What do we do when someone who we love is faced with deep anguish, pain and suffering? What do we say? How do we pray?
The Book of Job gives us insight into a situation beyond the knowledge of Job and his four friends. Job had no idea that God and Satan were in the midst of an interaction involving Job who God had declared was righteous in God’s eyes. Satan argued that Job was righteous because he had been so wonderfully blessed by God – a great family, lots of possessions and the respect of his community. Job 1-2
But God knew what Job was made of – He created him! God allowed Satan to take away Job’s blessings. What followed was the terrible suffering of Job who could not understand his circumstances and his friends who judged rather than comforted. Job 3-37
God reveals to us in the Book of Job these nuggets of wisdom:
- God is in charge and is looking at the entire picture that we do not have the ability to comprehend. It is not our job to figure out the “why” of a tragedy. If we focus on the “why”, we will fall into a pit of despair that will be difficult to climb out of.
- We will all suffer. Each person will have their own trouble. Jesus reminded us of this when he told his disciples that his time had come. He stated, “Now my heart is troubled and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28.
- Suffering removes shallowness. In the course of suffering most of us become more empathetic. In other words, suffering can prepare us to help others. God has put in place persons who are our safety net in the event of a fall. They cannot save us from the fall but they can offer comfort, reassurance and hope to help us weather the storm. Safety nets are made up of a few persons who have usually weathered their own storms with the help of others.
- Since there is no way to truly know why a tragic event occurs, we need to focus our energies elsewhere. If you know you are part of the safety net for another, do not shirk your duty. Rest assured that if you do, God will call someone else but you will have missed an opportunity. In that event, repent and move on – ever more vigilant the next time you are called.
- In the midst of the storm, there is no room for judgment. Judgment means we are focusing on the “why” instead of the person. Our focus should be “do unto others as you want others to do unto you”.
- What to do, say or pray?
- If you are part of someone’s inner circle, go to them, listening and loving as the Holy Spirit moves in you. There are no hard and fast rules on comfort. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. Those who ask God to go before them and trust that God is in control of the situation will do and say the right thing. (Job’s friends did start out with the right idea – they went to him, sat with him presumably with the intent to comfort him. However, their focus was on the “why” of the situation instead of sharing the hope of the Living God.)
- If you are not part of someone’s inner circle, but have been called by circumstance or experience, do your part. Is it sending a card with words of encouragement? Is it helping with a task that will ease the load of the suffering person or their inner circle? Is it a hospital visit or a meal? Is it monetary assistance?
- If you are not part of someone’s inner circle but the person has been placed on your heart, pray for the person and the people who are part of the inner circle. Your prayers are strengthening the Body of Christ. They are of critical importance.
- Persevere in faith. God is good and we can safely rely on Him in our troubled times. In the midst of our trouble or someone else’s, we need to draw close to Him so out of our relationship, we will find His comfort. The key to developing this focus is to practice it on a daily basis during the good times and the mundane times, because trouble will eventually come to us all. So in this day and in this week be in the practice of “making each moment Holy”.
Remember, God is in charge. He is good – ALL the time. He has The Plan. He is the judge – not us. We can trust in Him even when circumstances are not what we think they should be or what we want them to be. Suffering will come. Ask and you will receive Holy Spirit guidance to be able to persevere and to be able to be the safety net for others. Our focus in times of trouble should be on Him. Our focus when others are in trouble should be on Him. So, persevere in faith. And Remember, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30