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Job’s Comforters

Job’s Comforters

Insight on what might unconsciously lead a sincerely sympathetic, well-intended believer to inadvertently join the ranks of Job’s miserable comforters.

Serious food for thought here as every follower of Jesus Christ does well to examine the motivations of the heart before they speak and act. This is an area with which I personally struggle and it’s complicated by the truth that we are often driven by conflicting motivations. A sincerely righteous desire marred by sinful selfishness – at least in my case.

I am so thankful that I have the privilege of walking through the valley of the shadow of death with Melanie. It’d be my preference than neither her nor I, or any other parent for that matter, ever find themselves on this path, but this heartbroken mother has served as a blessing and encouragement to me and many other grieving parents. She turns our hearts and minds back to the lover of our souls when our hearts are torn between longing for God’s presence and comfort and a desire to hold Him at arm’s length for failing to intercede and prevent our suffering.

(Clink on the link entire “view the original post” highlighted in red below to read the article and “thelifeididntchoose” to access Melanie’s blog.)  

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Most of us know the story of Job.

A righteous man, singled out by Satan to be tempted, ends up bereft of his children, his fortune and his health.

Sitting in the dust, scraping the pus from his wounds, three friends join him in his misery.

And they make it worse.

It’s hard to imagine that after burying a child, anything that people say or do can make you feel worse-but it is possible.

I had many friends and family that brought genuine comfort to my spirit.

They were the ones who spoke courage to my battered heart and helped me face another day when all I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and pray that the sun refused to shine.  And I will never be able to repay them for that kindness.

But there were others….people who wanted to make sense of a senseless tragedy.

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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief, Links

 

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Breakdown & The Calm After the Storm

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Why a glimpse behind the curtain to the deeply personal and hidden grief of a bereaved parent? Not to inspire your pity; of that I can assure you.  Instead to inspire others to look beyond the surface of a grieving friend or family member. To consider how families are affected by loss, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, as well as the unique family dynamics that result; which might help you comfort, support and encourage them. The bereaved desperately want to be understood, to have their feelings validated, to break free of the isolation, to mourn unrushed, to have another share their sorrow (not attempt to fix it). This post was written months ago and is not reflective of my current state of mind.

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Breakdown

It’s time to get up, past time really.  Breakfast, shower, dressing . . . then my turn.  It all takes time, but I just do not want to get up and we’ll be late if I don’t get moving soon.

It’s raining.  Again.  I hate rain during the daytime.  Hair appointments at noon.  Still, I’d rather stay in bed.  Bury my head in my pillow — close my eyes — forget the world, it’s disappointments, my responsibilities — life and the fact that I’m still living it.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.  Why must I get up?  Why must I breathe in and out?  Why must I do it all over and over again?

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For the love of Gracen.

For the love of Gracen.

It’s all for the love of Gracen.

 

 

IMG_2964 (1)My heart is anchored here but I long to flee — from what happened — from what is yet to come — to fly far, far away.  To flee this unwelcome reality — oh, to be able to pretend it never happened!  To be able to board a time machine and travel back, back before the collision, back before diagnosis, back before Katie, before Gracen, before Bethany and Cole.  Back before marriage, back before love, back before David, back before my very existence, erasing every footprint, every memory of me.  Back before every bit of my existence tainted the lives of the people I love far more than life.  Just to have the opportunity to un-hurt others by erasing me.

It’s 10:34 a.m., I have to get up . .

I can’t.  I just can’t do it.

Tears falling.

Call David ask him to cancel our appointments.  Ring, ring.

Oh, no, she’s up! Hang up the phone.  Get it together before she sees you!

IMG_3518Ring, ring . . . Oh, crap, David’s calling back and Gracen’s right here!  I can’t talk in front of her.

Leaping off the bed, head down.

“Hey, Janet, Did you call me?”

Leave the room NOW!  Find a place where she can’t hear you!

“Janet, I can’t hear you . . .”  David’s voice comes over the phone line.

Sob.

“Janet?  Janet? What’s wrong?” David’s voice is Frantic now.

“David?”

“Janet?, What’s wrong?”

More crying.  I hear David’s breath hitch through the phone line.

IMG_3518“I’m sorry I had to leave the room.”

“Where’s Gracen?”

“She’s up.  She’s in the bathroom.”

“What’s wrong?”

Another sob slips out.

“I’ve just run out of the energy necessary to force myself to do this today.  I was just calling to ask you to cancel our hair appointments.”

“I’m coming home.”  Frantic.

“No, no, don’t come home.  I’ll be okay.  I’ll be okay.  I just can’t keep our appointments. Not enough time left now anyway.  I’m up.  I can take care of Gracen.  I just don’t want her to see me like this — to worry her.”

“Where are you?”

“Katie’s room.” The room next door to Gracen’s that now holds two twin beds without sheets and blankets, void of anything personal.  Katie’s empty room spins through my mind.

“I’m sorry for upsetting you.  Can you please just cancel our appointments?  I can’t talk to anyone right now.”

“Sure”

“Don’t come home, David.  I’ll get it together.  I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!”

Forty-three more days until Gracen heads to college.  I simply cannot unravel for forty-three more days.  I tell myself, take your meds —  get it together.  You can get up for forty-three more days.  You can.  You can.  You will.

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The Calm After the Storm

Wow! How did that get so out of control?

It was Gracen’s appearance at the same time David called back. The ring tone flooding my system with adrenaline, silent tears turned to sobs as I desperately tried to flee my room preventing Gracen from seeing me in such a state.

Oh, she’s seen me cry before, but only the controlled version.  Not ugly, wretched sobs.

But today I was not able to shelter Gracen from my grief.  I upset her although no words were spoken.  I know she is afraid she will lose another family member; she recently admitted as much.  I fear that too, but for her, all that’s left to lose are her parents — the people who have always represented safety and security to her.  I don’t want to inflame her fears.

And David — he’s seen discouragement and apathy, he’s held me through tear filled nights, he’s shouldered extra burdens when normal parts of life just seem to overwhelm me.  He’s been party to a meltdown or two or ten, but to receive a call at work — never before has he had to cope with a long distance breakdown even when I called to tell him an ambulance was transporting Gracen and I to the ER after a frantic 911 call. Today, I could hear the fear in his voice. It devastates me to know I did that to him!

Heaping fear upon grief — I shoulder my load — Gracen’s and David’s too, as they are forced to shoulder mine as well.  Grief felt far more individual when Cole died — or maybe time has just softened the memories, blurring the rough edges of grief, leaving some sharp and biting and others smooth and fading.

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Helping the Bereaved Bear their Burdens

1.  Understand that it is often a struggle for those who mourn to get out of bed, do everyday tasks, leave their homes, socialize. Others become hyper involved; anything to keep themselves moving, distract themselves from the constant pain. Those who mourn may bounce back and forth between the two extremes.

2.  Realize that the bereaved often perform a grieving cha, cha, cha of sorts.  They try to attack their grief, process and get through it, then overwhelmed, try to suppress it, hide from it, deny it’s existence and ignore it.  Be prepared to go with the flow.  Talk through their struggles with them if they bring them up, or grant them the freedom to talk about other things.

3.  Be aware that grieving families often continue to be hit with additional health problems, trips to doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms can trigger mild to dramatic IMG_3339traumatic responses. What may be a minor problem produces anxiety on steroids. Pray them through, sit with them, validate their fears.

4.  Wives seem to take responsibility for maintaining the emotional equilibrium in the home: husbands strive to protect and shelter.  Loss makes both feel anywhere from inadequate to utterly incompetent.  Grieving men need attention too. Most will never ask for it. Invite men to sporting events, movies, poker night, fishing or lunch. They may not talk about their grief, but your presence signals support and encouragement.

5.  Understand that deep grief often brings remorse for having been born at all.  Job felt this way.  Pay attention to suicidal comments — don’t discount them.  A desire to have never been born and suicidal intentions are not synonymous, however, comments to that effect should not be overlooked.  Pray for wisdom and discernment to hear exactly what the individual is communicating through veiled speech.

6.  Be aware that the sense of personal safety and security has been destroyed for every member of the family.  Fear of experiencing another loss  is both common and rational. While uncommon, many families have suffered separate and subsequent deaths of immediate family members. Please don’t discount or brush off a bereaved parent’s fears in this area. It is a legitimate fear and they need it acknowledged.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2016 in Faith, Grief, Muscular Dystrophy

 

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Conversations with Melanie – Part 3

 

images (16)A fellow bereaved parent and blogger, Melanie, recently asked me if I still struggle with feeling God’s love. The question came in response to a post I published several months ago entitled, “Uncovering Unknown Issues of the Heart”. Yesterday I posted Melanie’s response assuming our conversation had ended. But Melanie and I have bonded over our desire to process our grief while simultaneously making sense of the faith that has come to sustain and define us. The foundations of our faith have not been shaken, but we still wrestle with elements of our faith. And so, our conversation continued. I’ve pretty much cut it down to the parts of theological significance. I hope our struggle to understand the God we love, the One True God, might help someone else who is struggling to make sense of their faith in light of circumstances that cast doubt on what they’ve always believed to be true about the God of Abraham, Jacob and Issac. So, here we go again . . .

Melanie:  I don’t remember if I replied again to you in that conversation, but I need to tell you that your words really touched a deep place in need of healing in my spirit. I think that I have continued to feel that I am somehow responsible for my son’s death. Isn’t that ridiculous? Maybe it’s easier to blame myself than to keep wrestling with the intersection of God’s will, human choice and the goodness and love of the Father.

Job had not sinned when Satan targeted him. And God’s purpose was not to teach Job a lesson but to show Satan that His servants would continue to serve Him in spite of suffering and loss.

Janet:  Melanie, thanks as always for your kind words as they encourage me as I wrestle with my own demons (so to speak) in this process of refinement. And while it’s patently untrue than you are responsible for Dominic’s death it’s not “ridiculous” that you might feel as if you are – it’s just one of those bizarre and entirely normal ways the human mind wrestles with the unacceptable in life.

Maybe this sounds a bit crazy, but I think it’s one of the ways believer’s cope with anger with God. We are afraid to be mad at Him and yet buried beneath our beliefs about His love and good plans lurks this anger we are either unaware of or we are too afraid to address. It’s easier – less frightening – to assume responsibility (or blame) ourselves than it is to open that locked box in our hearts that hides our deepest fears about God and confront those fears.

It’s transference, plain and simple (in my completely uneducated opinion). But listen to what C.S. Lewis said in “A Grief Observed”,

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

So this is what God’s really like – yikes! But God not only is capable of dealing with those frightening fears about His character and the way He works, He is forcing the lid on that locked box open and demanding that we confront those fears so that He can dispel our faulty misconceptions. Those misconceptions hold us at arms length from Him and hinder the spread of the gospel to the lost because they besmirch His character and His innate holiness.

Melanie:  I often refer back to Lewis’ book because it is so honest and challenging.

Something we have discussed around our table is the fact that we humans are not equipped or even capable of comprehending God in His fullness and majesty. “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts”… So we create shortcuts, paradigms and analogies that serve pretty well when things are going OK but fail miserably when they aren’t.

And often our faith communities are uncomfortable with questions or simply don’t provide space and time to ask them. (When teaching a SS lesson-how many teachers invite real questions?) I get it–who wants to stand in front of a classroom and admit you just don’t know?

But we who have experienced great pain must confront and decide. Who is this God we claim to serve and follow? What does love really look like? Can we learn to live with unanswered questions?

Janet:  Exactly! It’s not disrespectful and it’s not heretical. “Come let us reason together!” It’s required if we wish to have a relationship with the Lord that has deep roots and bears fruit. I don’t want to be the cursed fig tree.

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree – Mark 11:12-14

12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

What on earth does it mean when I say that I don’t want to be the cursed fig tree?

The fig tree is a symbolic reference to the nation of Israel.  The story of the cursed fig tree is told in both the gospel of Matthew and Mark and according to the Biblical accounts occurred the week before Christ’s death on the cross.  Christ is welcomed to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and hailed as Messiah in an event known as The Triumphal Entry. Jerusalem is overrun by worshipers coming to celebrate Passover. By comparing the accounts in Matthew and Mark we find Jesus returning to Jerusalem the next day when He encounters the fig tree. The fruit on fig trees appear before the leaves. So, it was a reasonable expectation that a fig tree with leaves would also have fruit; regardless of the season. Even so, why curse a fruitless tree? Matthew and Mark also tell us that after cursing the fig tree Jesus continued on to Jerusalem where he proceeded to cleanse the Temple of the money changers. The next day, as Jesus and the disciples again return to Jerusalem, they pass the cursed fig tree and find it withered.

Still confused?  Gotquestions.org explains the significance of both the cursed fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple as follows:

“Jesus had just arrived at Jerusalem amid great fanfare and great expectations, but then proceeds to cleanse the Temple and curse the barren fig tree. Both had significance as to the spiritual condition of Israel. With His cleansing of the Temple and His criticism of the worship that was going on there (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17), Jesus was effectively denouncing Israel’s worship of God. With the cursing of the fig tree, He was symbolically denouncing Israel as a nation and, in a sense, even denouncing unfruitful “Christians” (that is, people who profess to be Christian but have no evidence of a relationship with Christ).”

“The presence of a fruitful fig tree was considered to be a symbol of blessing and prosperity for the nation of Israel. Likewise, the absence or death of a fig tree would symbolize judgment and rejection. Symbolically, the fig tree represented the spiritual deadness of Israel, who while very religious outwardly with all the sacrifices and ceremonies, were spiritually barren because of their sins. By cleansing the Temple and cursing the fig tree, causing it to whither and die, Jesus was pronouncing His coming judgment of Israel and demonstrating His power to carry it out. It also teaches the principle that religious profession and observance are not enough to guarantee salvation, unless there is the fruit of genuine salvation evidenced in the life of the person. James would later echo this truth when he wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), not just give an appearance of religiosity. God judges fruitlessness, and expects that those who have a relationship with Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5-8).”

I don’t want to be an unfruitful Christian.  I will wrestle, I will struggle, I will confront, and I may pout and complain and whine and moan along the way, but I’ve come too far, been through too much to quit now!  I hope you feel the same way.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief, Links

 

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Conversations with Melanie – Part 2

download (3)A fellow bereaved parent and blogger, Melanie, recently asked me if I still struggle with feeling God’s love. The question came in response to a post I published several months ago entitled, “Uncovering Unknown Issues of the Heart”.  Yesterday I posted an edited version on my initial response to her.  Melanie replied back and here you will see how our subsequent conversation ended.  I should say, I’ve also edited my response after mulling over my initial off the cuff comments.  Here goes, and feel free to share your personal thoughts.  As Melanie recently reminded me, iron sharpens iron.  Weigh in with what God’s Word and personal experience has taught you.

Melanie:  “I can see what you mean when you place it in context of our relationships with other humans. You’re right–we can’t MAKE others FEEL love even when we know we are loving them. And I had honestly never thought to ask God to help me recognize and feel His love. Submitting to Him has always been the focus of so many teachings and sermons and it has become my default answer to myself when I can’t “feel” God–it must be that I am resisting Him–so I back up and try harder (kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it) to submit. And this losing a child–on the one hand I think I have submitted. I do honestly believe that my children are given me to steward, not to own. I mean, his name was Dominic–belonging to God–and I chose it on purpose because I believe it. But then the days and weeks and months that come after losing a child. The loss really never ends. Living with the constant reminders and the ever-new daily losses (like when his friends graduate law school and pass the Bar) just add up and cloud my vision. . . I will ask the Father to teach me how to recognize and feel His love. To unwrap the gift.”

The gift Melanie refers to above is a response to this statement I made in yesterday’s post:

“I can ask God to help me not only accept His love, like a gift wrapped package and to receive it by opening the gift but also to open my heart so I value the gift as it was intended.”

Janet:  Melanie, I too have my default “theologies”. I think, and I say that because I’ve found there are often layers to my thoughts – layers of beliefs.  So I think I believe one thing but as I wrestle with it, I find it’s really the top layer to another more fundamental belief.  I’m pretty sure other people do this too.  A core belief gets layered over by insights (right or wrong) we gain as we assimilate Biblical teaching and life experience. In my post, “What is the Value of a Child’s Life?“, I included a brief prayer in which I asked God, “Am I so rebellious that the only way you can teach me is through suffering?”

Probably my biggest overall theological belief is that there are two over-reaching purposes for every experience (good and bad) we encounter in life. The first is to reach the lost with the gospel and the second is to conform the believer into the image of Christ. But really, is that true or just the theology that allows me to understand God whose thoughts and ways are higher than mine? We want so desperately to make sense of life’s tragedies but maybe the answers are far more simple. Maybe you aren’t failing to submit at all. Maybe I’m not too hard-headed to learn. Maybe someone’s free-will intersected with our lives; or when sin entered the world, mutated genes, deficient immune systems, or rogue cells were some of the consequences that affected all of creation resulting in genetic diseases, cancer, and other deadly illnesses, and God, in His wisdom, choose not to intervene in our individual lives, not because you or I needed to be corrected, but for some higher reason we can’t begin to fathom.

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I’m not sure what your theological background is, i.e., different denominations teach different things. Baptist or Pentecostal. Nazarene or Catholic. Those affiliations influence what we believe about topics from salvation to grace and everything in between. I believe we are saved by grace not works. But you know what? On some levels a works-based theology is easier even though the opposite often appears to be true. I like to follow rules because then I don’t have to guess and possibly get my theology wrong. But those same rules, just like the Ten Commandments, scream conviction and condemnation when things go fall apart. I must have done something wrong and that’s why this terrible thing happened to me. I must be really bad because bad things, big tragedies in fact, not simple course corrections keep happening to me. Down deep inside I must be rebellious. And you and I keep trying to “fix” ourselves and another layer is added to a core belief that may have started out as simple and pure and is now buried beneath correct and incorrect assumptions and teachings.

But what of grace? Grace is harder for me. It’s like an endless open field and I don’t know what to do because there are no boundaries. Grace says, “You aren’t resisting me, Melanie.” , “You aren’t rebellious, Janet.” This open field is your green pasture beside still waters – rest so that I can restore your soul.” But this open field of love and acceptance, of unmerited favor, in spite of my failure to trust or be faithful, feels overwhelming to me and instead of appreciating it, I’m filled with anxiety as I try to figure it all out so that I don’t get hurt again.

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Was Job failing to submit to God when Satan appeared before Him and asked, “Have you considered my servant Job?” No. Did Job learn a valuable truth about God by the end of the story? Yes; but did God set the events of the book of Job in motion in order to teach Job about His sovereignty? The book of Job never tells us that God allowed all those things to teach Job, or even his friends anything. Those lessons are an example of how all things work for good, but we seem to warp the meaning of that verse into saying God allowed certain events to happen for this greater purpose, thereby making God ultimately responsible for every tragedy that befalls us for the ultimate purpose of teaching us some lesson.

Maybe Satan still appears before God. Maybe God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Melanie?” Maybe you are the shining example God proudly draws Satan’s attention to for the purpose, not of correcting your failure to submit, but instead to once again show Satan, that you don’t love Him (that mankind in general doesn’t love Him) because He has richly blessed you; instead you love Him because He first loved you.

Maybe you will unwrap that gift and think, “What am I going to do with this? I was hoping for something else.” And maybe, just maybe, at the end of our stories we will look back on that gift that so baffled us and appreciate it for the precious and perfect gift it really was because we will find it wasn’t about God’s sovereignty or how to submit, but instead it was the gift of God’s grace and peace – maybe peace results when the Holy Spirit enables us to comprehend, assimilate and experience the wonder of grace.  Maybe that’s when we will feel the fullness of God’s love for us.  Maybe that’s when we will fully rest in God’s love.

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Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians:  “…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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Grieving Mother Vilified?

imageJob Being Scolded by his Wife, c. 1790, Francois-Andre Vincent

I recently read a blog post that contained a reference to Matthew 2:18b, “. . . Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” It brought to mind another reference to a grieving mother in scripture. Specifically, Job 2:8-10 which says, “And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among 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 speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

One scripture reveals a frequently overlooked truth about grieving mothers. Grieving mothers do not want to be comforted – they want their children back! The second scripture seems to expect the reader to remember and consider that Job’s wife is also a grieving mother because it certainly doesn’t come right out and say it.

“Curse God and Die”, words spoken by Job’s own wife, yet another villain in the book of Job. But is she really?

Search the commentaries and you will find that many believe that to be true.

The truth is, in today’s vernacular, her words are shocking and if we take them at face value, they are not what one would expect from an upright worshiper of God. Still the conclusions drawn by some commentaries go far beyond painting Job’s wife as an angry grieving mother. They assign her a role in this story that can only be based upon conjecture.

For example, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says of Job’s wife, “His wife was spared to him, to be a troubler and tempter to him.” Interesting conclusion but think about who spared Job’s wife. God initially gave Satan power over all Job owned and restrained him only from touching Job himself. So God did not save Job’s wife to play the role of Satan’s tormentor. Satan can hope that Job’s wife develops the attitude and has the influence to undermine Job’s faith, but unless she was demon possessed, he has no power to make her play that role. Satan could have spared Job’s wife assuming what her response would be but he could not be certain because he was not created with the ability to know the hearts and minds of men. So, at best, Satan could make an educated guess at how Job’s wife would respond just as he did when he stood before God Himself boasting that Job, God’s paragon of integrity, would curse God if he should take away all of the people and things Job most loved.

The Pulpit Commentary seems to concur. Allow me to refresh your memory and remind you that Job’s wife did not encourage Job to curse God and die after the death of her ten children. Nope. As the Pulpit Commentary points out, “Job’s wife had said nothing when the other calamities had taken place” instead she had “refrained her tongue, and kept silence, though probably with some difficulty.” The commentary goes on to state that, “Now she can endure no longer. To see her husband so afflicted, and so patient under his afflictions, is more than she can bear.”

Well, that’s one conclusion. But whose to say that this woman simply struggled to stand helplessly by and watch her husband suffer fast on the heals of the loss of her children? Whose to say she isn’t terrified that she will lose him too and that living in anticipation of his death is much harder than inviting it because it gives her the illusion of control in a life that has become defined by chaos and suffering. A, let’s just get it over with attitude, removes the anxiety she is fighting to control.

The Pulpit Commentary goes on to say, “Her mind is weak and ill regulated, and she suffers herself to become Satan’s ally and her husband’s worst enemy. It is noticeable that she urges her husband to do exactly that which Satan had suggested that he would do, and had evidently wished him to do, thus fighting on his side, and increasing her husband’s difficulties.” Ouch, that’s harsh!

Where’s the compassion? These commentaries seem to focus on Job’s suffering and ignore the very deep grief of a mother who has just lost every single one of her children. This woman carried those ten babies in her womb, fed them at her breast, and nurtured them as they grew. A mother of that day and age had very defined responsibilities. Raising and caring for her children and running her household defined the bulk of her identity and life’s purpose. Not only is it likely that she fears the death of her husband but the protection and security he provides as well. Unmarried women were extremely vulnerable in that age. This commentary seems to overlook the very real and reasonable fears and emotions Job’s wife was surely experiencing.

The Pulpit Commentary continues to support the conclusions they’ve drawn: “The only other mention of her (Job 19:17) implies that she was rather a hindrance than a help to Job. Curse God, and die; i.e.”renounce God, put all regard for him away from thee, even though he kill thee for so doing.” Job’s wife implies that “death is preferable to such a life as Job now leads and must expect to lead henceforward.”

Is the idea that Job’s wife might, in her grief, consider death preferable to life really that shocking? I’m thinking the people who wrote this commentary have no firsthand experience as bereaved parents. I know, from talking to a number of mothers in mourning that this is absolutely not an unusual concept for a grieving mother to draw.

But then comes Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible. Gill points out that “Job had but one wife, and very probably she is the same that after all this bore him ten children more; since we never read of her death, nor of his having any other wife, and might be a good woman for anything that appears to the contrary; and Job himself seems to intimate the same . . .”

Gill contends that Job’s wife was not blaming her husband for insisting on his integrity and justifying his behavior, nor was she wondering aloud how he could keep his integrity “among so many sore temptations and afflictions”. Gill further states that Job’s wife was neither rebuking him for his religion and continued practice of it nor was she mocking him or hating him for continuing to live according to his to his religious convictions as Gill points out that Michal did David. Instead Gill contends Job’s wife was “suggesting to him there was nothing in religion, and advising him to throw up the profession of it; for he might easily see, by his own case and circumstances, that God had no more regard to good men than to bad men, and therefore it was in vain to serve him . . . ”

Gill also points out that “curse God, and die: which is usually interpreted, curse God and then destroy thyself . . . or do this [curse God] in revenge for his hand upon thee . . . [even] though [cursing God would have the following result] thou diest”. Gill finds this interpretation unlikely concluding it is “too harsh and wicked to be said by one that had been trained up in a religious manner, and had been . . . the consort of so holy and good a man”.

Gill explains that the phrase curse God and die can also “be rendered, “bless God and die”; and may be understood either sarcastically, “such as “go on blessing God till thou diest; if thou hast not had enough . . . and see what will be the issue [result] of it; nothing but death;” or understood to mean “wilt thou still continue “blessing God and dying?”

“Her words could also have been offered sincerely, as advising him to humble himself before God, confess his sins, and “pray” unto him that he would take him out of this world, and free him from all his pains and sorrow . . . ” or may be interpreted, “bless God”: take thy farewell of him; bid adieu to him and all religion, and so die; for there is no good to be hoped for on the score of that [God or religion] here or hereafter . . .”

Hmmm, could Job’s heartbroken wife, who had likely lost every trace of naiveté about the fragility of life, simply been encouraging her husband to make sure he was right with God prior to his impending death? Could her statement have been so emphatic because she was afraid for the state of his soul if his circumstances indeed reflected Job’s standing before God, which was a common belief of the time?

Was Job’s rebuke of his wife heated or was he simply attempting to broaden his wife’s spiritual perspective?

The Bible tends to read as a narrative, yet we here in the West are accustomed to reading stories liberally sprinkled with adjectives designed to ensure the reader understand the emotion or context relevant to the story.

The Bible, however, doesn’t coddle the reader with adjectives, and therefore interpretation becomes more challenging. For example, Job 2:9 does not read, “Then his wife incredulously or angrily said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” And how do we really know if the correct translation is “Curse God and die!” Instead of “Bless God and die!”?

Likewise, Job 2:10a doesn’t read, “But he” reasoned with, yelled at, strongly rebuked or patiently corrected “her,” “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

Was Job’s wife a villain as she is frequently portrayed? Overall, it’s not an important detail; unless you’re Job’s wife. But have you ever wondered why God left all those helpful adjectives out of his inspired Word? Could it be that He expects us to learn enough about the way people respond to grief in order to better discern the correct interpretation? Could it be that He wants us to take our time, meditate on His Word and ask Him to reveal those things if they could us to understand Him and His ways better? Could it be a bit of both?

As a bereaved mother, the manner in which Job’s wife is portrayed and understood is important to me. I hate it when others make judgments about how well or poorly I am traversing this passage through loss. We judge Job’s wife based on a few words with opposing meanings. We judge her because we are unaware that her words even have opposing interpretations. We jump to conclusions because the vast majority of people can’t begin to truly comprehend how a grieving mother thinks and at best can only imagine her thoughts and feelings. But in making these judgment her reputation and her integrity is either lauded or maligned which I believes bears consideration.

Still, one very important detail that every commentary I consulted failed to address, is that at the end of the book of Job, God had words of rebuke for Job’s friends, but not for his wife. Now that speaks to me! Maybe what the Bible doesn’t say can be as significant as what it does say.

The character and intention of Job’s wife may seem insignificant to many, but those who write commentaries seems to believe it important enough to explore. More importantly, 2 Timothy 3:16 proclaims that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”. So, in my estimation, God felt the words or Job’s wife were indeed significant. God inspired the writer to record her words that the body of Christ might profit from them.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief

 

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A Letter to the Friend of a ‘New Normal’ Grieving Mother

griefrevealsyou
JULY 1, 2015 BY NATHALIE HIMMELRICH
http://stillstandingmag.com/2015/07/letter-friend-grieving-mother/

This article (Click on link in red above) is well worth the read for those who wish to understand the heart and mind of a grieving mother. It is definitely a struggle to merge the pre-loss woman I was with the post-loss woman I am and will always be, in spite of the fact that I’ve been down this road before.

I could have written most of this article myself. The one unmentioned battle is that of your faith and your reality. I fear my last post offended some of my Christian friends – the “choose joy” comment and “it’s ok, God’s in control” reference in particular.

I want people to understand there is a difference between joy and happiness and that the Bible tells me there is a season for everything, even grief. I’m not choosing to be unhappy, I am, however, grieving and that process may take longer than even I would like it to. And I too fully believe that God is in control but during this time of grieving it’s not particularly comforting because He was and always has been in control even when my son died within my womb and my daughters died at the side of the road and when two of my children were diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disease. None of those things have been or will ever be OK with me in this present world even if they are OK from an eternal perspective.

I am by far my own worst critic expecting some supernatural ability to cope with my changing reality as the perfect Christian would but I am also far more human than holy so forgive me if in my grief I have disappointed or hurt anyone as I struggle my way through all of this.

At this point in time I relate far better to Job’s lamenting his very birth than I do to the proverbs 31 woman who has no fear of the future and while I make recognize that I can count it all joy during this struggle because of the rewards that will later spring forth, I’m too tired to make the effort right now.

(Facebook Post 7/1/15)

 

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