know.
Spirit? Soul? Flesh? A mystery to me still.
On that day I saw her again ... for the very first time.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

That day was bright ... my heart was dark.
Her skin was fair ... my soul was heavy.
A spark ignited and my spirit soared.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

The summer passed and fall had come.
My mind wandered still to that that day in June,
When my heart was touched by her lovely smile.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

As grief passed and courage grew,
I saw her again and then I knew ...
That my heart longed to know her heart.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

Mourning exchanged for joy.
Loneliness turned into happiness.
Feelings I can neither explain nor express.
Could this be love ... at second sight?

Time goes on and passion grows.
Where we'll go ... who really knows.
My heart and my mind yet question still ...
Could this be love ... at second sight?

When you are experiencing hardship, and wonder if your trial will ever end, it is good to remember Job. How God was faithful to him. How God blessed the latter part of his life more than the first. Do not lose heart. God does care and He has a purpose and a plan for your life. Open your eyes and begin to see your situation with eyes of redemption. Know that He can and He will redeem your darkest times and most difficult situations to give you beauty for ashes.

You have brought beauty from ashes in my life Lord. He me to remember this beauty when I am in pain.

I have uttered what I did not understand ...

Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6 ESV)

These words had to have been music to divine ears. Job has come to himself and the relationship that he once had with God is being set right. Are there more beautiful words in all of literature than these? Words of repentance are the most majestic ones in any language. Job's words embody the phrase "I am sorry" and speak to the deep way that his dialog with God has changed him. In the end only God can bring beauty out of the ash heap of our pain and our grief.

I find myself today in such a place. This month marks the fifth anniversary of Ann's horrible physical relapse that placed her in a motorized wheelchair. As I look back over the years I find that my theology of healing and of pain has substantially changed. I think that this change has caused my relationship to God to be healthier - I do not obsess as much about things that I have no control over. That said, I still long for God to appear to me the way that He did to Job.

Like Job, I often utter what I do not understand Lord. I repent. Open my eyes. Help me to see you.

Will you even put me in the wrong?

Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? (Job 40:8 ESV)

Our story is coming to a close. God is questioning Job. He has asked him questions that have only divine answers. This question is a bit more personal. When the story began Job was stuck in a season of denial and spoke things that seemed religiously correct. Back then it was written that "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." Then denial ebbed and deep emotions surfaced. Not understanding what was going on Job said condemning things.

It is so easy to lash out at God when we suffer great loss - especially if we have a certain view of divine sovereignty. If our view is narcissistically man-centric then we most certainly will see God as being involved in everything that happens to us. In this view the world revolves around us. But if we can get outside of our little world, for even a moment, we will see that divine sovereignty allows but does not cause things to happen to us. It is hard to see when we grieve.

Help us to see you Lord as the One who causes even bad things to work together for our good.

I lay my hand on my mouth.

Then Job answered the LORD and said: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” (Job 40:3-5 ESV)

There is a time to be still and know that He is God. This is such a time for Job. God has confronted him and showed him that he is unaware of what is happening all around him - life is going on even though Job hurts so much. It is a difficult to hear of such things when we are so focused on our loss. In such times we need to be made aware that life is more than our pain. Sometimes it is so helpful to get outside of ourselves and direct our attention elsewhere.

As God speaks from the whirlwind Job is beginning to understand that his anger directed at God has not been a healthy way to vent his grief. Many times in deep anguish we speak hurtful words - things that leave our mouths that we can never get back. When we are confronted our first reaction is to make excuses like Job does here. We are tempted to write off our actions because we were grieving. But, even in grief, God requires more of us.

You Lord did not leave Job alone in his pain. Thank you for being faithful to correct us even when we grieve.

The LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind ...

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? (Job 38:1-5 ESV)

I think that this is one of the oddest passages in all of the bible. It is one of the few times that God visits man in this fashion. I wonder what the whirlwind experience was like? Did God speak audibly (the narrative seems to indicate that he did) or were the words perceived by the hearers in their minds? On the flip-side I wonder if the author of Job took literary license and presented the words of the Lord in a context that readers could readily understand?

I love how it is said that "the Lord answered Job" but He never really answered any of the questions that Job asked Him. Interestingly God rhetorically speaks of laying the earth's foundations and challenging Job to understand what only the Almighty can perceive. In all of God's soliloquy (which goes on for chapters) I hear him asking Job to simply trust the One who created and sustains all that we can see. Yet trusting God in times of grief is no easy task.

You are the Almighty. The Creator of all things visible and invisible. Help us Lord to trust you in times of trouble.

He burned with anger ...

Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job's three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger. (Job 32:2-5 ESV)

There is a very good chance that Elihu is the author of the book of Job. He is the only one mentioned in the book that details his ancestry. He has been waiting to speak and has heard everything that Job and his friends have said - perhaps he was taking notes? As he has listened to his elders speak passion has surfaced from his gut. He cannot understand why these do not understand why all of this has happened to Job. He spends the next six chapters venting.

In some sense grieving is very difficult to understand when we are young. The lessons of age often (but not always) provides us with a context to deal with loss. As we age we experience the loss of grandparents and then parents. We learn to grieve because we have to. Those who are younger, like Elihu, do not have that context and express deep emotions when bad things happen - and sometimes their anger is misdirected at those who are hurting the most.

Help us Lord to know how to be content with unanswerable questions. Teach us to be comforters and not accusers.

I cry to you for help and you do not answer me ...

God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me. (Job 30:19-21) My skin turns black and falls from me, and my bones burn with heat. My lyre is turned to mourning, and my pipe to the voice of those who weep. (30:30-31)

Sometimes life can seem so unbearable. Often in these times we pray and we pray and nothing seems to change. Job has now been talking to his friends for some time and the weight of his grief seems as heavy as the moment that they arrived to be with him. In each soliloquy he offers Job seems to speak of how God seems to be so far and how the Lord seems to be against him. It can be so hard when we grieve and our prayers are unanswered.

Some time into his ministry John the Baptist was arrested by Herod and cast into jail. As time passes John wonders why the one who proclaimed freedom to prisoners had not come to his cell to set him free. He sends his disciples to Jesus and they return with this message from Christ: "blessed is the one who is not offended by me". It is a hard but necessary message to hear when we hurt, grieve and our prayers are unanswered.

Help us Lord to not be offended at You when our prayers are unanswered.

Oh, that I were as in the months of old ...

And Job again took up his discourse, and said: “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent, when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were all around me, when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil! (Job 29:1-6 ESV)
The path of grief is the path forward but so often the path takes a turn towards the past. Dealing with the past that we have lost is a normal and essential phase of grief. Listen to what Job says - listen with your heart as he speaks of days when he says "my children were all around me". As he sits in darkness all he can think of are the days when his life was filled with the light of God. He looks back and deeply longs for the beautiful family life that he once had.

I resonate with this sort of pain. I remember the feeling that I had sitting in that grief recovery group so many years ago. I looked back at the life I had with Ellen before she died and I cried. Sadness filled my heart when I looked back. Then the leader of our group told us that the goal of grieving was to look back and to not be sad but to be able celebrate our memories. As I actively grieved I got to that point. I can now look back and experience joy as I remember our life.

Help us dear Father to deal with our past. Bring us to a point where we can celebrate the good things in it.

He is not there ... I do not perceive him ...

“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. (Job 23:8-9 ESV)

These words are spoken in response to Eliphaz the Temanite who ended his instruction to Job with: "You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you". Before Eliphaz and his friends showed up the man covered with boils has probably been praying most of his days. Grieving people pray and, in a sense, it is normal to vent deep emotions to God in prayer. The Lord has big shoulders and we should cast our burdens on him. He loves us and cares so much for us.

Yet prayer can sometimes be such a lonely proposition. A grieving person can feel so alone. In these times we so want to know God is there yet we, like Job, "do not perceive him" or feel his presence. In times like these I have found solace in the words of Holy Scripture. Though my prayers do not seem to reach heaven I am comforted by Christ's promise to never leave me or forsake me. In times of darkness I have come to trust what he says more than what I feel.

Come Holy Spirit. You are the Comforter. Help grieving people all over the world to know you are there.

If ... Then ...

If you return to the Almighty you will be built up;
if you remove injustice far from your tents,
if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed,
then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver.
For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.
You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows.
(Job 22:23-27 ESV)

Eliphaz the Temanite seems to have the antidote for Job's problems. Don't you just love people that spout formulaic prose to suffering people? There was a time when rules, principles and formulas really seemed to work for me. I had a complex system of principles that I lived by even though I imagined myself to be, generally speaking, led by the Holy Spirit. It is the tension that many of us face when we lean on our own "Christian" understanding of life.

The intense pain of grief can never be eased by rules, principles or formulas. Our mind is not geared to deal with loss because it cannot deal with things that are unfathomable. When the loss of my first wife set in my formulas stopped working - rules are no match for pain because loss is not experienced by the logical part of us. There is no logic to grief. Grief is so irrational. Grieving is an issue of trusting God with our heart and not leaning on our understanding.

Help us Lord today to trust you with all of our heart - even when we grieve.

Look at me and be appalled ...

Look at me and be appalled, and lay your hand over your mouth. When I remember, I am dismayed, and shuddering seizes my flesh. Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? (Job 21:5-7 ESV)

Zophar the Naamathite has just unleashed a diatribe in which he insinuates that Job is evil. His attack was brutal and now Job, in these verses above, tries to respond to his accusations. What do you do when you are called evil by a so-called friend? And how is it that such an accusation has only surfaced when something so horrible has happened to him? In times of grief intense emotions can emerge. Things hidden deep within can come to bear in such ugly ways.

The painful boils are one thing for Job to deal with but every now and then he is reminded of his appalling appearance. And when he gazes at his reflection he shudders and wonders why the wicked seem to be treated better. When we suffer (or are suffering) great loss our mind goes to dark places and the fairness (or unfairness) of life enters our thinking. In times like these it is so easy to be angry with God - even if we do not blame him for our pain.

Please, dear Lord Jesus, bring healing ministry to those who are grieving and hurt so much.

I know that my Redeemer lives ...

Then Job answered and said: “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me? (Job 19:1-3)For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (19:25-27)

It seems so obvious to me that Job is getting weary of debating with his friends. He even recalls the number of times that they have spoken disparagingly to him. Stepping back from the intensity of the interactions I have to wonder what the setting was like and how long it went on. Were they around a table? Could it be that they were sipping on wine and noshing on food as they talked? Maybe there was a note taker? I wonder what the atmosphere was like?

In the midst of this arduous debate hope seems to rise as Job speaks. The role of hope is so important in life. It is even more important to those who grieve. I think that is why faith is so important in navigating the deep emotions that surface when we grieve. It is why Job's profession that his Redeemer lives and that he will see God when he dies is so important. I think that, without a hope based on faith, it is so easy for grief to become despair and depression.

Help us to be people of hope Lord. Remind us when we struggle that our Redeemer lives.

Why are we stupid in your sight?

Why are we stupid in your sight? (Job 18:3 ESV)

In what seems to be an utter frustration, Bildad the Shuhite speaks these words in response to Job's last troubling discourse. He has heard his friend call him names and tell him that he is a miserable comforter. Bildad is at his wits end with the man covered in boils. It makes you wonder why Bildad and his buddies came to see Job in the first place. I wonder what they expected. Perhaps they thought that Job's loss would not have affected him this deeply?

Talking to a person that is grieving a great loss can be a very awkward task because each of us grieves so differently. I especially found that to be true with teens and children. And sometimes it is difficult because we are grieving as well. Yet it is so important to simply acknowledge the loss that our friend or loved one has suffered, and express our sadness or sorrow at the pain that they are going through. Simply being there for them is such a gift.

Help us Lord to be there when those close to us are in pain. Give us encouraging words to say.

My spirit is broken ...

“My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me. Surely there are mockers about me, and my eye dwells on their provocation. “He has made me a byword of the peoples, and I am one before whom men spit. My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart. (Job 17:1-2,6,11 ESV)

Though it is difficult to hear these words I think that it is therapeutic for Job to speak them. Sometimes our painful words simply need to be heard. I can relate a bit. Months after my first wife passed away I began to experience the enormity of my loss - I thought that I was losing my mind. I had no context to deal with my pain and needed help. About that time a chaplain invited me to a five week long grief recovery workshop. It was there that I would learn to grieve and to heal.

In the first session the chaplain spoke to us of stepping into our pain. He said that if we did not then we would walk around it for years and never release the pain. He asked us to take a week and write out what we were experiencing. The following week each of us read what we wrote to the group. Here is what I wrote:

At every thought of her my heart breaks. It is like half of me is no longer alive.
We were so much a part of each other that it is hard to go on without her.

My soul aches within me and there is no comfort except the knowing that she no longer suffers.
Knowing that she is in the presence of God helps.

My flesh wants to move on with my life but my heart wants to remain in the past. Our life was so full together.
It is hard to imagine happiness without my Ellen.

As I cried through those words with the group I felt such deep pain being released. There is something wonderful about simply being "heard" by people. Perhaps the book of Job would not have been so long if his friends simply listened to him express his pain and speak of his broken heart? Maybe listening with empathy is what being a friend is all about?

Help us Lord to be quiet in the presence of wounded friends. Teach us to be there for them and to listen with empathy.

My pain is not assuaged.

I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all. Shall windy words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you and shake my head at you. I could strengthen you with my mouth, and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain.
(Job 16:2-5 ESV)

Solomon in Proverbs says that our words have to the power to bring life or death to those who listen to what we say. In this response to Eliphaz the Temanite Job seems to be saying something similar. Can you imagine what it must have been like for Job to be accosted with hateful words as he sat grieving the loss of his children and of his health? What is it in us that feels a need to speak to people in grief the way that Job's friends spoke to him.

A friend recently asked me why well meaning Christians use Christian clichés when speaking to victims of extreme pain or loss. I told him that we are sometimes trained to think in cliches in church - the "You give and take away" refrain in that popular worship song is an example of a bad religious cliché. Yet sometimes we can get past the clichés. On occasion we find words that bring strength and courage to grieving people ... words that assuage their pain.

Bring words of life to my mind Lord. Give me words that assuage the pain of grieving friends.

What is man, that he can be pure?

What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water! (Job 15:14-16 ESV)

This view of God's creation, voiced by Eliphaz the Temanite as he speaks to Job a second time, is common among many religious people. It builds on the theological idea of original sin and posits that humans, because of sin, are worthy of God's disdain. Though it is a popular view, in the case of Job it is absolutely wrong because God says of Job "there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil".

When bad things happen to people like Job there can be a temptation to say that they caused it because of a lack of faith or sin. People insinuated such things when my first wife received prayer for healing but was not healed. The tendency in some is to look to the sin of others instead of our own sin. It is why Jesus commanded that we remove the log from our own eye before we try to remove another's splinter. Often the one who is hurt and grieving is blameless.

Help me Lord to always be compassionate and loving when I interact with hurting people.

If a man dies, shall he live again?

“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. (14:7) But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come.(14:10-14)

There is something about the passing of a loved one that sets our minds on eternity and causes us to contemplate our own mortality. In an instant Job lost ten children. He must have wondered if he would ever see them again. His mind wanders and wonders about those that were so very dear to him. When Ellen, my first wife, died I daily pondered what it would be like to be reunited with her in heaven. It is so hard to let go when your heart is encompassed by grief.

In these few sentences Job expresses what many of us wrestle with. Each of us struggles with our own mortality and the finite nature of our physical existence. Some people believe that they are immortal and will survive death in some fashion. Ye many live in a way that testifies to their belief that this life is all there is. People in pain, grieving people, are confronted with their loss every day and so want another opportunity to see their loved ones again.

Lord, help grieving people to know that eternal life can begin this side of the grave through a spiritual birth.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him.

Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. (12:9-10) Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. (13:15) Only grant me two things, then I will not hide myself from your face: withdraw your hand far from me, and let not dread of you terrify me. (13:20-21) Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? (13:24)

There is a view of the sovereignty of God that asserts that God has an active role in everything that happens in the earth. This view asserts, as Job states in his reply to Zophar, that God does bad things as well as good things. It is different from a view of sovereignty that acknowledges a more passive divine role - a view in which God allows bad things to happen to people. It is an important delineation because of the way that it paints God and divine love.

I have heard the "Though he slay me" verse used in a sermon to illustrate the faith of Job. To me, the verse reflects a dark imagery of the almighty that I am pretty uncomfortable with. I have been in such dark places where my posture is argumentative and my attitude one of bargaining. Such bargaining is evidence that Job is grieving. He wants the pain to stop and has no one to bargain with except the perceived author of his pain. Yet he finds no comfort in bargaining.

In our pain dear God, help us to know that you are our friend and do not count us as your enemy.

I am a laughingstock to my friends.

I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called to God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock. (Job 12:4 ESV)

Here is Job, seemingly stuck in grief, yet ever so mindful of a second phenomenon – people are watching, whispering and wondering if Job’s God will vindicate him. The stress of this phenomenon weighs heavy upon Job. As a leader he was very visible – he had a place of honor in the market square. But now calamity has struck and whispering has begun – everyone that once honored and respected him is now calling his character into question.

These whisperers believe that Job must have committed a serious sin to receive such "discipline" from God. When Job needed to feel a sense of support the most, all he could feel was a sense of finger pointing. Why is it that people run to judgement? What is it in each of us that rejoices when calamity strikes another? Why is it that people who are victims themselves are blamed for events and acts that they have no control over and that they do not understand?

Forgive us Lord for the many ways that we whisper, gossip and point fingers at people who are victims.

You will forget your misery ...

You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. (11:16-19)

A third friend, Zophar, now responds with (what appears to be) sage advice to Job's last anger filled discourse. Before giving him this (so called) wisdom he blasts Job with condemnation questioning Job's claims of being blameless and accusing him of being a babbling worthless man. His soliloquy is filled with pious clichés that seem to defend God and list the reasons for this perceived divine judgment. These words above are his interpretations of God's promises.

As he speaks, Zophar seems to exude a brash confidence that he is right about Job and why tragedy has befallen him. He seems assured that he has the antidote for what ails Job. I have been around people like Zophar who seem to have all of the "biblical" answers for my pain. They give advice that reveals such a cluelessness approach to pain. Advice such as this only angers people that are in pain and keeps them stuck in grief. The advice seems wise. It is foolish.

Put a guard over my mouth Lord. Help me to not inflame the anger of a hurting friend with foolish religious clichés.

Now you have destroyed me altogether.

How can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. (9:2-3) God will not turn back his anger; beneath him bowed the helpers of Rahab. How then can I answer him, choosing my words with him? Though I am in the right, I cannot answer him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser. (9:13-15) Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked? (10:3) Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. (10:8)

Job's long (two chapter) response to Bildad is hardly a response to him at all. With heartfelt indignation Job seems to take his angst to God himself. His words embody the idea that God is angry with him and the boils he suffers is an open accusation against him. Job seems to be venting an intense anger towards God because he believes that he has been judged unfairly by him. One cannot help but feel for this hurting man. I wish that I could not relate to feeling this way.

Once denial ebbs a grieving person begins to feel again and the reality of their loss is brought to bear all over again. Intense emotions are surfaced and questions arise from the deepest part of you. A person like Job, who God previously declared blameless, can be filled with rage if they believe that suffering is a judgment from heaven. In a sense their bad theology creates toxicity in their soul because they believe that they have been divinely judged without cause.

Help us all Lord to understand that we do not suffer at your hands and are not judged by you with hardship.

Does God pervert justice?

“How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation.(Job 8:2-6 ESV)

Bildad the Shuhite, another of Job's friends, speaks and says some of the most unspeakable things that one can say to a grieving person. He follows these words with some of the most egregious religious tripe as he tells Job that tragedy would not have befallen him if not for sin committed by him and his children. It is a sad day for Job and for the human race. Why do you think that well meaning folks go to these places? How can friends say such things?

In our quest to understand why bad things happen to good people we often feel a perverse need to play detective with people's lives. It is why Jesus warned his listeners to not judge each other. As Bildad spoke these judgmental words against Job he was blind and ignorant of the fact that Job, his wife and his children had done absolutely nothing deserving of the tragedies that befell them. Bildad's judgment was fleshly, devoid of truth and extremely hurtful.

He me not to judge others who are hurting today Lord. Help my words to be healing an not hurting.

The arrows of the Almighty are in me ...

For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me. (6:4)
“He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. (6:14)
For you have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid. (6:21)
When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. (7:4)
“Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. (7:7)
I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? (7:16-18)

The middle phases of grief are generally described as anger, bargaining and depression. In his two chapter response to Eliphaz we see all of these aspects come to bear. Job's dialog seems to rock back and forth - sometimes it is clear that he is speaking to his companions yet often he seems to be addressing God directly. Can you not sense the extreme anguish of grief as he speaks. Does not your heart break for him? Can you relate to being in such agony?

In his book "A Grief Observed" noted author CS Lewis writes about his experiences grieving the death of his wife. He writes: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” As blessed denial makes way for intense emotions Job experiences anger, bargaining and depression. These feelings take you by surprise and scare you. You wonder if you will ever be "normal" again. You wonder if God is what you imagined him to be or if you have been wrong about him.

Help those who grieve today Lord. Help them to know that you hear their cries and you understand their pain.

He wounds but he binds up?

“Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. ... “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. (Job 4:7-9; 5:17-18 ESV)

Eliphaz the Temanite, one of Job's dear friends is the first to speak to the man covered in boils. And what words does he now offer to his hurting friend. Does he speak words of consolation and hope? No. His words, which fill up two chapters, are laced with veiled accusations against Job. His central premise is that Job sinned and God judged. His bad and sad advice to Job is to accept responsibility for the tragedy that has befallen Job and his wife.

Have you ever heard people say such things? I have. Many, like Eliphaz, suffer under the misconception that their wounds come from the judging hands of God. Using the words in this passage they justify God by saying that he heals what he hurts. Can you imagine an earthly father using this defense before a judge? It is a damaging theology that stifles the grieving process. For how can one trust their grieving heart to One who has caused them so much pain?

You are good Lord God. You heal what evil hurts. You mend what men destroy. You remain ever trustable.

What I dread befalls me ...

Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?
For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.
For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes. (Job 3:11, 23-26 ESV)

Job breaks his week long silence with a discourse that ends in these words. With intense words he expresses deep disappointment and discouragement. Gone are the religious clichés and platitudes. Job now speaks of being hedged in by God as his groanings are poured out and tears fall like water. I can relate to this sort of heavenly projection. I can remember being so disillusioned when my first wife's heart and kidneys failed as I wondered why God allowed it.

What do you think Job was speaking about when he opined about the thing he feared coming upon him? Consider what Job says six chapters later: "I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent." I can relate to being afraid of future pain and suffering. Knowing that God has not protected you from past pain causes you to be gun-shy about future pain. As Job suffered through the loss of his children his mind had to fear what would come next.

Help us all to not be held captive by past pain. Free us Lord to live in hope.


Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?
Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul,
who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures,
who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave?
Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?
(Job 3:11, 20-23 ESV)

Job has broken the week long silence with a gut wrenching discourse that seems to be filled with unanswerable questions. In this speech to his friends he reflects so much pain and anguish of soul. He tells these who seem closest to him that his pain is so great that he wonders why he had ever been born. The man who was once so confident seems to have nothing left but questions. The issue of "why" seems to often be a part of the grieving process.

I think that it is normal, albeit unhelpful, to ask "why" when something bad happens. I have spent many years trying to make sense of my first wife's early death and my second wife's wheelchair disability - to be honest I still struggle with the "why" question. But asking unanswerable questions is not helpful because it keeps us stuck in our pain. Conversely, I find that I am most healthy when I simply trust God in the midst of my unanswerable questions.

These words ring out in my soul today Lord - Be still and know that I am God. Amen.

Job opened his mouth ...

Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. (Job 2:11-3:1 ESV)

The Jewish practice of Shiva is modeled after this passage of scripture and reflects the seven days that Jacob mourned the death of his father Isaac. During Shiva family members gather for seven days in the home of the one who died and simply sit in mourning sharing meals and time with loved ones. The image of Shiva and this passage from Job speaks so deeply to me. Sometimes there are simply no words to say. Sometimes our presence is all we have in such times.

The man covered in agonizing boils breaks this week long silence with words that express an unimaginable pain. No longer can Job contain his hurt. The weight of his losses can no longer be kept within. I can feel the despair and see the tears as this blameless man confesses what he has no doubt been thinking all week. Sometimes our pain is so great that we wish that we were not present to experience it. Often our pain is so hard to express - even to dear friends.

Lord, please bring the comfort of silent friends to those who are experiencing pain today.

Shall we not receive evil?

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:7-10 ESV)

On many occasions I have heard people speak pejoratively about the unnamed woman in this passage. Yet, when I look at this heartbroken couple, she is the one who seems to be most in touch with the reality of what has happened to their family. Job's wife is not a woman in denial of the fact that she has lost all of her children and is now seeing her last family member suffering from, what must seem to her to be, a terminal illness. Does your heart not break for her?

On the flip-side Job seems to be stuck in a dark denial of what has happened to his children and now to him. He tries to act brave and say the right things. Soon he too will transition out of this numb phase of grief but for now he remains a captive of a theology that credits God with this evil that has come upon him. At the heart of his problems ... the thing that kept Job from grieving ... was the idea that somehow God was judging him. And what do you do with that?

Help us Lord to not hide from our pain using religious clichés. Teach us to grieve our losses.

It may be that my children ...

His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
(Job 1:4-5 ESV)

What impression do you have of Job when you read of his continual sacrifices? Do you think that it is odd that he seemed, in a spiritual sense, so overly protective? Do you know parents like this or can you relate to this kind of worrying with your own children? On the surface it does not seem to be problematic but I wonder what Job's children thought when they considered that their father felt it necessary to take care of them in this way?

I can relate to this kind of worry. After my first wife died, my son worked out his grief by abusing drugs for several years - sometimes we replace healthy grieving with unhealthy medicating. During those years I was beside myself with worry and did not understand how to help a grieving teen. Eventually, after years of rescuing my son, I began to let him go and trust God to lead him and to protect him. Sometimes it is necessary to simply get out of the way.

Help us Lord to release our family and our friends to you today.

The Lord gave. The Lord has taken away.

"Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22 ESV)

I find it interesting that Job is, in essence, saying that God took away his children ... a remarkable statement ... a cloaked accusation of sorts ... and an intersting segway into the whole question of "why?" and "Who?" If Job was not at fault for the death of his children then, as he implies, maybe God is at fault? I think that this is a common misunderstanding of the sovereignty of God and how life works. It points to a stumbling block in the grieving process.

I have never been happy with answers to unanswerable questions. I do not have to look back very far to understand that the answers I once embraced no longer make sense to me. For example, a dark ideology is embraced when I credit God (as I once did) for taking away my wife Ann's ability to walk. This ideology keeps me stuck and keeps me from grieving this loss. On the flip-side, I am able to walk in freedom when I let go of my need to have answers.

You, O Lord, are the Answer to our pain. Forgive us for looking for other answers.

Naked I came. Naked shall I return

"Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22 ESV)

I think that we often miss the idea of denial when we read Job's story. Job's reactions are very much entrenched in numbness. All of his children die in an instant, he loses his animals and possessions and all he can say is something that resembles something on the order of a cliché ... utterances from a very numb person. I am surprised how many of us, myself included, have used these statements as examples of correct responses to pain and suffering.

In March of 1990 my first wife Ellen had a heart attack and kidney failure at the age of 39 … after four years of declining health and hemodialysis Ellen passed away in 1994. My initial responses to my pain were very much like Job’s. Masking my inner devastation I often spoke words that were very religious … albeit empty and devoid of inner truth. Christian clichés did not help me but got in the way of dealing with my pain. Religious words never seem to help.

Cause us Lord to be people who model a vulnerability that helps people in their deepest pain.